So not only did you teach me about writing memoir, you also taught me about reading and thinking about how others write memoir. Thank you so much! Rebecca
Showing posts with label encouragement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label encouragement. Show all posts

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Seven Deadly Myths Writers Need to Know

I have  worked with authors this summer who want to publish their books, but  are wondering what they need to do first.

This article published by Huffington Post is one of the best I've read on what  to do before you self-publish or even submit your manuscript to an agent or editor. 

He points out the importance of having your book edited by a professional. Did you know there are several kinds of editors and they sometimes do several kinds of  editing, but some do only one kind of editing. Do you want copy editing or content editing or both and more?

David Kudler, author of the article on Huff Post, is an editor and he knows what editors see in the manuscripts sent to them. I have had authors call me on the  night they finished writing their last word in their book and say, "Now I'm ready to publish."

Sadly, their work has just begun. Even professional writers need editors. Even editors who have worked on one manuscript for a long time need new eyes to read it again. I see many books   today that have so many errors in them I can't  finish reading the book. I hear this from other  readers who are amazed at the poorly edited books sold in today's market. 

Don' t let your book be one of them. Don't publish a book that you will be ashamed of in a year or two when you learn the craft of writing. 

Just like I can't decide today that I want  to be a brain surgeon because I have watched videos and I am sure I know what to do, a  person can't sit down and write a good book if  he or she has  not had any education in the craft of writing. People who do that often turn out poorly written books and only their family or friends will buy it. Take writing classes. If none are being taught in your area, take online classes. Be sure you  research and know your instructor is qualified. 

Be aware that you will likely do many revisions before you book is ready to publish. Don't give up. Let experienced editors help you make your book the best it can be.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Become a Better Poet with these 6 Tips

Become a Better Poet

6 Tips for Starting and Running a Poetry Critique Group

by Karen Paul Holmes

(I  am happy to have poet, Karen Paul Holmes, as our guest today.)
Writers often write in a vacuum. I used to. I broke free from my isolation six years ago when I joined a writing group in the mountains. I realized I also needed that kind of connection in Atlanta (where I spend most of my time), so I started the Side Door Poets. And here’s the thing I discovered: Since I’ve been part of this trusted group of peers who critique my work and encourage me, I’m a better poet.
Here are some well-tested tips on starting your own critique group, based on my experience with the Side Door Poets.
1. Find a venue: We meet at a community room in my condo complex, centrally located in Midtown Atlanta. The room is free, and I can reserve it. Before this, we met at a library—many have free meeting rooms that can be reserved (look on their websites). When we began with three people, we met at Panera Bread Company, but it was noisy, there was no guarantee we could get a table, and once our group grew it became impractical. Other ideas: rooms at colleges or churches or meeting at someone’s house. (When I first started with a group of strangers, I wasn’t comfortable having it at home).
2. Advertise: I list the group with the Atlanta Writers Club and the Georgia Poetry Society. I have invited poets I met and liked while attending writing workshops. You could also contact English teachers—several of the Side Doors are high school English teachers or college instructors. I recommend publicizing a regular meeting day and time. (Now that we’re more informal and are friends, we’re flexible with our schedule but still meet monthly). And make your group easy to find!
3. Select members: When someone wants to join the Side Door Poets, I ask for a few poems, wanting to be sure that the poet is serious about craft. I aim for a mix of experience and backgrounds because I know that diversity will help everyone become better poets. I have had only one problem. When we were small and less selective, one woman ruined our group dynamic. She talked too much and did not know much about craft. Because she was a needy person, I thought it would be mean to kick her out. But members convinced me it was unfair to everyone else to keep her. That did it—I politely asked her to find another group or take a class, and I gave her resources. She sent an angry email, but that was that. As the leader of a critique group, sometimes you will have to make tough choices.
4. Determine format: The Side Door Poets only critique poetry and can effectively review a maximum of ten poems in a two-hour period. (I ask members to RSVP for the meeting, so we know how many plan to come). We don’t send poems ahead of time; instead, we bring copies for everyone. I randomly shuffle to determine the order. One poet reads while the rest follow along. We take a minute to digest and jot notes, and then we discuss. Though it’s often recommended that the poet should not speak, we don’t enforce this rule. The poet is quiet for a while but then can ask and answer questions. We all feel the dialog is useful. Afterward, we put our name on the poem and return it to the poet. Rather than discussing typos or grammar, we mark them on the paper. I don’t set a timer—there’s usually a natural pause in the discussion, and we move on.
5. Set the mood: In the beginning, I emphasized that critiques needed to be kind but useful. No tearing a poem apart viciously but also no mamby-pamby “what a lovely poem.” Our purpose is to help each other be better poets. We say what we like, and we say (kindly but firmly) what could be improved. We don’t re-write the poet’s poem but may make wording suggestions. I discourage defensiveness on the poet’s part. We’re an amiable group. Sure sometimes one of us gets on another’s nerves or says something someone doesn’t like; but generally, we trust each other and get along. When we meet at night, someone might bring wine and munchies. On a Saturday morning, I bring coffee and tea. We don’t have a formal sign up for refreshments.
6. Support each other: The Side Door Poets became friends quickly because we shared our intimate stories and vulnerabilities via poetry. We’ve had Christmas parties and hosted readings for each other. We buy each other’s books, write recommendations and blurbs for each other, and share our publishing acceptances—and rejections.
I can honestly say each Side Door Poet values the group professionally and personally. We have grown and no longer even keep a waiting list—we have little turnover in membership.  Members often thank me for keeping it going, but I thank them for making it a mutually beneficial community. We’ve all had better-than-average publishing successes, which we attribute to the challenges and encouragement we get from each other. I’ve had a book published and am working on another manuscript—something I couldn’t have done without my group’s support.
I encourage you to join a group or start one if there aren’t any in your area. You may have to start small; but as the energy of the group develops, it will draw the right people to it. Writing shouldn’t be lonely—sharing your work takes it to a new level. Your poetry will improve, as will your confidence.

Karen Paul Homes

Karen Paul Holmes is the author of the poetry collection, Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press, 2014). She was chosen for Best Emerging Poets (Stay Thirsty Media, 2016), and publishing credits include Poetry East, Atlanta Review, Slipstream, Cortland Review, Lascaux Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol 5: Georgia (Texas Review Press), and many more. She’s a freelance writer and president of Simply Communicated, Inc. To encourage fellow poets and their audiences, Karen hosts a monthly open mic in the Blue Ridge Mountains and a poetry critique group in Atlanta. Follow her at

Monday, April 14, 2014

What can I give? What can I do?

Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you. 
                                                                                                                --Mother Teresa

My mother didn't tell me this, and she was no Mother Teresa, but she lived it. I watched Mother and her relationship with other people from the time I was a small child. She didn't run around looking for places to be of use. She had a large family, seven kids, and a farmer husband. She didn't have extra cash stashed to donate to others. But when a neighbor was in need, mother comforted her, gave her refuge from an abusive husband. When a relative lost a child, Mother was there to listen to the same stories over and over poured out with a cascade of tears. When a poor family had needs, Mother could find some way to make things better. I didn't know, of course, when I was observing her, that I was learning how to live my own life, and I was learning from a master teacher.

In the mail, every day, I am inundated with solicitations from organizations as varied in their needs as The Baptist Children's Home to the Democratic Party. My telephone rings and I see numbers from far away cities that I know are charities wanting my money. I just don't pick up anymore. 

On the TV news I see earthquakes, mudslides, refugees of war, and my heart aches for those people caught in the worst of all situations. I am overwhelmed with so much need and suffering in this world. If only I were strong and healthy enough to go and help, but I am not. Those days are gone for me now.

Although I have always been frugal with my resources and saved for my retirement, the nagging worry still hangs over me. Will I outlive my savings, my nest egg?

Are the needs of others more important than my own? If I give to all the organizations that ask, will I one day find I am among those doing the requesting?

I have made the decision to help one person at a time and to start with the person nearest me. 
I will help him/her in the way that is best for me. What do I have to offer? Not money. Not physical strength. 

  • I can offer what I know about writing, about publishing, about marketing, about building relationships, about organizing events and I can offer ideas to improve my community. 
  • I can offer to help those who have lost loved ones and have trouble moving on and finding purpose. My experience in that department is vast.
  • I can offer sympathy and empathy where it is needed. I can offer encouragement to that young person who has yet to enter the arena, to pursue her dreams, to take the risks involved to become a success. I can be there as backup if needed. 
  • I can share what I know with mature adults who want to be remembered for the lives they have lived - either by their family or by the world at large. I can and do help them find a way. I can listen. Sometimes that is the most important thing we can do - simply listen.