Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Have questions on formatting your manuscript or building a brand?

Preparing a manuscript to send to editors or publishers causes much angst among writers. If you are one of them, visit this site and get all your questions answered in one place.                   
The editors blog is one of the best sites for writers to learn how to write, how to submit, and how to handle many writing dilemmas.

Another good blog

This writer at No Rules Just Write expresses my sentiments exactly on how to become a well-known and well-read author.
Many times writers worry over how to become known and appreciated. First you must write good books. Not just one book. If you want to write for the public, you must continue to write good books.

Learn how to write well and then follow C.J. Lyons advice. Give back to your readers. Be generous to others.

Let me know what you think on these subjects.

Friday, May 16, 2014

What? No Charge? Yes, just this once with Gene Hirsch

Poetry classes with Dr. Gene Hirsch is an experience unlike most workshops. He dearly loves poetry and poets and delves deeply into why we write what  we do and what we want to say in our work. He doesn't dwell on technique or basics we have heard so many times. Students in his classes find themselves going deeper into their poems than they had done before.

For years, he has had a  following of poets in our local area. It started with his classes at John C. Campbell Folk School. He never bowed to the norm, but encouraged his students to reach higher.

We have a few places left in his class on Sunday, May 25, at Writers Circle. This will be a small gathering of only 8 students. He will lead us in a discussion on Inspiration and Poet's Block.

Inspiration and Poets’ Block
Inspiration and writer’s block are two widely used, poorly understood antithetical terms. In this class we will study and share your views and experiences with these concepts. Please bring one poem to discuss in terms of its inspiration and meaning for you. Please bring a short written explanation of your views and experiences with inspiration and one regarding block, for discussion. Please bring 10 copies of each. Class limit, eight poets.

Call 828-389-4441 or email if you can come. We are offering this class - a one time only opportunity - at no charge.
Come and spend the afternoon talking about poetry with other poets and friends.
Time: 1 - 4 p.m.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Thanks to volunteers who worked out front and behind the scenes Saturday

Saturday was a terrific day for writers who attended the Netwest Writers Conference in Sylva, NC at the Jackson County Public Library, an indescribably lovely venue.
Ellen and Paul Schofield 
Ellen Schofield, Netwest Program Coordinator, did an amazing job securing this place and holding this, her first-ever conference. Her husband Paul Schofield was beside her all day helping in many, many ways. Thanks, Paul, for what you did to help my sister and me with lunch preparations, putting away the folding tables and chairs and helping Ellen with clean up.

Many, many thanks to Netwest members, Joan Howard and Linda Smith, who spent an afternoon putting together registration information at my house. A big thank you to JC Walkup, former Netwest Rep and long-time member, who probably had no clue she would be sitting at the registration table all day and unable to attend the conference sessions. So sorry, JC, about that.

A huge thank you to my sister, Gay Moring, who helped me load up the food, take in the food, serve the food, set up drinks and ice for lunch, and to Henderson County Rep, Lana Hendershott, who helped us clean up after lunch. It takes folks who are willing to commit and physically work, as well as those who plan and supervise, to make a conference successful.

Fortunately Kathryn Byer has a vast number of friends in the literary world of NC and she was able to call on two of them to save the day when Judy Goldman had to cancel. We were able to carry on with quality presenters.  Kay was an excellent emcee, as well. Thanks, Kay, for being a good friend to Netwest, and for dealing with the extra stress involved in the last minute details.
Catherine Reid speaks
Thanks to Newt Smith we had water and cold drinks available all day, and we can depend on him, our treasurer, to take care of the financial aspects of this event. Thanks so much to member, Pat Davis, who volunteered to assist Ellen. If there are other volunteers I have not mentioned it is only because I don't know about you. 

Ellen, Kay and I with Newt's help have worked for months to bring this conference to our members. It is a huge undertaking, and made more difficult when the venue is not nearby. 

We had to encourage each other when it seemed nothing was going right. We had to pick up the baton when one of us faltered. But, as we have always done in Netwest, we supported each other and worked for our members.

I can't speak for Netwest, but I speak for myself, when I say thank you to all the volunteers who stepped up and helped with this conference. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Guest Blogger, C. Hope Clark on How Books Win Awards

Today we are fortunate to have a guest posting on Writers Circle.
C. Hope Clark author of the Carolina Slade mystery series set in the low country of South Carolina is a generous writer, and her online advice through her  newsletters and blog has benefited me and others like me.  I asked Hope to share her insight on How Books Win Awards, and she was most gracious to do so. Be sure to visit her  website.

How Books Win Awards

By C. Hope Clark

Seems the entire world is publishing a book, and with that wave of interest comes a variety of spin-offs –one of which is the book award. Being an indie author, however, limits your ability to enter many prestigious book contests that require traditional publication. So, let’s stick to the indies, and let’s talk about what it takes to improve the chances of your book landing one of those ribbons so you can put that gold sticker on your cover, or banner on your website.

The ultimate requirement of any contest is a well-written book. While that’s a highly subjective prerequisite, there comes a point where judges can usually agree on the semi-finalist level of most competitions purely based on the quality. A well-honed voice and a grand tale take time to develop. If your words don’t sing yet,
then hold off entering a contest. Fix that book. Edit it until you can’t stand to read it any more, then consider a contest.

The first book in my mystery series, Lowcountry Bribe, took years to complete. That means three complete rewrites (throwing the book away twice and starting over) and running it by a critique group one slow chapter at a time. However, once I began to feel a bit happy with it, I entered contests PRE-publication. Why submit to an agent or publisher and expect them to like it if I didn’t? Only when I began placing in first chapter, first line, first page, first 50 pages contests, and of course entire manuscript contests, did I dare venture into the real world.

There are more than book awards out there. Take advantage of contests that accept partials as well as those that take the full manuscript. It’s a wonderful feeling to self-publish and be able to say from day one thatyou are award-winning.
But let’s say you have a book in your hand. It’s published. You want credibility and awards seem to offer a dose of that. You feel your work can stand the scrutiny.

As a judge in several contests over the years, to include both indie and traditional publication, I would like to share with you how I initially view a candidate’s submission.

  • First, realize that a judge rarely reads the entire book. Gasp! And a chuckle.
  • Surely you knew that. Many judges receive dozens of books at a time. The most I ever was assigned was 85 . . . with a six-week deadline. Humanly impossible. So I developed a system to cull the number down to the semi-finalist level. It’s tough love, but it works.
  • Study the title. Is it wordy? Does it entice? Is it boring? Too literal?
  • Study the front cover and spine. Are the words hard to read (i.e., red words on a black background)? Is the artwork professional? Does it make me pause to enjoy it? Make me wonder what the book is about? Is it memorable in a GOOD way?
  • Read the back cover. Does that blurb draw me in? The blurb is the first piece of your writing a judge will see. It has to be superb, not a last minute effort. It must grip the reader, not just give a general description you slap together. The bio is equally important. Who is this writer? Do I see personality, experience or dedication in this bio?
  • Open the front matter. The acknowledgements, table of contents (if applicable), title page, copyright page, etc. They are the first exposure to formatting and professional appearance after the cover.
  • Read the first page. Not wanting to be too intensely tough, I don’t stop with the first paragraph as some judges do. If that first page captures my attention, I read on. If I make it to the end of chapter one, I set it in the stack with potential. If a book does not meet the first-chapter rule of proper entertainment, it is discarded. Of course I notice the formatting and font as well.
  • Break into the book and read a random page. I want to see if tension, emotion, and personality exist deep inside the book once the author is less fresh, even tired of writing it.
  • Go back and read more diligently the good stack of books. I never look back at the others. I give the book several more chapters, read some in the middle, then the ending.
  • Sounds harsh, but that’s very similar to how a reader selects a book, unless word-of-mouth convinces him to take a chance on it. So first impressions, i.e., cover, first paragraph, and hooks, carry tons of weight during the vetting process of a writing competition.
So, let’s say you have a great book. There are so many awards out there! What do you look for in avoiding a scam?
Entry fee. First of all, entry fees are a necessary evil for most contests, unless there’s a sugar-daddy sponsor in the background. It takes time and man-hours to manage a contest, and that’s assuming publishing isn’t even involved.  But if you have to pay $100 for a gold sticker, stop and ponder whether the contest is worth that sort of investment. I prefer to see a cash award involved. And if you are entering a manuscript, hopefully publication is involved as well. Prizes can justify a $50-$100 entry fee if the sponsor is reputable.
Past winners. If I’ve never heard of a contest, I check the previous winners. I want to know what they did with their luck. Have they evolved? Have they become best-sellers? Or are they even writing anymore. Everyone assumes the previous winners are legit. I once ferreted out deception in a contest where most of the previous winners didn’t even exist, and the first place winner claimed she was never paid her prize.
Rights claimed. No one should take all rights for entering. And if the prize is an indie publication opportunity, then you should still retain your rights. Entering a contest that involves traditional publishing and a contract, should entail giving the normal rights given for most traditional contracts, but keep in mind these contracts are very negotiable. The fine print in those contests may require that you sign a standard contract without negotiation. Ask to see that contract up front before entering. You could be sacrificing rights you prefer to retain.
Bait and switch. In some indie book contests where publication is part of the reward, a publisher might offer you the baseline, lowest package then try to court you to upgrade. Arm yourself with information about the publishing options that the company usually offers before entering.
Study the sponsor. What is its history in publishing? In running a contest? Feel comfy with whoever is running the show. Email and ask questions. Those entities that do not respond are not to be trusted. Don’t talk yourself into those competitions. 
Study the genre categories. When romance is competing with sci-fi, young adult prose with adult poetry, there’s a problem. Make sure that the contest clearly defines the type of book desired and that the requirement isn’t broadly painted all over the place.
Read the fine print, without exception. Make sure you understand each and every item. But most of all, be aware that contests are highly subjective, and two judges would rarely choose the same winner. The type of book that won last year might not be the same as this year, simply due to the judge’s personal likes. Do not take it personal. Just like you cannot please all readers, you will not be a good fit to all judges. And know that good sales means much more than winning a contest, so keep on keeping on with your platform building and marketing, putting that book into the world and selling it. Contests are wonderful to have, but not necessary to make a book a success.

Some book awards for your consideration:
Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award – 
EPIC Awards (ebooks only) – 
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators -  

At the risk of tooting my own horn, FundsforWriters posts contests each week and vets these entities.
Using a newsletter you trust might be a good way to improve your chances of finding a good contest, and 
decrease your chances of being scammed.

BIO: C. Hope Clark is author of the award-winning Carolina Slade Mystery Series and editor of, a website and newsletter that reaches over 40,000 readers. /