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  Issue #52

Free Writers' Newsletter

   Jun 22, 2007  


Tips from the writer spirit
By Marcella Simmons

For many years, it has been my dream to become a well-known writer with dozens of books published – wanting to be recognised by the reading public and honoured by fans everywhere. Women like Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel are living my dream, and all I am doing is sitting back, sulking and wishing, and saying, "that should have been me".

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Poetry Contest
Deadline-Sept 30:
$3,500 in prizes; top prize $1,000. Poems in any style or theme. Published / unpublished poems welcome. Enter online or by mail. Guidelines.

I silently sit behind my computer pecking out page after page of book length material, and somewhere at the back of my mind is this writer spirit in my brain saying over and over, "you'll never get published without an agent, and you're not good enough to have an agent. You don't have a clue where to send your query letter and at the rate you're going, by the time you send out your letters, your story will be cold and dry, and out-dated!"

Okay, that's enough of that. I don't have an agent and I have been turned down before. But I'm not quitting just because of that. In the past, my material was readily accepted in the small press world and during that time, I earned a credible bio that should entice any editor. But most of those small press publications have bit the dust and I am finding it harder and harder to break into print with the newer ones.

"Maybe it's because you quit writing for them and quit submitting your work to them," cries the writer spirit in my brain. "Do you ever read the new publications?"

Oh – just leave me alone! What's the use? I wrote for the small press publications for years, and all the editors knew me. They recognised my name and were glad to publish my work. But that didn't pay the bills. Getting paid in copies didn't buy stamps. I grew tired of churning out endless manuscripts only to find them a home in the small press orphanage. I've been there, and done that. And I can't get past it.

The writer spirit existing in my head is right, you know. I have quit reading the smaller publications and quit submitting my work to any of them. I still write, and have three completed book projects sitting idle in my computer waiting to make the best seller list. But I am at a standstill, and can't get past that. And the worst part is – I have no clue how to break this barrier and get past it.

"Go to a writer's conference – join a writer's group," prompts the writer spirit in my brain again. "Show them what you're made of, and you may get past the barrier that is keeping you from the writing world."

What do you know anyway? Go away and leave me alone! I argue with the invisible spirit that lives inside my brain.

"Nope! This is a wake-up call from your writer spirit! You know how to get those books published!" says the determined writer spirit. "You learned it all years ago!"

Okay, I'm thinking now! A writer's group or conference does sound like a good idea. No, I'm not going! If they want me to come, they can invite me. I haven't been to one in a long time. I have nothing to wear, and have  no idea what to do or say.

"Are you crazy? Invite you? They don't even know you exist!" replies the writer spirit. "Wear what you would normally wear to work or to church. Who cares just as long as long as you're clean, and presentable?"

Okay, this little story was supposed to be for fun, but I have learned something here today but just needed to be reminded of. If I want to become a published author, and have any chance of getting my books read by an agent, or a publisher, I need to get out in the field and play hard ball with the rest of the authors like Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel. Who
knows? I might even get an autographed copy of one of their most recent books. Better yet, I could be out there signing my own books right along side of them!

Have you protected your Copyright? Copyright piracy is estimated to cost millions annually. Before sending your work to agents, publishers, or contests, make sure you take out copyright protection. Click here for more information.

The first thing I must do is get on my computer and log onto the internet and find the agents who accept material from new writers who have never had a book published, and agents that don't charge upfront fees. According to my understanding, that is a no-no. And I will search out the agents who are a member of the Association of Author's Representatives (US) or Association of Author's Agents (UK) – it won't guarantee that I will land an agent overnight but I feel confident knowing who I am dealing with and who they are associated with. I want an agent who will represent me and one that book publishers are familiar with or else I am wasting my time. It is my understanding that an editor will not read material from an agent with a post office box that they've never heard of. I want an agent that is well-known in the publishing field. If they are going to get 15 per cent of my royalty money, then I want one that will do the best job, and find the right publisher for my work.

I'll use my search engine and find as many writing groups in my area, and seek out the one that best suits my needs. Then, it's time for the conference search! It will cost me a bundle! I need to get my books in the hands of an agent, or hopefully a potential publisher. I need to stand out and become recognised – I can't stand it that these other women are taking all the credit – it's my turn, Nora and Danielle! Scoot over because I'm coming through!

I'll also check out for publishers in the US and worldwide. I'll research the publishers who might be interested in my book projects and send query letters to each one who accept material from authors who don't have an agent.

"Now you're thinking like a real writer!" laughs the writer-spirit in my head. "I knew you had it in you! Don't forget, I'll be here with you ever step of the way, and I'll boost your ego should you fall. I like it when you use your head! You stored all this information in your brain many years ago, but you forgot how to use it. You've become a lazy writer – dreams are fine, but if you don't get out there and make them become a reality, eventually, you'll forget them and they'll fade away. I listen to your dreams every day – I live inside this head of yours – I know what you want and I know that you know how to get it. But you've gotten so lazy these days that you just dream about making things happen. Wake up! Take action and start making your dreams of becoming a published author come true!" cried the determined writer spirit.

Writing has been a great addition to my life, whether or not I ever become famous. Sometimes, in our lives, obstacles are placed in our paths to test us, try us, make us, or break us. Through writing, we can turn these obstacles into adventures if we so wish! Writing my book projects has been one of the greatest adventure of my life – it has taken me to my favourite vacation spots; I live, in the eyes of someone else, the kind of life that I dream of living. Some of the stuff I write is obviously pure fiction and anyone who knows me knows that it is just a figment of my imagination. And yet, there are fragments of real life incidents that are woven in my fiction that create my scenes, plots, motives, and even my ideas for the project in such a way that entices readers to continue reading.

I can put my character in a "fall in love, live happily ever after" book or she can die at a very young age. I am the creator of whatever I desire to write about, and it can stem from life experiences or from a make-believe world.

Writing is a way of life for me – for many years I plugged away writing articles for various newspapers and small press publications. For the most part, I received payment in copies but I was published regularly. Ever so often I received a small cheque, and it boosted my ego way up there!

I learned to write better, and I learned how to market my manuscripts professionally.

My advice to writers: never give up. Keep writing, reading and most of all, keep submitting. Study markets you intend to write for – get a feel for them – learn them from inside and out – know every word limit for each category – and submit. That's the key to becoming published!

About the author
Marcella Simmons has been writing professionally since 1988 – she has over 650 published credits in over 350 small press publications nationwide. In 2005, Simmons had her first book of poetry published, and is working on several book projects at this time. She continues to write a regular weekly column for a local newspaper in her hometown, as well as many other writing projects. "Writing is a way of life for me," she says. Simmons is the mother of eight children (all are grown now) and she has seven grandchildren with another on the way. "My family is also a way of life for me, and my inspiration."

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How I got my book published
An interview with author, James J. Garber

James J. Garber recently secured a publisher using's database of book publishers. We caught up with him to talk to him about his success, and his writing.

fw: Congratulations on having secured a publisher for your book. What is the title of your book?

JG: Harmony in Healing: The Theoretical Basis of Ancient and Medieval Medicine. It chronicles the association between philosophy, astronomy and the approach the Ancients and Medievals took in their practice of medicine.

fw: How did you go about putting the book together?

JG: It's based on my PhD dissertation. It required research, writing and rewriting several times. It took six months, time, and consistent effort!

fw: Was it your first foray into writing?

JG: I've written many lectures and papers. My PhD really improved my writing skills. I must have written around 700 pages of research papers before doing the book.

fw: And how did you go about trying to get it published?

JG: I went through the list of nonfiction publishers provided by (over 650) found 75 or so that looked appropriate and sent emails with my CV, the Introduction to the book with a cover letter and two chapters from the book (if called for on the listing). I sent out one or two unsolicited manuscripts. I got 75, maybe 100 rejections but expected this, knowing it was a numbers game. Most were courteous but brief. Some said the book sounded interesting but "didn't fit their list". "List" was the euphemism most used to say they didn't like the book. Four publishers showed interest and two accepted the book for publication. I also contacted publish-for-fee companies as a backup but in the end did not need them. I took the first publisher that accepted the book since they were reputable, have published some major writers, including Nobel laureates.

fw: What made you choose as your resource for finding a publisher?

JG: The large number of publishers provided. In general, the description of what type of books they considered was helpful but didn't always give precise enough information for me to be sure that they were appropriate for my topic: this is a niche type book. An author friend gave me a book that I used a little but was my primary resource.

fw: And how long was it before you were accepted?

JG: It took two weeks of intensive emailing and another two weeks finishing up the submissions. I got my first acceptance within one month. The University of Michigan Press took about six weeks to read and reject the MS. One UK company is still looking at the MS three or four months later.

fw: Which publisher did you ultimately go with?

JG: Transaction Publishing (Rutgers University). They will be publishing the book in November 2007.

fw: How are you finding the whole publishing process?

JG: It has been fine. I found out very soon that they did not want many figures (and no colour figures at all) as they were just too costly. The copyeditor I talked to was very nice. I have not yet received the copyeditor's version of the book. It was really exciting to see the ISBN # of my book: 978-1-4128-0692-3.

fw: Do you have any general tips or advice for other writers trying to get published?

JG: Work hard at writing the book and editing it. Send in lots of submissions and don't get discouraged. My author friend had to pay to get his first book published but now has a second book out which was readily accepted for publication because of the success of his first and he has offers by publishers to do two more books. All four are nonfiction.

fw: And what are your plans for the future?

JG: I am about a quarter done with my next book about an aspect of the science and religion controversy. I'm hoping with one published book and the popularity of this topic now it will also be published.

fw: Best of luck with it, and thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

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Resources for writers at

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In this issue:

Spelling conventions

fwn uses English spelling conventions. Spellings such as "realise" "colour", "theatre", "cancelled", etc. differ from other spelling conventions but are nonetheless correct. 


Call for poetry submissions
Rokovoko, a webzine of arts, living, and opinion, seeks top-notch original unpublished or first serial poems for publication. Please email submissions to poetry editor Marck Beggs at marckbeggs

For over 750 other magazines, click here

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Free UK filmmaker resource launched
A new free resource has been launched for independent UK filmmakers, including forums, kit reviews, and facilities for writers to post loglines and synopses of their available scripts.

For more information, click here 

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Final call for Bridport Prize
There are less than two weeks left to enter the Bridport Prize, the richest open creative writing competition in the English language.

First prizes are 5,000 in each category, and writers have till June 30, 2007, to enter poems up to 42 lines and short stories up to 5,000 words.

For more details, click here.

For over 150 other contests, click here 

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Poetry documentary released on DVD
GV6 THE ODYSSEY: Poets, Passion & Poetry (the film) has been released on DVD. The film aims to truthfully explore the psyche, raison d'etre and the raw reality of 21st Century Contemporary Poets and their creative Process.

For more information, click here 

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Zoetrope Fiction Writers' Workshop
The 11th Annual Zoetrope Fiction Writers' Workshop has been scheduled for August 18–25, 2007, at Francis Coppola's Blancaneaux Lodge in Belize. The instructors are Ben Fountain (winner of the 2007 PEN / Hemingway Award) and Zoetrope: All-Story editor Michael Ray.

For more details, click here 

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