Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

Warming up for the New Year

In 1 on December 31, 2009 at 9:01 pm

I’m sure a little online research could reveal to me why January is considered the start of a new year. It seems such an odd time of year to “begin” if you think about it, at least in North America where living things are dormant and slow. And yet, there is something motivating in these dark and cold months–if we can’t be out in the warmth of the world, why not dip into our own inner creative wells where it can be any season we want.

How will you boost your writing life this year? What will you do differently? Are you after any new goals? I hope to hear from you!

I hope you’ll come back in 2010 for new guest posts, more online classes and other creative ventures!

Happy New Year


Welcoming War: The Editor and the Wild Thing

In 1 on December 12, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Today’s guest poster, Alegra Clarke, is new mom to her third baby as of two days ago. A healthy, robust boy. In honor of that, we have her wonderful post:

I am a person who guards her peace. This isn’t to say I don’t love a good drama. I’m a guilty voyeur of other people’s train wrecks but given the opportunity to meddle, I will always try to find the path of resolution for those involved. Recently, I’ve realized that some ancient conflicts and well-nourished hatreds deserve to be respected; peace is not always the answer. It takes all kinds of chemistry to sustain a relationship and the stability of the physical world is often maintained by relationships involving opposition. So it is with my writer-mind.

 As a slow learner I require a great deal of repetition until a new pattern is established. For years, in the name of efficiency, I’ve tried to mend the polarity in my writer-mind. Like some sort of blinded match-maker, I’ve enticed the Editor and the Wild Thing to sit down with the same page and work together. It always ends in bloodshed – mine. After a particularly bloody battle, a friend made a suggestion using my name as an analogy of how I should approach my writing. I was born Eros-Alegra but after my mother realized that giving her daughter the name of one of the oldest Greek gods – one known for primal love, passion and creating order out of chaos – was a mighty weight to carry into the world, I began using Alegra as my calling card. I’m rarely called by Eros in my day-to-day life but it is a name that makes sense to those who know me best. My friend told me that when I write, I need to gag Alegra, the Editor, and make her sit in the corner and let Eros, the Wild Thing, out to play. When the Wild Thing is exhausted and ready for a nap, the Editor can have her turn. The Editor looks at the Wild Thing’s mess, rolls up her sleeves and smiles in delight.

They are control freaks at the opposite end of the spectrum; the Editor is obsessed with craft and the relationship between reader and writer being a happy one. The Editor needs symmetry in images, steady rhythm in language, and she can obsess for hours over making sure her needs are met. The Wild Thing just wants to be wild. She wants to rename the world around her. She delights in secret languages and jazz rifts. She is offended by the need for translation. If she says that ‘the toes of a statue murmured in the midnight air,’ she will think you are a blockhead for trying to point out that any toes, much less those of a statue, are incapable of ‘murmuring’.  The Editor and the Wild Thing will never reach a compromise, at least not sitting at the same table or even being trapped in the same room together.

 After much wasted effort, I have come to realize that the Editor and the Wild Thing have been happily conducting a love affair without my permission.  Their hatred of one another is a romance that doesn’t require my approval. After all, the Wild Thing requires order to contrast its wildness. And where would the Editor be without material to tame? I have surrendered to the war in my mind. In fact, I welcome it. Let the Editor gnash her terrible teeth and the Wild Thing roar her terrible roars. My world would be a bland place without them.


Eros-Alegra Clarke is currently writing her first novel under the mentorship of her agent. In the meantime, she has been slowly building publications including the story “Naming Shadows” in the literary journal Bitter Oleander. A wife, mother of three, and graduate student, Alegra regularly contributes to Maria Schneider’s website resource for writers:  and can be found blogging about life, writing, and everything in between at: http://alegra22.wordpress.comClarke

Writer’s Angels

In 1 on December 8, 2009 at 5:21 pm

In the life of every writer there are angels who sweeten the path; who say yes after a hundred no’s; who like your work; who champion what you do despite the fact that you don’t even know them in person. You are lucky to have one, blessed to have several.

When I first encountered Maria Schneider–former editor of Writer’s Digest, and creatrix of, a truly unique site for writers–I knew I’d met one of these angels. Pleased that I’d caught her eye on one query I decided to do what any kamikaze freelancer does–pepper her with further queries until my name was branded behind her eyelids at night 🙂

Not only did Maria continue to respond to my queries with assignments for the magazine, she gave me some of the goodies–I got to interview the likes of Chuck Pahlaniuk, Sara Gruen, and Tess Gerritsen, to name a few. These were interviews she could happily have done herself.  She proved to me over and over again that editors DO respect writers, that the relationship is mutually beneficial at least, and full of synergy at best. She unwittingly gave me the confidence to take a silly little book proposal I’d been sitting on and pitch it as a book (Make a Scene).

And in her new life “unleashed” she has continued to be my champion, as well as the champion of other writers with the incredible information she makes available on her website; through the interactive forums there, and more. She is one of the most generous people in the industry today, and so several of us who feel the same way about her wanted to make sure that everyone else knows too.

These other writers agree:

Laurel Wilcek:

Linda Wastila and John Towler:

If you’ve had a great experience with Maria–blog it! Then send me the link. We want to make sure she doesn’t stop smiling today.


When to Turn Down Work

In 1 on December 3, 2009 at 8:33 pm

“No” is a word not often found in a freelancer’s vocabulary. In a world without a steady paycheck or a guarantee of the next round of work, (and yes, “in this economy”) why on earth would we ever turn down work? Well, I’m here to give you a few good reasons to save you trouble, waste and hassle so that you can continue to make room for the good work.

Top 5 Reasons for Freelancers to Turn Down Work (not in order of importance!).

1. Unreasonable Time Constraints. Recently I had to turn down a copy-edit for a client who had contacted me over the summer wanting an edit for his dissertation. He said he would “get back to me” with a total word count “soon.”  6 months later he was back. And he wanted his edit done in 10 days. No amount of money was going to make it work without the kind of stressful squeeze. The stress of that kind of rush job can also make for sloppy mistakes!

2. Dubious Origin. If you have no way to verify the identity of the person who has contacted you–all you get is an email inquiry, they haven’t come by referral, don’t have a website or give a phone number, don’t trust they’ll pay you! Better to pass. (P.S. It’s also good to get some kind of a deposit up front in this case).

3. Unwillingness to Sign a Contract. No matter whether I edit or write, I get the details of every project in writing. For my own clients I put together an agreement. When I work for others, I ask for one if it isn’t offered. Any person, organization or publication unwilling to put together a contract is a risk you don’t need to take.

4.  Over-promising. This is certainly related to time constraints, but this time they’re yours. It’s never a good idea to say yes to a project you really aren’t sure you can complete in the time the client needs it. The money might be tempting, but the risk of upsetting a client is worse–they can spread bad word of mouth! Better to trust that by turning away something you can’t do, you make room for the next good thing.

5.  Doing Favors. If I ever were to be a lawyer, I’d want to take on pro-bono cases. And the same thing goes for us editors and writers. We inevitably befriend a lot of people who need the very services we offer. I like to help people, but sometimes, when you’re the “go to” writer/editor for your friends, you’re going to have to turn down helping them for free, or at that time, in favor of your paycheck. It’s painful. But if they’re really friends, they won’t make you choose between their friendship and your livelihood!

So remember, sometimes saying “no” is really saying “yes” to better options.