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  Issue #74

Free Writers' Newsletter

   April 25, 2009  


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The importance of observation
By Marcella Simmons
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A writer needs to be observant of different types of people, places and things like it were a sixth sense. While everyone else is talking and chatting at the party, you need to be observing the … elderly lady who keeps touching the younger man sitting at the side of the room just within eyesight. The man keeps pushing her hand away but she slowly slides it up and down between his thighs – did he find it embarrassing? Why didn’t he get up and walk away? Why is she touching him – she must be twice his age? He looks around to see if anyone is watching, especially his wife who is across the room talking to another woman. He stands up, excuses himself and walked away. The lady with the roaming hands, upset that he was cool with her, scoffs hastily off to the bar.

This is one way to observe someone but put more description into what the lady was wearing. Too much cleavage exposed – wrinkled neck and unsightly wrinkles on her neck, covered in a quarter million dollars worth of diamonds. She wore white gloves to conceal the ugliness of her aged hands – the large dangling earrings matching the necklace only proves that
she is wealthy and is accustomed to buying sex from younger men. Her getting angry only proves that she was accustomed to getting her way. 

The guy she was making a pass at simply proved that he loved his wife and money – no matter how much – could get to him. Though he seemed a little nervous and tempted at first, but in the end he walked away.

Writers need to observe quietly and take mental notes about the interesting people around them. Save these for a rainy day. You might need these observation pieces later on in a fiction story or book project. When something is rough, and you run your hand down it, you can actually feel its roughness – your readers want to feel it too, and it's up to you to let them feel without actually touching it in any way. If something smells bad, really stinks and it is an important part of the story you’re trying to tell, let your readers smell too. 

Once, when my husband and I stopped at the grocery store for milk and bread, I stayed in the car. A lady came strolling out of the store, with bag in hand, evidently carrying on a conversation with her self. No-one else was around. She never noticed me sitting right across from her as she walked about 150 feet to her car. She laughed out loud, and as she unlocked the door, she started talking again.

She looked up, and saw me staring at her (I was only observing – not actually staring!) and she hastily jumped in her car, bumping her head in the process. She must have felt humiliated. She cranked her car up and
sped out of the parking lot in a hurry! I never saw that lady again.

Staring at people is rude, but carefully observing someone from a distance without actually staring is appropriate. Listen to their voice. Were they happy? Was their voice shrill, dull or softly spoken? Was it heavily accented? What language did they speak?

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People are interesting creatures, and everyone is different. No two people are alike – some are shy, some are soft-spoken – some are loud and rude. That’s what makes people interesting and unique to observe. A writer is responsible for the way her characters act and look – it never hurts to have plenty of people observations stored in your filing cabinet for a rainy day!

Observation is a powerful tool (a sixth sense) that every writer should learn to use. Using your observations carefully in your stories will keep your readers turning pages and coming back for more every time. Use your sixth sense when you can. Record it and use it over and over in your stories.

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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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. 


Austin and Macauley publishers' contests
Austin and Macauley publishers are running three free-to-enter mini writing competitions with signed first editions as prizes. Competitors must write 50 words on a specific topic to be considered. For more details click here.

For over 190 other contests, click here

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"Things kids say" stories needed
United Press is seeking funny short accounts (around 100 words) of amusing things children have said. The best submissions will be published in a book launched recently by actress and TV celebrity Lynda Bellingham. Half the cover price of every book sold will be donated to the children's charity Barnardo's.

For more information, go to click here 

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Author focused online directory
FiledBy, Inc. has announced the Beta launch of its "filedbyauthor" website. The site provides every author that has been published in the US or Canada a free, hosted, ecommerce enabled web page ready to be claimed and enhanced. Readers can also join the community, create their own pages, and connect with authors.

For more information, go to 

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Erbacce prize for poetry
The Erbacce Prize for Poetry is open to entries to its free competition. The winner will be awarded a publishing contract with erbacce-press, publication of their collected works, 20 free copies of their book, a personalised sales page, and generous royalties.

For more details go to

For over 60 poetry contests click here

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Writers needed for books on civil war era
Writers are needed for a new series of books on the legal history of the civil war era, planned by Southern Illinois University Press.

Anyone wanting to know more about the series should contact the series editor, Christian G. Samito, at

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© 2009
While every effort is made to ensure that all information contained within this newsletter is accurate, readers are reminded that this information is provided only as a collection of potential leads that the reader should follow up with his or her own investigations. Unless otherwise stated, is not associated with and does not endorse, recommend, or guarantee any of the organisations, events, persons or promotions contained within this newsletter, and cannot be held responsible for any loss incurred as a result of actions taken in relation to information provided. Inclusion does not constitute recommendation.