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Friday, December 3, 2010

Keeping in Touch

As executive editor to Starsongs magazine, I'm learning new things all the time. As I learn, I want to pass the information on to you, my readers. I still don't know who you are, but that is all right. I get the reports every week that tell me someone is reading this blog. Even if only one person reads and benefits from it, it's worth the time it takes to think about and type every word!

A writer who is waiting to hear from an editor about their submission can experience a considerable amount of frustration. You work so hard on a story, poem, or essay and send it off, then wait with bated breath to hear something positive. I make it a point to acknowledge every submission I receive so the writer isn't wondering for months if their work is floating around lost forever in cyberspace.

However, I also allow myself six to eight weeks to respond with a positive or negative about a writer's work. There is a reason for this. Right now, we are in the last stages of putting together the winter issue of Starsongs. Therefore, the work that will appear in that issue needs to take priority.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't check for an email from the editor for several weeks, however! I respond to most of my writers within a much shorter period of time than that projected six to eight week period of time.

Once an editor accepts your work, keep double checking for communication. Even though a piece may be already contracted, there may be something else the editor needs. Final layout may require the editor to alter your work in some way, and he/she may want to make you aware of any last minute changes.

Sometimes, if you have sent your bio, it may need tweaked or the editor may request more information. Maybe the picture you sent isn't quite right, or there may be a question about your contract.

Yes, the frustration of waiting for an editor's response can be nerve-racking! However, check your email frequently. When an editor does send a message, it's usually for good reason that most likely requires an answer from you!

Happy writing!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Introducing ClashEntertainment.com

Today it is my pleasure to host Ken Raney, president of Clash Entertainment.com. This web site is an excellent resource that offers valuable information to the Christian teen seeking guidance about appropriate entertainment in today's world.

Hello Ken, Welcome to “I Want to be Published….But I’m Just a Kid”.

Thank you for having me.

Tell us about your web site, Clash Entertainment.

ClashEntertainment.com is an entertainment/portal web site dedicated to bringing excellent, enlightening, even edifying entertainment to Christian teens. We have a passion to see that Christian teenagers have available to them entertaining media that doesn’t undermine their faith. The Christian teen is the most under-served demographic in media – we believe the Lord has led us to begin to fill that gap. The site is updated daily with fresh content that includes news, reviews, and interviews in the fields of music, movie, books, comics, videos, games, sports, career information, and more. There also is a huge list of links to other Christian websites of interest to teens.

The name, Clash comes from Ephesians 6:12, "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places." NLT

What age group does Clash Entertainment serve?

13 to 19

Where do you obtain the information for your book, movie, and other entertainment reviews?

We have a number of contributors and contributor sites that submit material to Clash or allow us to reprint material.

Do you accept reviews on your site from freelance writers? If so, is there a particular age limit restriction?

Yes we do, but we cannot afford to pay. We encourage teenagers to contribute. In fact, we will professionally edit any articles, and help writers become more polished and professional while getting their work out in front of the public.

Do you review entertainment that is not particularly known as Christian?

We do review movies and video games and some books that are aimed at teenagers from the secular world.

Thank you for your time, Ken, and for providing a web site that is safe and informative for young people.

My pleasure. I wanted to mention that our “Career” section has interviews with several Christian writers, authors, novelists, etc. So teenagers can learn what it is like to work in those fields, what kind of education it requires, what a typical workday is like, and more

Happy writing!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Who Are You?

Every week, I receive a report on the number of people who have visited my blog. Used to be just a few, hardly worth mentioning. Lately, the numbers have increased significantly. I seldom see any comments, though, which does not surprise me. I read several blogs throughout the course of the week where I don't necessarily leave a comment. I may email the person directly in some cases.

My question to my readers is this: Who are you? I'd love to know who is reading my posts and if they are helpful or entertaining not. Are they too far apart (probably!). Is there any particular topic you would like to see covered on this blog? Even if you are one of those people who assume I know you read my blog, send me a line or two anyway.

Either speak up in the comments section or drop me an email at pattishene(at)pattishene(dot)com. Doesn't have to be elaborate and if you don't want to answer the above questions I posed, that's fine as well. I'm just curious to know who all is out there in cyberspace that stops by!

Thanks for reading my blog.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Introducing Caleb Breakey and his teen writers web site

I met Caleb at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference in August. He and I share a common interest in that I am editing a magazine for kids by kids and he has started a web site for teen writers. It is my pleasure to welcome Caleb to “I Want to be Published…But I’m Just a Kid!”
Caleb, tell us about your writing history.

When I was 17, just getting my feet wet in community college English, I required a tutor to write a one-paragraph summary. That marks the beginning of my writing journey, which now includes a degree in journalism, a season spent covering the New York Yankees, articles in the Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and graduate certificates from the Christian Writers Guild’s Journeyman and Craftsman Courses (January, 2011). What a ride it’s been.

In late 2008, after listening to Ted Dekker’s Circle Trilogy (now Circle Series), I sat down to write the first sentence of a novel I titled Banned. It now finds its home in your friendly neighborhood recycling outfit.

I then wrote my second novel under the guidance of a professional editor, who showed me exactly what I needed to improve in my writing. If you taped the list to a basketball hoop, it would extend to the ground and form a crumpled lump. But red ink excited me. I had a roadmap to success! All I needed to do was harness POV, RUE, characterization, plot, dialogue, action, description, etc.

Sounds a little daunting now, but I’ve been having a blast honing and defining my craftsmanship ever since.

Are you published?

I’m getting closer every day with my second and third novels. Agents and publishers are considering my work this very day.

Do you follow a writing schedule?
Whether for work or for play, I write every day. “Writing is a muscle,” a wonderful friend and editor once told me. That advice has stuck with me the way a climactic scene in a favorite novel does.

What do you see as the most difficult aspect of writing to learn?
Balance. Every aspect of writing contains a good deal permanency, but also a good deal of soft clay.

When I first started going through my library of writing books (about 65 now), I took each bit of advice seriously, including “Show Don’t Tell.” Now my greatest weakness is withholding too much information from the reader—something I’m laboring to correct.

What does your web site offer teen writers?

My web site features two Teen Writers per week. On the first day, I post their work, an audio reading of their writing, and an interview centered on them. On the second day, I post a video blog about their work. And on the third day I post an Audio Edit.

I also host contests and I’m just about to start featuring Podcasts. With feedback from the site’s faithful readers, the possibilities for this web site are endless. I’m honored that teens are letting me be a part of their creative journey.

Give us a brief overview of the submission process to the critiquing feature of your web site.
I ask writers to send me 250-300 words of their writing—chapter, essay, poem, devotional, etc.—along with their answers to eight interview questions (which are sent to caleb@calebbreakey.com).

With submissions rising, I created a fast track for teens to get their page critiqued. For every Full Sandwich comment they post on the work of other Teen Writers—meaning a word of encouragement, followed by a word of constructive feedback, followed by a closing thought of encouragement—I bump their name up the Page Critique Ladder. Contest participation is another way to jump the ladder.

Do you feel you have the means to help teen writers find a market for their work?
I can certainly help. I attend a handful of Writers Conferences every year and just recently was approached about teaching a workshop at one. My connections to editors, agents, and authors are growing, and I’m not shy about championing the work of Teen Writers.

How about a few just-for-fun questions. What is your favorite pastime outside of writing?

Rock Band, anyone? I’ve been known for getting into songs with a gusto more suitable for a break dancer, and I’ve been warned to never again use a coffee table as a platform. What can I say? I’m passionate. =)

I’m also a lover of improve. My wonderful wife and sister-in-laws often create scenarios for me to act out, and it usually ends up with all of us falling on the floor.

And for all those competitors out there, I love playing baseball, softball, basketball and football. I wish I could round up all the Teen Writers at www.calebbreakey.com for a good game of kick ball or something.

What was your favorite subject in school?
Up until college? Probably Legos, G.I. Joes, and building forts. My creativity didn’t find the wonderful outlet of writing until my 17th year, so action figures and forts it was.

What kind of music do you like?

Being a man of faith, I gravitate toward music that magnifies the hope thriving inside me—bands such as Casting Crowns, Brandon Heath, and Mercy Me. I also get onto weird music kicks (much to wife’s chagrin). Just this past year I started writing to Mozart and Beethoven and other classical artists. I think they’re brilliant.

Favorite flavor of ice cream?

Neapolitan, because I’ve always called it Napoleon.
I’m also a big fan of Strawberry Cheesecake and Cookies & Cream.

Thank you, Caleb! It's been fun getting to know a little more about you. I hope teen writers find their way to your site and take advantage of all you have to offer.

Happy writing!

Monday, September 6, 2010

What's A Bio?

As executive editor of Starsongs magazine, one of my responsibilities is to obtain a bio from Starsongs contributors. After I sent out the request for bios, I realized that some young writers, being published for the first time, might not know what a bio is.

Readers are fascinated to know about the person who wrote the stories, poetry, articles, etc that they read. That is the purpose of a bio. It tells your readers about you, the writer. As you write your bio, consider the things you believe your readers would like to know about you.

A bio is usually limited to a certain number of words, so include the facts that are most important and that relate to your work. Let's create a sample bio:

Jane Doe is a high school student at Anywhere High School in Somewhere, New State. She lives on a ranch with her mom and dad and four brothers and two sisters. Jane likes to ride horses and take care of them. She also helps her mom and dad by feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs every day. She has been on her school basketball team for three years. Last year, her team went to state. Jane wants to go to college and be a veterinarian after she graduates. She likes to write short stories and won a county short story contest in fifth grade. She visits her aunt and uncle in New York City every summer.

Okay, all of the things that Jane has written are important to her and her life. However, this bio is 117 words and the editor has asked for no more than 50 words. Uh-oh! That means 67 words need to be cut out of this paragraph!

Let's take a look at the things that are most important to the reader. Where you live and your approximate age, as well as your writing history are usually of interest. However, the fact that Jane won a short story contest and has submitted a short story to the magazine tells the reader she likes to write short stories, so "she likes to write short stories" can be eliminated. Five words gone, 67 more to go!

The other facts mentioned in this bio can be kept or eliminated depending on the type of story Jane wrote. If her story is about horses, then the information that she lives on a ranch and works with horses would be relevant. The fact that she plays basketball would not, nor that she visits her aunt and uncle in New York City every summer.

Suppose Jane has written an essay about basketball, Now her participation on her school basketball team and in state competition would take precedence over the fact that she lives on a ranch. The sentences about fishing and gathering eggs from the chickens are not necessary at all unless Jane's story is about her battle with an attack hen! Neither is the fact that she visits family in New York City every summer, unless she wrote a story about the difference between country and city life, for example.

When limited to a word count, consider the aspects of your life that relate to the subject of the work you have written. Speak to the here and now instead of the future. Therefore, "Jane wants to go to college and be a veterinarian after she graduates" is not important at this point in time.

Always write you bio in third person. In other words, write "Jane Doe is...." instead of "My name is Jane Doe and I...". It may seem strange to write about yourself in third person, but this makes your bio sound more believable. No one likes to hear someone brag on themselves, but if someone else is bragging about you, then it's more easily accepted!

As always, be careful what you reveal about yourself. When you present your information in a bio, hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people may read it. Don't ever give out anything personal, such as your street address or telephone number. It is best to make general statements, such as the city and state where you live, or if in a small town, the name of your state only. Don't mention the specific school that you attend. Your grade or level of school is plenty.

A bio is a great way to tell your readers a lot about yourself in just a few words. It is also an opportunity to let people know your accomplishments and the things that make you special.

Happy writing!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Where Did They Get That Idea?

Ever read a really good story, then wonder where the idea for it came from?

Where do authors get those ideas?

Ideas are all around us.

Take a look at your friends and imagine how they would handle different situations.

Listen to a conversation held in a public place, like the grocery or convenience store. Even though you may catch just a snippet, you can build a situation where that conversation would fit and write your story from there.

Think of a conflict or problem you have encountered in your life and how you solved it, then make up a story about it.

Write about a place that you know about, such as your home town or somewhere you have visited on vacation.

Create a fantasy world of your own!

Take incidents that have happened to you and add a few fictitious characters.

There are always interesting stories that can lead to great ideas on the news and in the newspaper.

Talk to a person who has a unique interest or hobby.

Build a story around a special event in your town or tradition in your family.

Just remember that fiction is not true, so don't use real people in your stories without their permission!

We'll talk about developing characters for your fiction stories next time.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Two, Too, and To

The three words two, too, and to stump even experienced writers. Here are a few little tips that may help clarify the meanings and usages of these three homonyms.

Two is always a number, so not often confused with the remaining two words, too and to.

Too is an adverb that can be exchanged for words such as “also”. It implies something extra or more than.

EX: Johnny will help us, too (also).

It is too cold for swimming. (colder temperature than normal for swimming).

It is too icy for the buses today. (Icier than acceptable for safety).

The word to has many meanings.

1) It addresses moving toward something or relating to a position.

EX: I am going to the mountains. (toward a destination).

It is five to seven. (The time is moving toward five o’clock).

Get to the point. (Reach the final destination of the discussion).

2) Demonstrates an intention or a purpose.

EX: I attend school to learn.

We are going to watch our sister at the ballgame.

3) Defines a position.

EX: The store is next to the house. (tells where the store is located in relation to the house).

4) Used prior to a verb to indicate the infinitive.

EX: I would like to clarify the meaning of these words.

Look up the word to in a dictionary, and you will find several definitions. The above are simply a few of them.

Most of the time, if two, representing a number is not the appropriate word, and too, meaning also or extra, does not apply, to is the word you need for grammatical correctness.

Happy writing!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

They Accepted My Work!

Part II - Responsibilities & Renumeration

Once an editor expresses interest in your work, you may be asked to make corrections or changes. It is important to follow up with the revisions on a timely basis. Even though some grammatical or spelling errors may be corrected for you, be sure to check the entire piece for needed corrections.

It is usually after the work is revised and acceptable for publication that a contract is sent. Be sure to read the contract, sign it, and return it to the address indicated.

Payment may be made at the time of sale, but is also sometimes made when the work is published. Just because an article is purchased in May, for example, does not mean it will necessarily appear in the next edition of the magazine. It may be four to six months before your work appears in print.

Not all markets are paying markets. Some smaller publications pay in contribution copies. However, this can be an asset to your writing career because it builds writing credits. This means that the next time you submit something to a magazine, you can tell that editor you were previously published in a former publication. Be sure to give the name of the publication and the edition in which your work appeared.

Once your work appears in print, tell everyone! Post it on your My space page, tell your friends, blog about it. Get your name out there. Again, remember to keep negative comments to yourself, but put the emphasis on the positive. The more you promote yourself and your work, the more skill and confidence you will build as a writer.

Happy writing!

Friday, May 28, 2010

They Accepted My Work!

Part I - Rights

After waiting and waiting, and maybe receiving a few rejection notices, the day finally arrives when someone accepts your work. Wow! This is exciting! So, what's next?

There are responsibilities that you and the editor both need to meet. The use of your work is finalized with a contract. When you receive a contract, it will appear to have a lot of big legal words and may be confusing. The main thing you need to know is what the magazine will use your work for and how long you are "selling" it to them.

There are several different kinds of rights. Here are some of the most common ones:

First rights or First North American Serial Rights. This gives the magazine the right to publish your work for the first time. In other words, when you sell these rights, you are telling the publication that your work has not appeared in print anywhere else. Let the editor know when you submit your work if it has appeared in print anywhere else, including on a blog or as a school assignment. It is always best to be honest if your work has appeared anywhere else in any form. A contract will usually tell you how long a period of time the magazine "owns" your work. After that period of time expires, you are free to sell your work elsewhere.

Second Rights or Reprint Rights. Once your work has appeared in print, it can never be sold as "first rights" again. . However, several publications accept reprinted work. You must tell the editor that only second or reprints rights are available and include what magazine, newspaper, or other publication the work appeared in. It's like putting on a new pair of shoes for the first time. Once you've worn them once, you can wear them again and again, but never again for the "first time"

Exclusive reprint rights.This may sound the same as the paragraph above except for that word "exclusive". This means the magazine wishes to buy and reprint your work, but you have sold that right to that magazine only. You can never sell that particular poem, story, article, artwork, etc. to another publication.

All rights. Just like it sounds, all rights means that you no longer have a right to do anything with this particular work ever again. It totally belongs to the publication you have sold it to.What was once yours now belongs to them and you can never use it anywhere again. This usually applies to larger publications that is read by a lot of people, called circulation.

Let's look at why this makes sense. If you sell a poem to two magazines in two different areas of the country that only two thousand people read, what are the chances that the same person would read both magazines? Not very good. However, if you could sell your poem to two magazines that are available all across the country and fifty million people read each of them, the chances are higher that many of the same people read both magazines. Each magazine wants to give their readers "new" material their readers have not seen before.

For further information about rights, go to this web site from where this information was taken.

Happy writing!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rejection - Oh, How It Hurts!

It's happened to all of us. When you were little, your mom was less than thrilled with the bug-infested weeds you dragged into the house. You thought they would make a nice table bouquet. You didn't get picked for the soccer, basketball, or football team, and it seemed like the end of the world.. That girl (or boy) you wanted to go for an ice cream with said no, then waltzed off down the street with your best friend.

Now, you've been waiting for weeks to hear from an editor and all you get is a form letter saying they don't want your work. You're heartbroken! You've worked so hard! You don't deserve this!

Okay, shed a few tears, then take an honest look at what may have gone wrong. First and most important of all, a rejection of your work is not a rejection of you. Do not think of yourself as a bad person, a failure, or a lousy writer.

Even best selling authors get rejected. Despite the fact that you have studied the market and sent your work to what you thought was the right magazine, your particular piece may not be quite what the editor is looking for. Perhaps a similar subject was covered in a recent edition of the magazine. Maybe you failed to follow guidelines with what you considered a small infraction, like shorting or stretching the word count.

Sometimes, but not always, you are fortunate enough to have an editor provide comments about your work. Take their advice! If an editor has offered a suggestion that will make your submission more suitable for their publication, by all means, make the changes and resubmit it with the suggested corrections.

If you use the social networking sites, such as My space, keep any negative comments you may have about an editor off the web. Call your best friend and tell him/her how you feel, but anything placed on the web in any form can be found. You don't want those negative thoughts out there in public.Editors will find it, and they talk to each other all the time. Nothing you post on the Internet is totally private - not ever!

You can soften the sting of rejection by seeking ways to improve your work if it is recommended. If you are sure you have done your best, send it right back out to the next possible market. Persistence leads to success!

Happy writing!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Before You Submit - Part IV - Sending and Stamping

Okay, you have edited and polished your work to the point where it shines like a full moon on the prairie. Now it's time to take a deep breath and propel your "baby" out of your house and into the hands of an editor.

Most magazines accept electronic submissions. Be sure to check the guidelines for the magazine you are submitting to in order to verify that this is an acceptable means of presenting your work. Guidelines should also tell you if the work should be sent as an attachment or if the editor prefers the work to be included in the body of an email.

Just a reminder to address the email to the appropriate editor and be sure to spell their name right! Introduce yourself in the body of the email and give a brief description of your work. For example, are you offering a poem, short story, or piece of artwork? For a short story, you might mention word count.

For the markets that still accept hard copy manuscripts through the mail, be sure, as mentioned before, to address your envelope to the appropriate editor with name correctly spelled. Be sure to affix enough postage to cover the cost of the content. If you wish to have your work returned to you, you must send a self-addressed, stamped envelope (known as an SASE) with your submission. Remember to apply the required amount of postage to the return envelope. Work that is sent without an SASE will seldom be returned.

Now that you have dropped your submission in the mail box or hit "send" on your computer, what's next?

You wait!

Most magazines guidelines will address the length of time it takes for them to respond. An electronic submission publication will sometimes send an automatic email informing you that the submission was received. Response time can vary from 4-6 weeks to 6-8 months, depending on the publication.

If a long period of time elapses after the expected response date and you have not heard from the publication, it is appropriate to send a follow-up email or letter inquiring about your submission. Be polite! A rude and demanding attitude will destroy your chances of having your work accepted.

In the meantime, while you wait, stay busy! Keep writing and keep submitting. It is all right to submit the same work to different publications. This is called simultaneous submission. Again, consult guidelines, as some magazines object to this practice. Also, show courtesy and inform the editor that the work you are sending is a simultaneous submission.

Happy writing!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Before You Submit - Part III - Do Your Homework

Take a look at your story, poem, or article and visualize your readers. Are they children, young adults, college students, or older? Men or women? What economic, religious, and cultural background do they have? What kind of lifestyle do they lead?

An article about learning one's way around the New York City subway system would probably not appeal to a reader who lives in rural Colorado. Yet, a short story about that same experience might prove exciting to someone who has never been to a city.

Become familiar with the magazine you wish to target before sending your work. A publication that represents outdoor sports may accept articles or stories about fishing and tennis, since both are outdoor activities. However, a magazine that specializes in fishing alone would not welcome a tennis story. Even more specific, one magazine may be interested only in deep sea or commercial fishing while others address the sport of back country fishing.

Go to your local library and ask to the see The Writer's Market Guide. It is printed every year and lists hundreds of magazines. For those interested in writing for the Christian market, there is also The Christian Writer's Market Guide. Send a simple request or email to the magazines that interest you and ask for their guidelines.

Stick to those guidelines! Don't send fiction work or poetry to a magazine that specifically states it does not publish fiction. Stay within the specified word count. Editors allow a certain amount of space for each article, poem, etc that they print. If they ask for a 250-500 word story, don't send them 750 words! They don't have time to remove those 250 extra words.

Keep in mind that magazines plan their editions several months in advance. If you are writing to a specific season or holiday, send your work well in advance of that time. Most magazines are three to six months ahead and some as much as nine months.

Last but certainly not least, be sure to address your email or postal envelope properly. Double check the spelling of the editor's name. Many magazines have more than one editor, so be sure you are submitting your work to the proper person.

Happy writing!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Before You Submit - Part II - Appearance

Now that you have polished your work to the best it can be, it is time to shape up the look of your submission. Many magazines now accept electronic submission, but some still require the work to be mailed.

Editors spend hours in a day reading manuscripts, whether from a computer screen or sheets of paper. They need print that is clear, legible, and easy to read. Don't try to impress an editor with a font that appears flowing and flowery on the page. Most editors prefer a standard font such as Times New Roman or Courier New in either 10 or 12 point font. Granted, a font size and type can be changed when transmitted electronically, but an editor does not have the time to adjust your work to his convenience. Do not use colors.

Leave plenty of room on all four sides of the page, at least one inch. The first line of a paragraph begins with a 5 point indent. Short stories and essays should be double spaced. Submit poetry in the proper format, such as single spacing within a stanza and double spacing between stanzas.

Your work needs to be titled. The title should by centered at the top of the page. The word "by" should appear one double-spaced line below your title, followed by your name on the next double-spaced line. Skip two double-spaced lines before beginning the main part of your work.

Even when submitting by email, be sure to include your name and contact information, telephone number and email address, or mailing address if applicable, in the upper left hand corner. Once an attachment is opened and saved, it can easily be separated from the email. Failure to identify your work on the actual document could cost you the acceptance of your work for lack of identification.

If your submission is more than one page, enter a header that includes your name, the name of your work, and the page number.

Happy writing!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Before You Submit - Part I - Editing

You’ve written a story, a poem, or an essay that you believe is good enough to get published. Before you prepare to send it to an editor, check it, double check it, and recheck it.

Make sure all of your words are spelled correctly.

Be careful about words that sound similar but have a completely different meaning, such as since and sense.

Use the proper meaning of homonyms, such as to and too, or there and their.

Check for appropriate punctuation and paragraphing.

Rework long sentences.

Check for proper verb tense.

Now that you have made corrections, you’re ready! Right?

Not necessarily.

Your family encourages your future as the next great American writer and your friends adore your work. However, your writing or English teacher isn’t quite so enthusiastic.

Take the advice of people who have the experience! Chances are, your teachers have seen hundreds, maybe thousands, of works by students and are widely read among the professionals. They know what stands out above the rest. Listen to their advice and make the changes they suggest.

Happy writing!
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