A note for the contest entrants

If you entered our first writing contest and have decided to use Andrea’s offer of an entry to the Write Helper Burning the Midnight Oil poetry contest, here’s how you use that code:

  • Write to Amy’s email address: amy@thewritehelper.com
  • In your email, make sure to give her your name, your entry code and your contact information

If you have any questions please feel free to contact us through our Contact form ! And GO POET TEAM!!! RAH! RAH!

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A poll: how do you remain true?

Hello, dear readers. A knotty problem today, waiting for your thoughts.

A blog I follow has a post about a problem that many writers I know (and many more that I’ve only read about in biographies) seem to run into (in Western cultures particularly – some day we’ll have to talk about why there’s so much variation in attitude between cultures). The author describes the problem like this:

You see, friends, my immediate family simply doesn’t understand me.  They don’t know why I like to do what I do.  They don’t have any interest in things that I love.  They just barely fall short of making fun of me for doing what I am so passionate about..It’s all about being true to oneself, isn’t it?  Rarely an easy thing to do, but made even more difficult when those immediately around you will not lovingly accept it.

The trope of the Misunderstood Writer has a long and venerable history. But behind the trope is a truth that many writers live and struggle with every day. It’s a little annoying when The distrest poetyou’re confronted by a relative stranger at a party or a school meeting who comes out with:  “You’re a writer. How do you pay the bills?” or “I don’t remember hearing your name – are you any good?” But it’s just plain hard when this vibe comes from someone you care  about, or love and trust, or someone to whom you’ve devoted your own life.

I want to dispel a potential misunderstanding here: the author of the blog, Cooper Robbins*, is not a whiny wanna-be (“If I only had a supportive family, I’d be a best-seller, but no, I’m so beat by the end of the day I’d rather watch re-runs”); this is an author whose creative life includes a novel, a screenplay, and a fair amount of “&c,” on top of maintaining a home and taking care of young ones. Her post (and this post) aren’t about people who want to be writers but don’t write…this is about how we as writers keep writing in the face of resistance from those whose opinions we most value.

Nerr0795 - Flickr - NOAA Photo Library

Camouflage, demonstrated by the Graceful Kelp Crab

Robbins does this in part by developing and participating in supportive writing communities – in a way, that’s what her blog is about.  Some people (and I include myself here) have a sort of damn-the-torpedoes approach, which generally involves shutting certain people out of the creative part of one’s life. Other people hermit (to hermit: to isolate one’s self, creating a shell, and then decorating it with camouflaging materials, such as PTA meetings or banker’s three-piece suits, as needed).

So here’s my question. What do you do? What advice would you give to Cooper Robbins about how to cope with being surrounded by people who are either baffled  or skeptics? NOTE: The poll should let you vote for as many choices as you want – if it doesn’t let you, tell me and I’ll go give it a strong talking to 🙂 [IOB: ina]

*unsurprisingly, this is a nom de plume – sometimes everyone needs a place to vent.  I happen to have a venting blog too, and no, I don’t link it to my name and, no, I haven’t and won’t link it to this blog. Which probably says something, don’t you think?

Getting (back) on the horse: where to start?

Every creative writer I know has two “things”: their non-writing gift and their hang-up. I’m really fortunate in that the bad fairy at the christening only left me a garden-variety case of “I don’t know what I’m doing! I have no talent!” by way of hang-ups. But by way of gifts, she compensated by my being fairly fearless about getting stuff out the door – usually, I sulk for a little while, have my “I don’t know what I’m doing” freak-out, and then get back on that horse. StateLibQld 1 180751 Stockman prepares to mount his horse, 1910-1920

So one of the few pieces of writing advice I ever feel comfortable giving is where to find places to send out work, and I want to share them with you.

1) Duotrope: My favorite source for listings. Duotrope is an online source that’s free to join (and free to stay on – though I try to throw them a little $ once in a while to keep them going) and easy to search – they list places that publish poetry and fiction, and they also have a beta version of sources for creative non-fiction They tell you whether the source pays, and give statistics on likelihood of publication and how fast you’re notified about whether your piece(s) have been accepted. You can also request a weekly digest of new sources that have been entered (it also includes places that have closed temporarily and permanently).

2) Writer’s Digest: Writer Digest’s online location is a good basic source of information on everything from how to write query letters to poetic forms to what turns editors on/off about submissions. For our purposes,though, they publish a series of books annually on where to publish, including but not limited to the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market and the Poet’s Market. These books are updated annually and don’t just list tons of markets – they also tell you about whether a market is a “new/beginner’s” market or for more seasoned (or very seasoned) market; they get direct info from editors (as does duotrope) about what they like and don’t like in terms of submissions, and where to find more info about each publication site.

3) Absolute Write: Absolute Write has one of the best forums for writers that I know of. I lurk there not for the listings of places to submit work to, but because the writers on it give great advice. For those of us who aren’t just starting out, this is often a better source of advice than WD, which – while I love it – seems to tend more to the basics. Besides, it’s a community. Doesn’t cost to join, but like Duotrope, it’s nice to toss a few bucks in to support a worthwhile endeavor.

4) Creative Writers Opportunities List Group on Yahoo. You’ll notice that there’s no clickable link here. This is a yahoo group you have to join through yahoo. Once you do though, the daily digests are To Die For. New sources, new contests, new anthologies, nearly every day. It’s admin’d, I believe, by the incredibly talented Allison Joseph (phenomenal poet, see Rhino Poetry magazine if you’re curious about her) and the daily digest into my inbox is a constant source of inspiration.

5) New Pages : Though they aren’t my “thing”  a lot of people I know and trust swear by them, and they do have an extensive listing of literary journals, genre publications, calls for submissions, and a lovely contest listing. My main issue with their website is that their search engine is what my programmer spouse would call “primitive” so I don’t find it a good place to look when I’m looking to place a specific piece and want to find a place that will be a good fit for it. However, their contest listings are great – at the least, consider checking them out.

Lastly, I cannot go without talking about the FB groups to which I belong. For me, they’ve been a source of community, information, and lists of places to submit to (not to mention that’s kind of how Andrea and I first “met”!). If you aren’t on a FB writing group, yet, hunt around – there’s undoubtedly a group that will be perfect for you.

These are only my go-to sources; there are tons of others. If you have a great resource for places to publish, will you share it here? We all get by with help from one another

I’m now going to make a confession – I have not submitted anything for publication in at least three months. And I don’t have the excuse of not having anything to submit – I got a ton of stuff back a couple of months ago, have re-edited/re-checked, and am now just being lazy. Having written this post, though, I feel inspired to get back on that horse…are you ready to submit too?Descriptive Zoopraxography Horse Jumping Animated 14

So much beauty

Japanese poetess and her listeners. Before 1902We almost couldn’t do it. We got so many phenomenal poems that it was hard for In Our Books to decide on a winner for our first prompted poetry contest: “Money, money, money.” Each poem had so much that was special and striking about it:  imagery, idea or philosophy,  message, form (including pantoums, triolets, and limericks), narrative, and voice. We can’t thank you all enough for contributing so much wonderful work.

In the end, we finally managed to settle on not one but two winners between whom we’ll split the prize. The two winning poems are “The Value of Things” by Jay Sizemore and “this glamorous profession” by Daniel Ari. We will be posting short interviews with each of these poets soon as well as the list of runners up. We thank all of you, readers and participants, for sharing with us and one another -we’re so lucky to be in contact with so many terrific writers.

Jay Sizemore’s “The value of things”

Coins pressed into palms like silver stigmata
turn hands into the heads of venomous snakes,
their poisoned fangs penetrating the flesh
of all that is touched or owned.

The whiter the teeth,
the better the slave,
to feed and to bathe,
to whip with the tongues
of black ties like nooses untied,
deciding who lives, and who dies,
distended stomachs, and mouths
full of flies.

These elections are for slugs squirming
under flags faded by light,
pushing past bearded and dirt-caked faces
perched above cardboard signs,
a trail of slime ten miles wide,
waiting for the ambrosia
to trickle down,
mistaking the salt for snowflakes.

These snakes swallow houses whole,
jawbones unhinged, mine mine mine
whispered between meals and flickered
fork tongues, dead eyes wishing
that the sun was for sale.

Daniel Ari’s “this glamorous profession”
after Patrick Sokas, M.D.

Bill took an interest in my suit.
“Where did you get it?”

I looked at my feet and mumbled.

“I have one just like it.”

I glared. “This was my only suit, a mail-order suit.”

“You probably saw a picture on a model.”

“It looked good, though it was probably pinned up in back.”

“You said, ‘I want that suit.’”

“Actually I said, ‘I can afford that suit.’”

Bill took away my notebook,
and he played reporter for a while.

Monday Coffee: What do you know

Well, what do you know. Here we are – Andrea and Ina.

There are times when the world comes together in a way that’s not quite miraculous and yet not simple coincidence. This blog is the result of one of those. Andrea and I met through a writer’s group on Facebook. I was fascinated in part because – though I had lived in Denmark when I was four – Andrea was the first person from Denmark I had conversed as an adult. Over time it became clear that we shared many things: we are writers; we are educators; we share ideals, and political interests, and an approach to communicating.

So here we are: this is our blog. If you’d like to know more about us as writers (in a formal way), please visit our About Us page.

We are still charting our way here, so both the look and organization of the blog may change over time.  Among other things, we’ll be opening discussions on the writing process, sharing our writing lives, and providing many book reviews and interviews with authors, publishers, and other people who love words.  Most of all,  we want to hear from you – we love comments, and if you have an idea for a topic you’d like to discuss or see discussed, an author you’d love to see interviewed, a book that we must read, please share it with us!

Please watch for our Monday Coffees (something nice to wake up to!) and Connections (our Wednesday interviews and reviews). Our first interview will be with Regina Swint who’s a writer but who also serves in the U.S. Army; how do you sit out there in Afghanistan in the midst of war and keep up your writing?