Writing Blog Archive 2015


Writing Archive 2015

Applying for GrantsMarch 24, 2015

     I recently attended a talk given by Gigi Rosenberg, the author of The Artist's Guide to Grant Writing, an expert in helping people apply for grants. It was such good information I wanted to pass it along.
     Most of us out there are trying to figure out how to get more bang for our bucks. Make your money work for you, is the old saying. How would it be if you could get 'free' money? No this isn't one of those Nigerian Prince schemes, this is an honest way to get money to help your project.
     Grants, are absolutely for authors. I can already hear you saying, 'but that's hard and I don't know how to do that.' You already know how to apply, you've had to fill out your synopsis and your artists bio, and the blurb for the back of the book, query letter, elevator pitch, etc. This is all information that you are going to need to fill out a grant proposal.
     If you need money for a PR campaign for your upcoming book release a grant could provide that. Or you need to do some research but don't have the funds to go to Easter Island? Maybe you'd like to spend time channeling Agatha Christie?

     One thing about grants is if you get one, you can piggy back another on to it. If you received funds for a residency (a location for a specific amount of time sometimes with a small stipend) but you need funds to get there, you could apply for another grant for that amount. Since you already have the first grant, you are a more viable prospect to the second grant committee.
     Applying for a grant that has a cut off of 500 applicants doesn't mean you are competing against 499 others. Twenty-five percent of the bottom applicants will be thrown out for not meeting the qualifications or improperly filling out the paper work. Which increases your odds considerably. If you don't apply you'll never win.
     Filling out a grant or residency application for a writing project you want to complete, works a kind of magic. The deadline forces you to clarify what you want in the your career and why you want it. Most application want to know where you've been, where you are now with your project or in your career and where your going.
     While you are writing your answers to the application questions, the writer inside gains clarity. Writing down what you want, makes you much more likely to succeed at getting it.
     Updating your resume, shows you the wins along with the holes. Giving you perspective as you look back on past works to see how far you've come. Looking forward to the mountain that you've been heading towards all along.
     Applying for a grant gives you a chance to ask some hard questions about your career and if the project you are envisioning is really the one you want to embark on.
     I highly recommend that you check out Gigi's site for more information. Good luck!


The Case of the Prolific Ghostwriter April 2015

     How many of us Nancy Drew readers, knew that Carolyn Keene, was a pen name for many women that authored the books? The first woman to write the character, also went on to write twenty-three of the first thirty novels. Her name was Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson.
     It all started when Edward Stratemeyer began publishing Young Adult serials in 1899 with the Rover Boys. In 1905 he started the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which went on to publish the Bobbsey Twins, Hardy Boys,Nancy Drew, Tom Swift and many other popular series books. In 1926 he had a new idea for a character called Nancy Drew. He contacted Mildred Augustine, a young woman who hadn't worked for him previously, and asked her if she was interested in this project. As always, he provided his authors with index card thumbnail sketches of what he envisioned for the book. Mildred was the first ghostwriter to expand on Stratemeyer's rough draft for Nancy Drew, and went on to write the first five books.
     Who was Mildred? She was born in 1905 in Iowa, published her first short story in St. Nicholas, a children's magazine in 1919 and got her degree in English from the University of Iowa in 1925. She returned to the University and in 1927 became the first female student there to earn her master's degree in journalism. In 1928 she married Asa Wirt, an Associated Press reporter. Between the first Nancy Drew published in 1926 and 1936 when daughter Peggy was born, Mildred wrote thirty-one books under her own name as well as eleven pen names. In 1945 she started her career in journalism as a reporter at the Toledo Times. Her free time was filled with many sports including, diving, swimming and golf. She even managed to earn her pilot's license, which she maintained into old age. Her husband, Asa, became ill and died in 1947. Mildred nursed him, and kept writing with the typewriter next to his bed. She then married George A Benson, editor of the Toledo Blade newspaper of Toledo, Ohio. After his death in 1959, she continued to work as a reporter, for fifty-six years, until her death in 2002 at the age of ninety-six.

     The Stratemeyer Syndicate owned the rights to all of the titles it published, as well as the pen names. However, the ghostwriters were able to reveal they wrote for the syndicate, but not what pen names they used. All of the ghostwriters, were paid a flat fee of $125 to $250 for each title. The equivalent of three months pay for a newspaper reporter at the time. Its no wonder Mildred continued to knock out the books. In 1930 when Edward Stratemeyer died, under the terms of his will, all Syndicated ghostwriters were sent one fifth of the equivalent of the royalties the Syndicate had received for each book series they had contributed on.
     For decades Mildred told friends and family she had been one of the writers of Nancy Drew, but there was no way she could prove it. Until one day in 1980 a court case involving the current publishers, Simon & Schuster, was held. Mildred gave testimony revealing her identity to the public as a contributor to the Nancy Drew serials. Without access to the Stratemeyer Syndicate archives, housed at the New York Public Library, the public presumed that she, Mildred, had a primary authorship claim to the Nancy Drew stories as well as the pen name Carolyn Keene. 1994 saw the first Nancy Drew convention held at Mildred's old alma mater, University of Iowa, with Mildred as the guest of honor.
     Mildred received a special Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 2001, for her contributions to the Nancy Drew Series. The Hidden Staircase, second mystery in the Nancy Drew series, was Mildred's favorite. Penny Parker books, were her favorite series to write, and published under Mildred's own name. In her career Mildred published more than 130 books. Here are her pen names she wrote under, Don Palmer, The Boy Scout Explorer series, Carolyn Keene, Dana Girls Mystery series, Julie K. Duncan, Doris Force Mystery Stories, Dorothy West, The Dot and Dash Series, Frank Bell, The Flash Evans Series, Helen Louis Thorndyke, Honey Bunch Books, Frances K. Judd, Kay Tracey Mystery Stories, Ann Wirt, Madge Sterling Stories, Joan Clark, Penny Nichols Stories, and Alice B.Emerson, Ruth Fielding Series.
     We, the writers of mysteries, really owe a debt of gratitude to this prolific and gifted author. She showed the world that it was OK to be a tomboy, cleaver and a girl. Giving little girls a new view of what was possible, and how they could view themselves. Starting the spark in many of us to carry on in her footsteps.


Blurb, On Demand Publishing May 2015

           One of the perks of completing Nanowrimo is the goodies you receive. This year one of the things was a 'free' published copy of your book by a company called Blurb. Who are they? Blurb was started in 2006 and is a print on demand company. They offer "beautiful, bookstore-quality books on premium paper stock with archival-quality binding."
      I went out to the Blurb page, and was instructed to download their app, Bookwright, which I did. The program is pretty easy to use. You upload your finished book, pick the type of book you want to have published, from their eleven types of print and one PDF forms to choose from.

      Guidelines are offered for each type of book. The template shows you what your cover will look like with the image up uploaded, as well as back cover info. If you need a UPC sticker, they will help you with that.
      Once your file is uploaded you can choose to do a print and e-book, or e-book only or print only. If you decided later that you want to make the book available online, you can go back and make that happen.
      The free book they were offering was a 5"x8" Trade paperback. I uploaded my file, was well within the 468 page maximum. Verified that the chapter headings were positioned where I wanted them on the pages. I add a back cover write up, then uploaded an image to use for the cover. It probably took me an hour to download the app and then do all the things to set the book, and that included changing the look of the cover image.
      Once you get the layout the way you want you click Done, and its off to be printed. I was told that it would take up to three weeks to be printed and mailed to me, depending on the time of year and how many copies you ordered. Less than a week later it had arrived. I had a physical copy of the novel that I had written during Nano.
      Although this is easy, its by no means cheap. My book was 'free' but the shipping was nearly six dollars. A Trade paperback with 200 pages costs $4.29 + $6.00 of shipping. The more you have printed, the more the cost drops. But if you are doing just a handful of books this is a good way to do it. It also makes a nice visual to have your finished book sitting on a book shelf.


What is Pinterest?June 12, 2015

      Pintress is a 'visual bookmarking tool that helps you discover and save creative ideas.' As a personalized Social Media platform, that is both expressive and image driven. Each 'pin' is a virtual bookmark, and has to be a photo or video. When clicked, it will take you back to the original website. Pinterest sites resemble cork boards covered in snapshots. With 'topic specific boards' like, Grub, Travel or Line Dancing. Inside each of these will be more images/pins supporting the subject.
     You have to register for a Pinterest account, which is kind of like creating up a webpage. But it is also Social Media, you can follow people, 'repin' images, comment, and be part of groups.

Your page is a picture of who you are and what you're interested in, having fun and being creative in a different way.
     "As an author how am I going to use this?" A published friend, advertise her work with it. Each one of her books has its own topic specific board, with images that illustrate locations in the novel, characters or clothing. The idea is to be creative and enjoy. Think of ways to involve your readers into the story, or the writing process, or something personal about you.
     When you need a break from words and rational thought, head over to Pinterest. Kick back and let the images reboot your muse.


What is DraftMap?July 1, 2015

      Wouldn't it be great to have someone to proofread your drafts, to help improve the writing, assisting with passive and repetitive words, readability, adverbs and style? Draftmap is at your service.

     This program will aid you with 'swift, precise edits.' It is so easy to use anyone can do it! Works with both PC and Mac, and is less than twenty dollars. They were offering a half off deal with the key word: NEWRELEASE, but it might have ended last month.

     After installation, open DraftMap, highlight the selection in your writing software that you'd like to check, copy and paste it into the program window. Instantly it will indicate the trouble spots, with their color coded assistance.

     Make changes in real time in DraftMap, watch your progress as you clean up the piece. Delete the wrong thing, it can be undone. A built in dictionary and special character map are also included.

     When finished editing, cut and paste it back into the original source. Or save as a text (.txt) file, or export it as a Microsoft Word 2007-2013 XML or docx. Or an HTML document.

     If you don't feel like copying and pasting, files stored on the computer can be opened.

     I've been using it for a month, and I really like it. It is surprising when you go through your work and think it is ready, and then put it in DraftMap and find all the problem spots you thought you'd cleared up. Its also helping with passive words, which I've had difficulty with. Once exposed it becomes easier for me to recognize them next time and avoid them.

     Small package, small price, hugely useful. This is improving my writing and that is a benefit.


ErgonomicsAugust 1, 2015

      Ergonomics - the study of people's efficiency in their working environment. In simple terms, making sure that you take care of yourself while you are toiling away.
     Sitting in front of a computer for hours everyday can be unhealthy if you aren't doing it right.
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are just two of the reasons to setup up your workstation comfortably and correctly.


     Start with posture, make sure you are sitting up straight, with your feet flat on the floor. Use this chart to figure out what height the desk and chair should be at. Your elbows need to be close to your body, at 90 degrees, wrists and head straight.
While typing relax back and shoulders, make sure to sit near the edge of the seat, this will help with posture and keep your shoulders from hunching and clenching.
     Chair: adjustable up and down, seat and arms. They will provide someplace to rest when not on the keyboard.Verify the cushion is comfortable, you will be sitting there for many hours. Lumbar support is a necessity, it can be added after the fact. Swiveling and rolling are the last on the must haves.
     Keyboard and mouse: need to be as close together as possible. If you don't have a laptop with a Track Pad, a keyboard tray/drawer is the best place to keep them in tandem.
     Monitor: Should be at eye level keeping your neck straight, and back and shoulders relaxed. If you are using a laptop getting an external monitor will make your body more comfortable.
you need to make a decision, standing or regular. Study says: Sitting is the new Smoking. Many people are choosing to do a hybrid system, where they stand part time. However, motorized adjustable desks can run $800 or more. Here are some DIY ideas that speak to the budget minded. Or do the dead broke option that I'm using, I have a traditional sit-down desk, a few feet away I rigged up a stool with a box on top as a standing desk. I have a TV mounted on the wall that I can attach to my laptop with HDMI cable. Not ideal but workable, and cheap!
     Remember to stretch every thirty minutes while you are toiling, whether standing or sitting. And don't forget your hands, Carpal Tunnel sucks, yes speaking from experience, follow these stretches and hopefully it won't happen to you.
     I hope this has provided you with a start to keeping yourself healthy while you are working.


SmartphonesAugust 25, 2015

          Did you know your Smartphone(SP) has more computing power than all of NASA in 1969? In 1946, the world's first computer, could perform 385 multiplications per second. Today, the iPhone 6 can complete 3.36 billion instructions per second. Compared with the human brain, having a processing capacity of 0.1 quadrillion instructions per second. (One hundred-thousand billions in a quadrillion)

     I took an informal poll some months back on the Guppies list. I received twenty-five responses to the following questions:
If people had a Smartphone - Twenty-two said, "yes."Three said, "no."
If people knew how to use 50% of their SP capabilities?
   Five said, "yes."
   Twenty said, "no."
The pond was split - Thirteen iPhones and nine Android

     The Smartphone has only been around for eight years, it quickly became indispensable for writers because with it, you are never without something to record your thoughts. You have notes and writing programs, dictionary/thesaurus, infinite research facilities and libraries full of books.
     Smartphone application (apps) are programs that allow you to do things with an SP. If you need/want it to do a task, someone has created an app to do it. These add ons are in addition to all of the apps that come by default. Out of the box you can:make calls, surf the web, take photos and movies, use a calculator, text, tell time, alarms, stop watch, timer, send and receive emails, make appointments in calendar, listen to music, find yourself with maps, flashlight (iPhone), voice recorder, FaceTime (Skype), take notes, install new apps.
     Kindle, came as a default app, I have to admit I didn't think much of it at the time, but now I've got it setup, I can read any book that Amazon offers. Most of us always have a book, now you can have an entire library.
     I am constantly amazed when sitting with writers who have SP's and hearing them say "I didn't have paper and a pencil the other day when this great idea struck me"...PEOPLE you are carrying a computer in your pocket.Get it out, open the notes app. If you don't feel like a lot of keyboard work, use the dictation app (Siri) instead. If you want, you could dictate your entire novel.
     What else can SP do for writers? Apps for writing from the Apple Store, returned 2166 results on my iPhone. All of the typical graphical word processing programs, Word, Pages, Open Office and Libre are available, in most cases, for free. Sadly, Scrivener is still not available for mobile devices.
*Speech - will read your writing back to you.
*Voice recorder - practice your elevator pitch. Record an interview with a source.
*Square - This allows you to take credit card payments, by inserting their magcard reader into the headphone jack. Customers slide their cards, use their finger to sign the screen, and payment is made.
*GPS - This is a great feature if you are trying to find directions, traffic reports or weather. However, leaving this on all the time allows you to be tracked. In a world with less and less privacy, mine is always off.
>*Passcode/locking your phone - Always enable this. You don't know when you might forget your phone. Or it could be "Apple picked." A friend's daughter was talking on her phone when someone ran up and snatched it out of her hand.
*Bluetooth Image - If you aren't using it, turn it off. Not only is it running your battery down, but Bluetooth enabled devices can pair with(connect) it and access your data.
*Find My Phone -is an app that will help you track your phone if lost or stolen. Note: Must have GPS on for this to work.

Tips and Tricks

*I highly recommend that you get a film protective cover for the screen. A $10 film cover will protect your screen from being scratched.
*Get the insurance that is offered when you purchase your new SP. One drop off the top of the stairs or into water, will pay for it in an instant.
*Remember to let the battery fully drain down once a month. Don't worry all of your apps and data will be fine. Your battery will last longer. Lithium-ion batteries, are powering your SP, and they are very safe. However, if you ever see smoke, or flame, quickly and carefully move the device to a concrete floor, if possible, away from combustable items and call 911. It is impossible to extinguish a fire started by these batteries.
*Guppy Yahoo group email can be received on the SP, through the email program. Because its Yahoo, some of the links on the screen like reply, reply all, don't work. If you look down at the bottom of the screen you will see buttons/icons (see red rectangle), the stylized arrow is for replies. Your options are, reply, reply all, forward and print.
screen shot
*How to take a screen shot-
Image iPhone: hold down the round home button while holding down the Sleep button (top right), let go of them and you should hear a camera shutter sound. The saved image will be in Camera Roll.
ImageAndroid: On most Android phones, you can take a screenshot by holding down the sleep/wake button and the volume-down button simultaneously, until your screen flashes.
*Organizing your desk top/home screen-
ImageIPhone: Hold your finger on any icon for a few seconds until it starts to dance.
Icons that are not default will have an 'X' on them.
These can be moved around the screen or to other screens.
*Make a Group-
Pull one of the icons on top of another and a box will appear encompassing the two icons.
Name the group anything you want, put as many icons in the box.
*Delete Icons:
Only non-default icons can be deleted
After they start to dance, select the one you want to delete displaying an 'X', click on the 'X'
You will get a warning asking if you want to delete.
*Stop Dancing:
Click the round 'home button'
Select the icon you want to move and move it. *Making a group- (not all androids respond the same)
  1. Touch the Apps icon
  2. Locate the first app you want to put into a folder
  3. Touch and hold the app
  4. Drag the app to the lower left hand corner of the screen to the Create folder icon
  5. A new folder is created on the screen - It can be named. Drag other icons into it.


*Ring Tones/Notification:
Any sound can be made into a ringtone. As long as you can get the sound into your computer

*Assigning Ringtones/Notifications:
Phone Call,ImageImage Email,ImageImage Text Message,ImageImage
Face Book, ImageImage Twitter ImageImageContacts - ImageImage

If taking a couple of pictures to use for demonstration - I will email them to myself, this is faster than hooking the phone up to the computer and downloading the images.
Pinching the screen(use thumb and index finger on screen bring together, pinch) will zoom in. Reverse action, zoom out.
*Time lapse:
For the fireworks this year I installed an app that allowed time lapse with the video camera - kind of cool.
*Text Messages & Photo/Videos: Any photo/video on your phone can be included in a text message.
*Text messages:
Don't assume that anyone with a phone number can send/receive texts, or images. Always ask.
*Here are some more tips/tricks:
Don't worry you can't hurt an SP by downloading or playing with apps.There's always the factory reset option if it gets really out of control.
This is a taste of what this amazing piece of technology can do. I hope you have a bit more confidence in trying some things on your own. Don't feel dumb asking questions, those of us who understand this stuff, didn't get it by osmosis. Have fun and enjoy.