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Write From Home
Kim Wilson
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

Off the Page...
August 2003 Column

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Connections that Sizzle
by Tama Westman


The solitary writer’s life? Not necessarily. Connecting with others in the field, like writers, speakers, editors and publishers can make your writing life sizzle.

Start slow, then build and grow
Join a local writer's guild. Find an active group that meets at least once a month and brings in speakers, and shares success stories as well as personal tales of “pre-acceptance,” a.k.a. the dreaded rejection letter.

This is where you will pick up new tips in editing, learn to refine your writing and get insider information to new markets and publishing opportunities. Additionally, you will embark on new friendships with those trying to do the same thing you are: to write, to publish, and to see your work in print. These acquaintances can become a great source of support as you learn and grow together.

Don’t forget to find writers of similar interests through Internet groups, such as Yahoo and listserves like Write From Home, Momwriters and WritersWeekly. As discussed in May’s Off the Page column, these Internet connections can create all new resources for you, putting you in contact with professionals who can quickly answer questions and provide valuable feedback.

Beyond any price paid
Attend writer’s seminars, conferences and trade shows where you will meet those in the industry who are a little further along the path you have chosen. Learn from them. Glean all the possible information you can. Attending these events connects you not only with fellow writers, but also with editors and publishers who come hungry for new talent. Feed them with your fine writing.

A writer’s market guide, available in any bookstore, will list events by month and location. Most seminars and conferences will have a Web site where you can learn what publishers will be represented. Use the market guide to study the different publishing houses. Ask yourself, if I were to meet the editor of Good Housekeeping, what article could I write for them? Be prepared to pitch an article, story idea or book concept, as appropriate, should you get a few moments with an editor. Do your homework and know what each one is looking for.

Establish editor relationships
Editors who get to know you and recognize your smiling face, will enjoy talking with you and become great partners in publishing your work, often providing immeasurable advice and direction that you might never receive otherwise. They know the business from the inside out. If they say cut a line or drop a page, listen – they are probably right.

One of the first pieces I sold nationally came about from working with an editor whom I met at a writers conference in Florida. She looked at the story I had sweated and bled over, one that I thought was perfect. She said, “If you cut the first three pages and change the ending, I’ll buy it.” Guess what I did? You’ve got it. What’s that old saying - an editor holding your hand is worth twenty stories in the dusty file folder?

Conference connections lend priority status
The connections you establish when you attend conferences and seminars gives you priority in the submission process. Say a magazine editor gets ten submissions for a possible opening in an upcoming issue. She is more likely to read and use the submission from a writer she has met at a conference than an unknown person. It’s true. Pay the price, attend the conferences, and get yourself known in the business.

When you widen your circle by including new writer friends and editors that like your work, it pays off in advice and assignments that will steer you even further towards happy publishing success.

Who do you account to?
It is wise to develop a working relationship with one or two people who can be relied on to keep you on task. These become not only your best backers, but also your best pushers – your own personal motivators. These fellow writers or readers, friends or family members know you well enough to stir your creative juices. They also recognize when you have put forth your best work.

Often, a different set of eyes can pick out errors or content issues that you might not see. The taskmaster who holds me accountable is a nearby novelist. She will, on occasion, edit, critique, or tap her figurative foot to snap me to attention. I send her only those pieces that I am unsure of or that have been a struggle, so as not to slow her own writing down. It is when she turns mute that I know I have done my finest and it is time to send the piece to the editor.

An encouraging word
This final step is so simple, but so often overlooked. Make a point of writing an encouraging word to another writer or overworked editor at least once a week. You can compliment a recent publication, celebrate a book contract or console a discouraged person who upon your kind words may pick up her pen and try again. Sign the guest book on a favorite author’s Web site. Attach a note to an editorial, thanking the editor.

Collect both snail mail and e-mail addresses of those in the writing world who will be of benefit to you or whom you can help. Have you met someone who might make a great novelist, if she only had a friend to encourage her? Plug into the writing community; don’t be content to stand on the outside and look in.

Prepare to soar
Get involved in the success of others, and then watch as these same people climb on board your bandwagon too. The solitary writers life? It need not be. In fact, it is totally up to you. Surrounding yourself with an active writing group, fellow writers and communicative editors will keep you hopping. Writing opportunities will sizzle on your plate as you become more connected in the publishing arena. Sharpen your pencil and prepare to soar!


Tama Westman writes the Off the Page column for Write From Home. As a correspondent and columnist, she publishes news articles, feature stories and her column, Cuppa Thoughts, regularly with her local paper, the Chaska Herald. She has served as the editor of the award-winning literary and arts magazine, Haute Dish. As a freelancer, her articles appear in several local newspapers and, nationally in The Gathering and Light & Life Magazine.

She teaches creative writing and poetry classes with the AHEAD program (Achieving Higher Education and Dreams) at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, MN, mentors high school journalism students and helps to edit the column of her 18-year old, British-bred cat on coolpetsites.com, Purrfect Gypsy – The Cat’s Eye View. She is married with two college-enrolled children, and keeps her balance with a cup of tea taken in the afternoon in her English garden. Her published clips can be viewed via her Web site, http://www.tamawestman.com and she can be reached at tamajoy@earthlink.net.


 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

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