Saturday, March 26, 2011

Timely quote

I love the imagery in this quote from Geoffrey Nunberg in the New York Times Book Review section on March 20, 2011 about the enormity of data in our world today. He is speaking of the proliferation of information and internet chatter that has removed writing and reading from a solitary pursuit to a community activity.

"It's as if we've torn down the walls of the library, and now the
reading room is full of street people."

I picture the area around the New York Public Library  suddenly becoming the basis for all the chatter and cross-talk taking the place of lovely books. On my first visit to that venerable institution, I enjoyed the beauty of the reading room, years before technology overtook quiet. Not finding a single book available for browsing, I asked the desk attendant, and was told "If you want a book, fill out this slip to ask for it and wait while someone brings it to you."  Growing up in Chicago where I could browse the library from the age of 5, and take home as many books as I wished, the New York experience left a mark on me. I've been collecting books for my personal library ever since.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Again: Self-publishing trumps traditional...

Jane Friedman at Writer's Digest has a splendid and generous post about people choosing self-publishing instead of a book contract with a traditional publisher.  Read more here.

If you don't have time, return to the post later and learn from the most successful self-publisher I know of: JA Konrath, who says:
A virtual shelf, like Amazon or Smashwords, carries all my titles, all the time. And I don't have to compete with a NYT bestseller who has 400 copies of their latest hit on the shelf, while I only have one copy of mine. We each take up one virtual space per title. … Virtual shelf life is forever. In a bookstore, you have anywhere form a few weeks to a few months to sell your title, and then it gets returned. This is a big waste of money, and no incentive at all for the bookseller to move the book.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Writing with a non de plume: What's in a name?

The folks at Writer's Relief have put together a good article on the pros and cons of writing under an assumed name.
I generally advise against it today, because of the online marketing needed for visibility. It seems doubly complex with needing two email addresses, business cards, a different blog identity,and so on.  Read the full article here.

As the article states:
The minute you decide to take on a nom de plume, be prepared to stick to that name in your correspondence and at writers’ conferences and book signings. You want people to associate that name with you, not give them a slew of different names to remember.

Hint: If you do choose to go with a pen name, choose a name that’s not too generic or linked to someone else. Try an online search of your prospective name to see what comes up.
Thanks to Ronnie at Writer's Relief.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's award season for books

One of the best ways to create a long-lasting buzz for your book is by winning an award.

One of the first reputaable award campaigns to run in early 2011 and include books published in 2008 through 2011 is the

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Catholic Writers Conference Online

For the third year in a row, I'm a conference participant at the unique Catholic Writers Conference Online. The event runs from March 21 through 27, 2011. 

The current conference schedule is here, and as a reminder, this conference is open to all, is free, and you participate by online chat, in forums, or via phone.

Take note of the pitch sessions - your chance to pitch live to at least six agents and editors on the schedule.

My topic is "Power Blogging for Writers" on 3/21 at 7 p.m. Central time, but take advantage of the richness of presenters, topics and variety at this free event all week long.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Day 5: Words Matter Challenge: Captivating words

I have a long list of favorite writers, not for their story-telling or engaging commentaries, but for their way with words.
among the best are Nicholas Delbanco and Alain de Botton. These are essayists, who whenever writing, are writing to me, with carefully chosen words, painting pictures. In "The Art of Travel," when de Botton describes gazing up into an apartment in Amsterdam, I'm right beside him as he describes what he sees in the apartment, and whispers how he longs to be up there, in that chair, reading a book, and looking out on the city he's in.

In "Lastingness," when Delbanco teaches me about creativity and graceful aging, he teaches me about life as he tells the story of his experiences in Provence, in Madrid, and back at home reading a pile of favorite books.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day 4: Words Matter Challenge: Mangled Metaphors

Grammarians must have cringed when author Studs Terkel stated: "Nothing happened nowhere."

As writers, we know what he meant. -- There is always a story to be found, and sometimes the backstory is even more revealing. Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, our job is to write the truths that live beneath the surface.

But mangled language can also be great fun:

mangled           words           result in      hurt          feelings       

Can become

Wangled          mords           insult           flirt           healings.

Thanks to Jerry for the creative boost.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Day 3: Words Matter Challenge: Favorite quote about words

I have an entire collection of quotes, offering inspiration and wit for writers. My favorite, short but sweet, is by Rita Mae Brown:

"Never hope more than you work."

I am often inspired by the brevity and simplicity of quotes. Another, by Henry Ford, is "Think you can or think you can't. Either way you're right."

The importance to me is the glimmer of motivation that comes from such a  tiny suggestion. With "Never hope more than you work," it serves to remind me that, as writers, we can't just wait, to be discovered, to sell our work, or to get published. We can't hope it will happen. We have to make it happen.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day 2: Words Matter Challenge: Most important document

The most important document that inspires me in my career is De Profundis, by Oscar Wilde.
Written to his friend, Lord Albert Douglas, while Wilde was in prison, this is an essay of over 50,000 words, written over the winter months of 1897. While it may not be a document that changed history, it was created while Wilde was jailed for public indecency. The indecency? Having a male lover in the year 1897.

Beyond the poignant essence of this massive letter, it resonates with me for the precise, clear writing under adverse conditions. You see, Wilde was not only in prison, but he was allowed only one sheet of blue onion-skin paper per day. At day's end he had to hand the day's page back to the prison guard in order to receive another sheet of paper for the next day's writing. And as you can see, he used every inch of the paper.

I had the pleasure of viewing this document on display at The British Library in London. It was a marvelous, moving experience for me to see it firsthand. Imagine the mental clarity needed to write under such circumstances, and receive inspiration from the conviction and focus of this writer.

As it exists now, available at Project and on Wikipedia, the enormous letter remains as it was written, and was apparently never revised when Wilde was allowed to take it with him upon release from prison.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday, March 7: Is there a word that has changed, or could change your life? What is it, and what difference would it make? 1 of the Words Matter Week blog challenge:
For details, see here

PROMPT:  Is there a word that has changed, or could change your life? What is it, and what difference would it make? 

As a warm-up essay, I'll start the week with the word: INTERNET ...  Talk about a life-changing word!

Since first used by the U.S. government in the early 1960s as a resource-sharing electronic communication device, and early use in academics, it rapidly led to a brief life as nationwide free dial-up internet service (read full history here at Wikipedia), we've  been given unforeseen opportunities to expand communication, knowledge, resources, improvements in science, medicine, job creation, and business. Technologies came before such as flight, radio, and television, but none have brought such rapid change to so many people.

We might wish to take back a few of the mistakes along the way, improve the learning curve, and shorten the digital divide that has created a benefit that favors a class of people who can afford it. But I doubt anyone wants to go back to the days before the dial tone, modem screeching, busy signal, "you've got mail." early days of the internet.

We fear what may come of a society already reeling from tech-overload, multitasking and absorption in the chaos of streaming video, tweets, chats, and millions of conversations lacking in substance. But still we rush to the lure of exploration with the internet's riches - web sites making our travel plans, worldwide communication, 24x7 live video news from around the globe.

The internet has indeed changed my life, and that of everyone I know. It became my career about 15 years ago.  People who chose to disregard it can do so. In fact, it is as simple as turning off a switch. We  can revel in a view of history through museum exhibits, scholarly dialog, and reading the works of great authors from past generations right on our computers and digital devices.

Humans have developed all of this in the span of a single decade, so much, so fast, I feel I can almost see tomorrow.

Helen Gallagher

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Blog daily during "Words Matter Week," March 6-12, 2011

The National Association of Independent Writers and Editors ( invites you to join us March 6-12, 2011 for the fourth annual Words Matter Week.

As evidence that we haven’t advanced too far down the slippery slope of slop and drivel, Words Matter Week has rolled around once more. Billed as a time to celebrate the importance of words, Words Matter Week is celebrated annually online as well as on campuses, libraries, and in communities nationwide.
“Words are the foundation of civilization,” says Janice Campbell, Director of NAIWE. “In every aspect of life, personal or professional, words form the basis of relationships with others. The written word preserves and transmits knowledge, evokes alternate worlds, and provides endless food for thought. Words Matter Week gives us the opportunity to celebrate words and focus on why they matter.”

Learn more at the Words Matter Week Website,
I'll be blogging each day for the challenge, and hope to see you there.