Sunday, April 29, 2012

An Upside-Down POV

By Kim Byer

Betty Edwards, author of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, teaches her art students to turn photographs upside down in order to trick the mind’s eye while they’re drawing a portrait. Seeing an upside-down nose and philtrum allows the right side of the brain to accurately capture shadows and lines without the pesky left hemisphere insisting a nose is made up of two vertical lines with two dark circles along its bottom edge.

When I create a logo, illustrate a cartoon character or layout a Web page, I flip my designs upside-down to note spatial gaps, channels of white space and linear slants that I wouldn’t otherwise have noticed. This process is similar to editing. Of course in writing, turning pages or storylines upside down is a conceptual technique, not a physical act.  

In Naomi Epel’s The Observation Deck, she suggests flipping over ideas, plots, or character traits—in fact, seeking any opposite in your literal writing practice or story that allows you to write with a different perspective. Write on a computer? Write by hand for a day. Does your heroine always do the right thing? Have her screw her life up in a single, imploding paragraph. If you’re writing a non-fiction piece with point of view, give the opposite viewpoint. Or, put your outline in reverse: Start with the baby and end prior to the pregnancy.

Perspective-shifting devices work well for single creative sessions. In the next day’s session, when you’re back in the groove of your original storyline, you’ll find your right-side-up point of view refreshed and your focus renewed.

Monday, April 23, 2012

No Sweet Child of Mine…Gunning for the Rose in Cleveland

By Kimberly Johnson 

Axl Rose…grow up, man. For those who don’t know, Axl Rose refused to be a part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s induction for Guns N’ Roses. Axl ranted and vowed not to show up for the festivities. And he didn’t. And he later apologized.

 It’s well-documented that bad blood runs through the veins of Axl and the boys: Professional jealousies. Back-stabbing. Money. Women. The usual stuff. Full disclosure -- I grew up jamming to the LA rockers belt out monster hits like Paradise City and November Rain. I had to read this letter. I went online and found it on the LA Times newspaper’s music blog. My goal was to just read it but, I found myself reviewing it using the techniques I learned from the SCWW critique sessions, Toastmasters and from my experiences as a newspaper reporter. Here are some observations:

Observation 1: Never lose the reader. 

Drawing on my reporter’s instincts, the first sentence should provide enough information to entice the reader to move beyond that sentence. Plus, I like shorter sentences. Axl, man, you lost me.
When the nominations for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame were first announced I had mixed emotions but, in an effort to be positive, wanting to make the most of things for the fans and with their enthusiasm, I was honored, excited and hoped that somehow this would be a good thing. Of course I realized as things stood, if Guns N' Roses were to be inducted it'd be somewhat of a complicated or awkward situation.
Observation 2: Get to the point. 

It was four paragraphs into the missive before the disgruntled front man announced:
That said, I won't be attending The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction 2012 Ceremony and I respectfully decline my induction as a member of Guns N' Roses to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
In Toastmasters, a writer needs to state the main point early in the text so the reader can gain an understanding. Axl, this should have been the introduction.

Observation 3: Think before you hit 'Send.' 

Welcome to the Jungle. Axl was PO’d at Slash, Steven and Izzy. Sure, there were coded references:
So let sleeping dogs lie or lying dogs sleep or whatever. Time to move on. People get divorced. Life doesn't owe you your own personal happy ending especially at another's, or in this case, several others' expense.
Axl, everybody knows, once you put it in print, you can’t take it back.

Observation 4: Refrain from using “In closing.” 

After airing his grievances, the rocker ends it by using the overrated phrase. Try Toastmasters, Axl. The public speaking organization provides tips on implementing other words to close out a letter.

"In closing," Axl, try some Patience before you craft an open letter to your fans. Or better yet Try a Little Tenderness. It goes a long way.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Publish with an E-Zine

By Bonnie Stanard

If you’re writing short stories and poetry and getting wholesale rejections, you can take only so much comfort in knowing that many good writers had to get their start without the help of traditional publishers—James Joyce, Zane Grey, and Ezra Pound, to name a few. Unable to interest publishers, they set about printing their own work and were eventually picked up by traditional publishers.

If your objective is to be published and you’ve hit a dead-end by submitting to literary journals, what are your options? Assuming you have enough for a book, i.e. as many as 45 poems or 60,000 words (prose), you might go to Createspace or Xilibris or another POD publisher and bring out a collection of your work. However, what if you only have a couple of 2,000 word stories? Or a handful of poems?

Self publishing is still possible, as long as you opt for a different format. What I’m suggesting is that you start your own e-zine, no easy task, but do-able if you have the heart, determination, and time to devote to the project.

There’s an incredible slew of online journals, with new ones emerging continuously. Surf the web and take a look. Some e-zines provide no masthead and don’t name the editor or staff. More often than not, the only address and/or contact is email. You don’t even need a post office box to go in business. Take a look at some of the online publications at

Your journal will have more credibility if you publish the work of other writers along with your own. But of course you may use pseudonyms and nobody will be the wiser. One advantage of collaborating with writer friends is to dilute the cost and the work load. A writers’ group, such as the South Carolina Writers' Workshop, presents a potential pool to draw upon.

The cost for a web host may be as low as $5 to $10 a month, but there are other expenses, such as a domain name (+/-$35). If you don’t feel confident designing a web page, free software is available, such as KompoZer or Mozilla Composer, or you may step-up and pay for Dreamweaver (+/-$400) or NetObjects Fusion, and there are others.

As for getting a website started for your e-zine, here are several places with helpful information:

You may want to read online reviews of web hosting services. Be aware that many of these reviewers are compensated by the companies they rank. The following two websites appear to take no such compensation:

The possibility exists to publish your short stories and poetry for much less expense than did Joyce, Grey, or Pound, but this doesn’t mean the work load is lighter.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Tips on Merchandising Your Writing

By Fred Fields

Experience is the best teacher. It doesn't have to be your own, and anybody's experience can qualify. That's why we study history. If we can find out how a particular problem was solved in 1350, AD, we may be able to solve the same problem the same way in 2012, AD.

The first important lesson I learned about writing and being able to sell what I wrote was that "how to" books sell a lot better than fiction. Anyone can write how to and sell it. But few ever become Louis L'Amour or Agatha Christie. I learned this at the SC Book Festival, the same day and the same place I learned about SCWW.

So I put aside my great American novel and wrote a book about how to play golf.

Being totally unknown, and having to compete with famous golf pros and authors, I really had no hope of finding a traditional publisher who would print and merchandise my book. So I took it to Kinko's for an estimate on the price of printing. It was about $6.00 a book, actually more reasonable than I expected.

My son-in-law recommended that I contact Amazon. They have a printing subsidiary called CreateSpace, which has a three page pamphlet online describing their service. It looked interesting, so I contacted them, liked their program even better as I got to know it, and subscribed to their service.

This is not a commercial for Createspace. Being a total ADD Type, I stopped looking when I found them. But there are several others who provide the same service, probably as well, maybe better. I just picked the first good deal I found.

I was able to have my book published and on the market within two weeks of completion. I set the price. I was a published author. I was very happy with the result.

Next problem, how to market the book.

Back to the SC Book Festival, where there was a seminar on merchandising. I spoke to the lady who gave the seminar, Shari Stauch, and later bought her internet marketing course. She taught me that there are sites on the internet that put people with inventory (my books) together with people who sell online and are looking for inventory. Her price was reasonable. I bought her service, used her advice, and this month, my royalties are triple her fee. I’m sure there are others who provide the same information, but she was the one I chose. (Still having ADD, I took the first choice.) And I hit it lucky again.

In closing, I am a very satisfied customer of self-publishing and internet marketing. My book is selling. You can find me at and on Google. In my own little way, I am a successful, published author. (Even a little bit famous.)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Boxing Dreams

By Laura P. Valtorta

The filming of the boxing documentary is indescribable. It’s living one of my dreams. I can’t sleep very well because I’m always planning the next step.

Aside from SCWW workshops, creative writing is solipsistic. I write by myself, counting on an unseen audience to catch my messages. But does the audience even exist?

With filming, I’m using questions and answers, faces, clothing, hairstyles, sound, lighting, action, and background to communicate ideas. I must collaborate with the director and production crew. Also the boxers.

Collaboration in art is something completely new to me. I look at the production crew and think that I’m depending on them, but I also have to convince them. This project, for me, is brilliant and important, but what will the other producers think? What about Milo (not his real name)?

Milo sat in on the first production meeting. I could tell he was skeptical. Whereas Cliff, the director, and I talked up the project, Milo sat at the table silently for thirty minutes, taking notes, with a frown on his face.

“He’s thinking like a producer,” Cliff told me later. “All he hears is that we start shooting on Tuesday.”

Among us, Milo was the only one who had boxing experience.

The filming started out smoothly. We interviewed boxers and their families at the gym. The background was noisy, but that’s what Cliff wanted. I felt excited about it. I could tell Milo was still skeptical. The sound would need some heavy engineering.

“Our emphasis might be on the next big boxer that comes out of here,” Cliff said.

“Our emphasis should be on Mr. Stanick,” I said. “He’s the heart of this gym.”

On the second day of shooting, Mr. Stanick’s interview came third, after a young boxer and a promoter. The boxer was good looking but young. The promoter was nervous. Both made some useful statements and revealed a good bit about the boxing industry.

Finally, Mr. Stanick sat in the chair. I had a million questions for him, but I managed to pick the important ones. Mr. Stanick described his own 50-year history as a boxer/ trainer/ manager/ gym owner, his passion for the sport, and his devastation when one of his boxers got hurt. The crew listened and posed additional questions.

At the end, Cliff said, “Mr. Stanick, we’ll be taping several more sessions with you.”

Milo had a smile on his face. He said, “Now THAT was a good interview.”