For some reason I can add sidebars, but not new posts. Please check back later. I have been working on a variety of things including switching my blog soon from this one, which was set up with my now-defunct West Wisconsin Telcom account. I hope to have my new blog through Gmail up soon. I will provide a link and announcement when I've got everything straight. 7/2/11

Friday, May 30, 2008

What worked; what didn’t

What worked:

  • Using the online agent database at to find the next set of agents to query;
  • Setting up the screen porch with our new chairs with confidence that at some time in the near future we will have warm enough weather to actually sit in them;
  • Having my third week of regular foot detox baths and reflexology;
  • Spending time online and in person with other writers;
  • Practicing biking several miles each day.

What didn’t work:

  • Still not sleeping enough;
  • Getting behind on my business reading;
  • Meeting with a prospective client who didn’t have a clue what she wanted other than she didn’t think she should have to actually PAY a writer;
  • Not taking photographs for a newspaper article.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Copyright--images in the public domain

When I use a photo or artwork, I follow my own set of rules that I’ve developed based on institutional policies, government information, and advice from professional writers’ sources. I am NOT offering legal advice here, but I feel pretty safe using these rules for my blog. If anyone spots a problem, please let me know!

When using an image, first verify if the image is in the public domain. I subscribe to several services that provide me with images that are copyright-free, so I freely use them. For example, the images I've been using to illustrate this copyright series are from Microsoft's free clip art site. You can also check with the place you found the work. Read the copyright section of the publication or web site. When and what you can use is often spelled out. For example, Wikipedia, if you search through the site as I did, states that most of their images are in the public domain, unless noted. Don’t take my word here—find it yourself. I’m sorry I didn’t bookmark or note the location when I found it. If I quote either the words or images in Wikipedia, I always provide citations. Next week I'll discuss what to do when the words or images are not in the public domain.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Recently read: Phil Doran’s The Reluctant Tuscan

Reading this book is a pleasant way to wile away some hours at your lakeside cabin or on your deck under the shade of a sun umbrella. Doran is a former sit-com writer whose credits include All in the Family, Sanford and Sons, and The Bob Newhart Show. In his memoir, he tells of his depression and stress as the writing jobs dry up. This results in his wife insisting that they move to a rural area in Tuscany where she expects him to learn to enjoy life and avoid a heart attack. The book tells how they learn to deal with the Italian bureaucracy, small-town life, contractors, neighbors, and remodelers as they struggle to make their “piccolo rustica” habitable (my translation—MAJOR fixer-upper). In the process they almost divorce, but end up realizing how much they mean to each other--thus saving their adopted baby goat from being the victim of a broken home. It’s worth reading, but I did not laugh as hard as I expected to.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Remembering Memorial Day

I think it is important on a holiday to remember the original reason for the day (besides sales and higher gas prices). Originally called Decoration Day (to decorate the graves of those who have passed), it specifically honors those who died in the military. Congress enacted it after the Civil War to honor the Union soldiers. Please take a moment to remember those who have died in all the wars since.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

June fiction and poetry contests and literary fellowships

Scroll down to The Money Corner to check out the many opportunities to submit your writing in June. I'm trying to get enough short stories polished that I can submit at least one a month. So far, I'm collecting rejections, but hey! That's almost a rite of passage for short story writers!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Copyright—when you probably don’t need to worry about infringing on someone else’s copyright

One of the first things to identify is when copyright laws might apply and when they might not. According to the Library of Congress at the following usually do not fall under copyright regulations (all quotes are from the Library’s site):

  • Works not “fixed in a tangible form of expression.” Examples: improvised dances, musical performance and speeches if these have not been written down or recorded.
  • Things that short, familiar or just listings. Examples: titles, slogans and tables of contents.
  • “Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices.”
  • Information that is common property, like calendars, charts, and facts from public documents. Most published government information is public information, such as census data.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Recently read: Alexander McCall Smith’s The Good Husband of Zebra Drive

As usual, Smith has produced a marvelous book. I love the gentle rhythm of the book, as Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi ponder the problem of tea bags while just as gently Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni accepts his limitations and his strengths. We get to accompany them all as they feel the winter sun in Botswana, which starts to warm the tops of the trees on Zebra Drive. In this book, the eighth in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, many changes loom forebodingly in this peaceful part of town. Mma Makutsi resigns, Charlie the older apprentice resigns, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni wants to try detecting, and Mma Ramotswe has too many cases to handle them all herself. By the end of the book, three mysterious deaths at the hospital are explained, a thief is revealed, a car is wrecked, and all the employees of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors have returned to their rightful roles.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Serious writers—spending time with writers and other bookish folks

In her comments on my May 14, 2008 post, Iseult asked for some advice on how to meet writers, publishers, agents and other people involved in the serious world of writing. There are a number of ways to do this and tons of benefits: from meeting people who will help you get published, to meeting people who will inspire you, to meeting people who become fast friends. Here are some ways to connect:

  • Go to events such as book fairs, conferences, workshops and retreats. Scroll down to see my running list of ones I hear about all over the country (and I even turn up a few in Canada—I’ll start keeping my eyes open for ones in other countries, too). Also see my postings for January 26, 2008, August 9, 2007, and August 5, 2007 for more reasons to go.

  • Check out writers’ groups in your area. And if there isn’t one, start one! Soon after I moved to rural Wisconsin, I started the Menomonie Writers Guild. In the years since that first meeting, I’ve increased my output of fiction, including finishing my novel. I’m now focused on short stories. Plus I have made so many friends. See my posting on July 14, 2007 for more details.

  • Join some online writers’ communities like (free). Many communities have groups within them that are specifically for writers—one I know of is (again, it’s free).

  • Become a member of national, regional or local writers groups (membership fees are usually reasonable, and may be tax-deductible for you). Some I belong to include the Association of Writers & Writing Programs ( ) and the Wisconsin Regional Writers Association ( ).

  • Hang out at bookstores and libraries, and let the staff know you want to connect with other writers. My local bookstore is a great source for what’s happening in my area.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Copyrights—when to register your work

There are some reasons to register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office. According to its web site at, one reason is to place your work into the public record. If there are ever any questions, whether legal or ethical, about your right to a specific work, having registered it will be to your advantage. You can register your created work at any time, and publication does not change it.

For registration procedures and current cost, contact the Library of Congress/Copyright Office at 202-707-3000 or visit its web site at The office is located at U.S. Copyright Office, 101 Independence Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20559-6000

Friday, May 16, 2008

Minnesota Crime Wave

Minnesota Crime Wave is in fact three Minnesota crime authors, all best-selling writers whose mysteries have a solid following. The authors are:
  1. William Kent Krueger, whose Cork O’Connor series set in northern Minnesota includes Iron Lake, Boundary Waters, Purgatory Ridge, and Blood Hollow. His most recent book is Copper River. (See my review of April 3, 2008)/

  2. Ellen Hart, whose award winning novels number more than 20, has twice won the Minnesota Book Award for Best Crime and Detective Fiction. Her series books include the Jane Lawless Series and the Sophie Greenway Series. Her latest book is Night Vision.

  3. Carl Brookins, an avid sailor, writes the sailing mystery series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The series includes Inner Passages, A Superior Mystery, and Old Silver. He is also the author of the detective novel, The Case of the Greedy Lawyers.

    I think it's a great idea that these three writers joined up for marketing and speaking events. As friends, they also provide inspiration and editorial comments for each other. We had them as presentors for the Lake Menomin Writers Series last year. They came in their costumes and had as much fun as we in the audience did. For more information, visit their web site at

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Recently read: Janice Taylor’s All is Forgiven, Move On

As you all know, I’m a fan of Taylor’s writing, her humor, her art and her wisdom. Her new book, All is Forgiven, Move On, is now out. In it, you’ll find Our Lady of Weight Loss’s 101 Fat-Burning Steps on Your Journey to Sveltesville. I can’t resist giving some examples: Step 6—Land of the Lost and Found Pounds, Step 20—Face-to-Face with an Alien, Step 52—Walk on the Mild Side, and Step 80—The Multiplex of Things to Do. Plus, the book is full of Taylor’s marvelous artwork: from the dedication page to her husband, The Lord of the Fries (love it!) through Sacrifice your Twinkie to the concluding portrait of Our Lady of Weight Loss with her trademark spectacles (although without her weight scale halo because by now she no longer needs to remind you to eat your veggies). There are projects (like making a belt out of your now unneeded tape measure) and recipes (like the You-Don’t-Have-To-Be-Einstein Tuna Casserole). But most of all there is practical advice, not only for losing weight and keeping it off, but for reinforcing your self-esteem, helping you uncover new points of view, and giving you ways to deal with all the ups and downs of life (besides eating that last piece of cake).

This is NOT just a funny gag book—the wisdom and wit is valid, valuable, and down-to-earth. Even if you don’t have weight to lose, this book is worth reading. In Taylor’s words from her Foreword (actually, it is her Forewarned section): “This book is a road map that leads you to your best self, your higher self, your wise self.”

Visit Taylor’s blog at (where you can also watch Taylor in action via YouTube); and her web site at . For my review of her 21-Day-Blow-the-Fat-Cells-from-your-Body cure, see my posting of April 14, 2008, and for a review of her first book, see my posting of November 25, 2007.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Things serious writers do

I’ve earned a good living for 35 years as a writer, sometimes a corporate writer, sometimes a journalist, sometimes a technical writer, sometimes a proposal/grant writer. I’ve won awards for fiction and nonfiction. I spend a lot of time with other writers and we talk a lot about writing. Over the years I’ve been asked many questions about writing, and many of you who read this blog email me with more questions. Because my secondary career is teaching, I can’t resist combining the two with some educational information about writing and being a writer. I’ll be posting a variety of focused “how-to” essays on various aspects of being a writer—some I’ve discussed before, some I haven’t. If you have a specific question, please leave a comment or email me. To begin, here is a list of things serious writers do:

  • Read. A lot!
  • Write EVERY DAY, even if you have a non-writing day job.
  • Spend time on at least a weekly basis doing marketing research: identifying publishers, media, agents, whatever.
  • Send out zillions of queries on a regular basis. David Wright, a freelance writer who specializes in, among other things, corporate histories for such firms as Harley Davidson and Snap-on Tools as well as nonfiction travel books, told me once he sent out multiple queries each week every month. Because he targeted the publishers through market research, he got positive replies from about a quarter of them. That is phenomenal!
  • Write anything—it doesn’t have to be a brilliant first draft. Have a lot of projects going, including a journal. Write on at least one of them daily.
  • Spend more time in the pre-writing phase than actually writing the document (thinking about the subject, the audience, the plot if it’s fiction, organization, and research). This, like your marketing efforts, will mean other people (besides your mother) will actually get a chance to read what you write.
  • Spend time with editors, agents, publishers, and other writers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

National Bike Month

May is National Bike Month. Carl and I, for once, are on top of things—having bought new bikes last week. It is the first time in 35 years that I’ve been on a bike. It’s true that you never forget how to ride. Getting on and off is another matter . . .

Monday, May 12, 2008

Copyright—your rights as a writer

When you create something on your own, you own the copyright. Period. You do NOT need to register your poem, novel, essay, etc. with the U.S. Copyright Office or any other agency. According to the Copyright Office, “Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work is 'created' when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time.” (U.S. Copyright Office, Copyright Basics, “How to secure a copyright,” July, 2006.) There are some reasons why you may want to register your created work with the Copyright Office, and I’ll go into them in a later post.

If you write something for someone or something else, you will need to ask what rules apply. For example, I wrote an essay on teaching that was published in the Winter 2007 edition of Wisconsin People & Ideas. Once I created it, I owned the copyright, BUT once they accepted it for publication, we mutually agreed that they had first rights to publish the essay, and then the copyright reverted to me. When something you have created is accepted for publication (and this includes online publications), then you need to be aware of how that changes your rights—if it does. For my article published in the March edition of the online magazine, Victoriana, I retained all my rights throughout the process.

When I worked for insurance and hospital corporations, anything I wrote as part of my job or my consulting contract belonged to the company—not to me. Again, you need to clarify this with your employer or client.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Reading: what books are on my bedside reading stacks

As I finish them, I’ll post reviews:

  • Lee Child, Bad Luck and Trouble
  • Peter Mayle, French Lessons
  • Lorna Landvik, Welcome to the Great Mysterious
  • Andrea Camilleri, The Paper Moon
  • Alexander McCall Smith, The Good Husband of Zebra Drive
  • Phil Doran, The Reluctant Tuscan
  • Donna Leon, Fatal Remedies
  • T. Jefferson Parker, Storm Runners
  • Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett, Good Omens (yes! They wrote this together!)
  • Graham Thomas, Malice on the Moors
  • Brian Wansink, Mindless Eating
  • Janice Taylor, All is Forgiven, Move on
  • Joanna Masterson, 2007 Guide to Literary Agents (Writer’s Digest book)
  • Linda Woods & Karen Dinino, Journal Revolution
  • Carrie McCarthy & Danielle LaPorte, Style Statement

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Web can be a writer’s new best friend

Between market access, web sites, e-media like e-zines and e-books, self-publishing, and blogs, the Web can be a powerful tool to help you connect with readers. There are hundreds of writer-communities on the Internet, from web sites with useful articles to online workshops. Jon, who is in the Writers Guild with me, brought in an article on two more Web-related writing sites: TheNextBigWriter and Booksie (love that name!)

TheNextBigWriter at has two types of membership. As a writing member, you pay a fee, and you can post your writing, get feedback, have your writing ranked, and be considered for awards. As a review member, there is no fee and you can read all you want and post your comments in the forum.

Booksie at is free. You can share your writing with everyone.

Both of these are worth a closer look when I get some time. Let me know if you have experience with either one.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Recently read: Michael Dibdin’s Vendetta

A gripping book—kept me up past midnight—as are so many of Dibdin’s books featuring Italian police inspector Aurelio Zen. Beautifully written, with a fascinating plot and splendidly evocative scenes, this book takes Zen from Rome to the island of Sardinia. His official mission from the political powers is to frame someone—anyone—other than the sole suspect. The man who seems to be the only person with the opportunity to kill the wealthy builder and his wife and guests on their heavily guarded Sardinian estate has too many ties to government. Zen, much too honest, looks and finds the real murderer, while also dealing with another vendetta that seems to be directed at him.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Copyright—a general definition

Information on the Library of Congress at defines the basic meaning of copyright (all quotes are from the Library’s site). It is protection under U.S. law provided for creators of “original works of authorships, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.” Remember, creation of the work is how the creator earns his or her money.

The laws do allow some leeway for use by others of copyrighted materials through the Fair Use sections of the law. Fair Use means using a copyright work for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Most educational institutions, news media, and corporations have policies governing copyrights.
For individuals, it can be trickier and if you have any doubts, check out the situation with an expert. This can be a lawyer, or yourself if you are comfortable reading the government documents, or asking someone at the Library of Congress (see the “Contact Us” section of their web site).
You do need to cite the source even with Fair Use. One way to think about Fair Use is to ask are you helping the creator make money? When I write a review, I am promoting the work so I’m helping the person make more money when I cite the title and creator’s name. If I pretend it is mine, I’m stealing.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Cinco de Mayo

On May 5, 1862, the Mexican army overcame the French, defeating the colonial power. This holiday symbolizes Mexican pride and culture. It has become especially important in the U.S., where it is observed with parades and festivals. It is probably the best known of Mexican celebrations by non-Hispanics.

Regardless of your ethnic background, do something to commemorate Cinco de Mayo: write a poem, read about Mexican-American history, observe art or try a new type of pepper. Check out Mexico's two most famous artists--the husband and wife duo of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Or celebrate in my favorite way: have a margerita.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Make each day special

My father tells a story about the first time my mother invited him over for dinner at her apartment. This would have been in the 1940s. He was so impressed that she had lit candles, folded the napkins in a fancy way, and made the table festive. He told her she didn’t have to go to all that fuss for him. She replied, “I always do this, even when it’s just for myself.”

My mother knew how to make each day festive and each moment throughout the day special. We always used real napkins, even after paper napkins became common. She had fresh flowers as much as possible. You don’t need to spend money to add a touch of festivity to a typical day, or even to a special occasion. I often light candles at dinnertime. Favorite music (often classical) is always playing.

Now that the weather’s getting nicer, move a table and chairs outside and have your meals al fresco. A great way to make a day special? Give someone a sincere compliment.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Pump up your creativity

Check out the web site for Idea Management at This site is a wonderful source for refreshing your creativity and revamping your thoughts. They do provide services, but their site also offers much that is free—from the “10 steps for boosting creativity” to the “Get creative with doodles” exercise. One thing I’ve noticed about my own creativity is that the more I flex my creative muscles (so to speak), the more I think creatively.