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

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Magazines are a great source of news, inspiration, and ideas

Image from

In addition to books, we read a lot of magazines. Carl tends to ham radio, astronomy, gourmet food, hunting, science, and energy publications; my father leans toward Minnesota publications as well as history and art; and I get journals of education, historic preservation and museums, and health and women’s magazines. We all devour three news weeklies (Newsweek, Time, and The Week). All of these are print media and don’t even count the Web publications Carl and I read!

The July/August issue of body+soul (a Martha Stewart publication) reminded me why I love magazines so much. This one is well-designed and readable, on good quality paper, and has a wide array of topics. Also, many of my favorite writers, such as Jennifer Louden and Victoria Moran, are contributors. In just this issue alone, I found: an article on drinking water (my latest health habit), a feature called “Unplan Your Life,” which had some new ideas and suggestions, lots of information about the nutritional contents of onions, and tips on dealing with doggy separation anxiety (Sharpie HATES for us to leave). That to me is the dual point of reading—to learn things and to enjoy. A good print magazine provides both.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A visit from a dear friend

My friend Susie teaches at the embassy school in Abbis Abada, Ethiopia. She gets the prize for “Most Exotic Places Visited” since, when school is not in session, she’s on safari in Nairobi, at the bazaar in Cairo, on the beach at Bali, and occasionally back in the Midwest. Susie can now add the Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater in Menomonie to her list of splendid sites seen. Oh, and she’s also now eaten in the Zanzibar restaurant in Menomonie (as well as restaurants on the island of Zanzibar in Tanzania). Susie has taught in Mali and Japan,too. Now, is this an exciting career for a teacher or what?!! Here’s a web site to check out for information on teaching internationally

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Recently read: Michael Connelly’s The Overlook

This is a particularly twisting plot with a strong surprise ending. LAPD detective Harry Bosch (I always love these sensitive solitary male detectives suffering from male menopause) is again at odds with his superiors, trying to break in another new partner, dealing with the FBI, terrorism, chemicals that could cripple the city, and a homicide. Oh, and a former lover is on the scene showing she’s even tougher than he is. I think Connelly’s books are excellent and worth wiling away a few summer hours.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The textbook for the workshop is Larsen’s How to write a book proposal

My Writer’s Digest workshop on nonfiction book proposals has been postponed a week, allowing me an opportunity to read ahead in the textbook (not that I have yet). The textbook author, Michael Larson, is co-owner with his wife, Elizabeth Pomada, of their self-named literary agency. I met both Larson and Pomada in 2007 when I attended the San Francisco Writers Conference, which they sponsor. When I was there, I was focused on fiction and my novel, so I didn’t take advantage of the nonfiction sessions. I’m delighted to become reacquainted with Larson through his book.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Chippewa Valley Business Report

Since the first of the year, I’ve been writing regularly for the regional business publication, the Chippewa Valley Business Report. This month, my article on Linda Adler and the Eau Claire Convention & Visitors Bureau is the cover story. Also in this issue, I interviewed a friend, Maggie Foote, who owns the Oaklawn Bed & Breakfast in Menomonie. She and I got to talk for several hours while I taped our conversation and ate her delicious muffins. How fun is that? That’s one of the many things I love about writing—you get to meet interesting people, learn new things, and sometimes you get muffins! To read both my articles (and the rest of the magazine, too), see

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Another call for submissions: The quiddity of Abraham Lincoln

Quiddity is an international literary journal and public radio program. It is accepting submissions of poetry, prose and artwork inspired by Abraham Lincoln. Submit your work by August 8. If selected, it’ll be published in the Fall/Winter 08-08 edition of Quiddity, and you may be asked to read your work (that would be poetry or prose—not artwork) on the radio. No cash prizes, but a great publication credit and opportunity for radio exposure! For details, see

I have a huge vocabulary, and I’d never heard of the word “quiddity.” It means to get to the essence of something; hence your submission should capture the essence of Lincoln. My Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (1985) lists two other meanings, which I find amusing when you take them as a whole: “1. a trifling point, quibble; and 2. crochet, eccentricity.” Essence is listed as the third meaning.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Recently read: Victoria Moran’s Younger by the Day

I am one of the legions of women who read everything Moran writes in her many books, magazine articles, and online newsletters. This book, with the subtitle “365 ways to rejuvenate your body and revitalize your spirit” is another book of wisdom that belongs on everyone’s book shelf. Like many Books of Days, this has information and suggestions for every day of the year. I find that Moran’s ideas and recommendations resonate with me. She gives themes for each month (July is “Freedom” and August is “Ease”), and schedules “play days” on the 15th and 30th of the month. I read it straight through and am now going one day at a time in march step with the calendar. In my first read-through, I started to turn down page corners where there were specific things that really called to me, but quickly realized that would result in almost EVERY page being turned down! Other books by Moran I’ve found inspiring include Creating a Charmed Life, Fit from Within, and Lit from Within. If you haven’t discovered Moran yet—you must! Her web site is and her blog is

Monday, July 21, 2008

Getting back on track with my book proposal

I have written hundreds of proposals. Many have won contracts for my clients, many have resulted in grants, and many have resulted in requests for articles. I know I can write an effective proposal to editors and publishers on my book on the Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater. The problem is that my progress on the proposal (cover, outline, sample chapters) has been so slow over the past few months that it’s been almost nonexistent! I’ve gotten some articles on the theater published, I periodically note some thoughts about the book, and I’ve got a bare-bones table of contents. At this rate, I’ll be ready to submit it to some lucky editor round about 2025.

So I’ve signed up for the Writer’s Digest 14-week workshop called “Writing the Nonfiction Book Proposal.” It begins this Thursday and I’m so excited about it. I’ve taken a number of their workshops and courses over the years, and have always gotten great results. This will force me to stay on track (or, like the frog in the illustration above, “on stem”) to meet the biweekly deadlines, as well as getting professional advice. As good as my proposal would have been on my own, having help from experts will make it that much better. How great is that? I’ll keep you posted!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Recently read: Elmore Leonard’s Up in Honey’s Room

Back in the 1980s, my father discovered Leonard and recommended his detective books to me. And I’ve enjoyed every one of them. Leonard is known for his excellent mimicry of the vernacular in various social-economic tiers throughout the country. His humor and plots ain’t bad neither!

In this book, we’re back in Detroit during World War II when the hero, U.S. Marshal Carl Webster “The Hot Kid” is hot on the trail of a Nazi who has escaped from a U.S. prison. There are the usual marvelous collection of characters, from the bottle-blonde Honey Deal who—among other goals—is focused on seducing Webster, Honey’s cattle-rustling brother (yes, he’s plying his trade in Detroit), Walter the bore, a transvestite butler, and a Ukrainian spy. This is a fun book to read.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Memoirs: for yourself, your family, and all the rest of us

General Grant writing his memoirs, 1885

Although I personally have not (yet) tackled writing my memoirs, a lot of the people I know are writing them. Some are writing them as a way to document the past for their children and grandchildren. One of my friends, Jon, is doing this, but along the way has noticed that even the non-family people (like me) are enjoying them and finding them of value.

Others are writing memoirs focused on an unusual experience or period in their lives. Kenton has written a hilarious account of self-discovery through chasing turkeys (no, not hunting—literally chasing). Raina is writing about her experiences as the only woman in the Coast Guard to be stationed on remote St. Paul Island at that time.

What these three memoirs have in common is that they speak to a larger audience than just a circle of friends and family. Part of it is their ability to write (always a plus in a book!) and part of it is that they document the past to show how it explains the present. As a result, anyone can be inspired by their example, can learn from what they’ve learned, and can grow, as they did. And let us not forget another major benefit of memoir-writing: they are part of history.

I recently learned of the publication, Memoir Journal, which is also on line at If you are thinking about writing your memoirs for whatever reason, check the site out. If you are currently working on them, you may want to submit them (or parts of them) to the site. Scroll down to see the contest posting in the August section of The Money Corner.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The written word and The Futurist

I have been a member of the World Future Society for several years now. As part of my membership, I receive their excellent publication, The Futurist: A magazine of forecasts, trends, and ideas about the future. All three of us (myself, my father, and Carl—Sharpie doesn’t read, so he doesn’t count) read each issue from cover to cover. The current issue has a particularly fascinating selection of articles, including cyber crime in the Year 2025, business education in the future, and part 1 of an in-depth study of consumer trends. The issue also has an article titled “The 21st Century Writer,” by Patrick Tucker. Tucker talks about the radical changes occurring in the print media and in publishing in particular as “free” web books, newspapers, magazines and other publications reduce their paper products and increase their Web presence. Here’s a link to the Web site: Note that The Futurist publishes both online and in print.

In his article in The Futurist, Tucker looks beyond the format of books and newspapers and magazines, questioning the future of the written word itself. The article is actually not as depressing as I thought it would be. Tucker gives us some perspective, from the world-changing technology of Gutenberg to the survival of written culture.

This subject is so timely, given the announcement this week from two top newspaper executives (one at the LA Times and one at the Chicago Tribune). They are resigning as their bosses (who have never been journalists) want less real news and writing and more quick bits about celebrities, and want them to do it with minimal newsroom staff. For this NPR story, listen at

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Recently read: Deborah Crombie’s Water Like a Stone

I always enjoy Crombie—like Elizabeth George and Martha Grimes, she’s an American who writes a wonderful British thriller. Her protagonists, Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Sergeant Gemma James, are likable and complex, as is their relationship. In this novel, they head to Kincaid’s boyhood home in Cheshire for a holiday celebration. The past resurfaces when a baby’s skeleton is uncovered, and long forgotten deeds are remembered. Things I particularly liked about this book included the descriptions of Kincaid’s family and the life of the canal people of England. This is a well-plotted novel with evocative descriptions of people, places, and feelings. Well worth reading.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fern Reiss and self-publishing

Fern Reiss, writer and self-publisher

This week’s writing essay in the Bylines 2008 Writer's Desk Calendar is by Fern Reiss. She is an expert in self-publishing and book promotions, as well as a writer. In her essay, Reiss had some excellent points about the advantages of self-publishing. For example, her book titled Terrorism and Kids: Comforting Your Child was in the bookstores within a week after 9/11. According to Reiss, most traditional publishers weren’t able to get their books on terrorism and the twin towers out until the summer of 2002. That’s an extremely good reason to self-publish if you are writing books on very timely topics, and is only one of the many reasons that Reiss is a self-publishing advocate. For more information, see her web site at and sign up for her email newsletter. I just signed up and also got a contact sheet with information on reviewers, editors and other folks who can help with book promotions, plus I got a tip sheet on getting media attention. (For Bylines orders, see )

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Call for Submissions

Motes Books is looking for submissions of poems, lyrics and stories on music and musical themes. There is no cash prize (that’s why I haven’t included this in The Money Corner), but if your work is accepted, you’ll get a copy of the book and some discount credits. You’ll also get that all-important item: publishing credit, plus some publicity. Submit by August 5. See the submission guidelines and information about the book at

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Targeting your market

You’ve finally got your book completed and it is terrific. Maybe it’s a short story you know will win you fame and fortune. Or you’ve got a perfect idea for a magazine article . . . or for a how-to book . . . Now, what next? You can do what I call the scattershot approach to publishing—where you send queries out everywhere you can think of. This approach is really easy now because of the Internet. However, because it’s easy for everyone, it means that editor who used to get 500 queries a month now probably gets 10,000.

I personally don’t think the scattershot approach is that appealing. For my freelance nonfiction writing, I use a focused approach that helps me target editors who are likely to be interested in what I’m trying to sell. I identify these people by familiarizing myself with their publication (whether print or online) and by studying their submission guidelines. Will they be interested in an article on the historic Mabel Tainter Theater? If so, should the article be more of a tourist piece? Or a scholarly discussion of the history? Or a detailed description of the renovation work? A focused approach is more likely to get results. When I’ve done a good job targeting a market for a freelance article, I always get a sale. I’m at a 100% success rate so far on my Tainter pieces, and I have one query still outstanding.

It’s not just nonfiction that can be targeted. At the Writers’ Guild last night, one of our members told us he has sent four short stories out to contests listed in The Money Corner (scroll down). He not only reviewed the sponsoring agencies, but he also read works written and judged by the contest judges. He then carefully identified the appropriate story to send for each. Again, it can’t hurt to do this level of research. It’s a waste of your time to send a humorous piece to an editor, judge or other literary decision-maker who has never liked a funny piece—how do you know this? By researching and targeting your market.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Recently read: Carrie McCarthy & Danielle LaPorte’s Style Statement

This book is a practical and excellent guide to examining your preferences, style, and overall integration of your inner and outer selves. I love reading these types of books, and this one has a unique concept. Through self-examination, detailed examples, and exercises that look at all of life’s areas (e.g., home, learning, service, creativity, etc.), you come up with your Foundation Word, which comprises 80% of your essence, and your 20% Creative Edge Word. Mine are Comfort Cultured.

There is one significant caveat about this book. It is EXTREMELY hard to read. There is a reason most books are printed with black ink on white paper—that combination of print and page is easy to read. Apparently it is part of McCarthy & LaPorte’s branding and style statement to use tinted glossy paper with white or very very light ink tones. Even some of their web site screens use this format, making the screens very very hard to read, too. When I ordered this book through Amazon, one of the customer reviews also stated this problem. It almost prevented me from buying the book. Although I’m glad I did, and I gained a lot of insight from it, I recommend that you actually look at the book “in person” (so to speak) before you buy it.

Interesting note: I just checked the reviews in Amazon, and the negative review that was there when I ordered the book this spring is gone . . . hmmmmmm, very strange.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Nonfiction book proposals for agents and editors

There are hundreds (at least) of books on writing book proposals. There is also a multitude of workshops, classes, and consultants to help. For years, I wrote proposals on behalf of large corporations seeking contracts with government agencies. There are a lot of similarities between the two types of proposals. The following are a few guidelines and sources.

There will be rules to follow. FOLLOW THEM. If the submission guidelines state that the proposal should include the first three chapters, don’t submit two chapters and hope for the best. Face it—you will need to have a significant amount of work completed on your book before you can start looking for publishers.

I know a few writers who, discouraged after rejections or overwhelmed by the proposal process, have leaped into self-publishing. For many writers, self-publishing is the perfect answer, but if that is the case, do it instead of the proposal process, rather than as the last resort.

If you have never done a successful book proposal or have never taken a course on producing one, I highly recommend that you get some professional assistance. One of the many excellent sources of the professional assistance sources I know is You-niversity. They offer a class designed to help you get your book published. Check it out at Note this depressing statistic that headlines the site: “It is estimated that from 90% to 98% of book proposals are rejected by publishers.” Don't add to that statistic! If you are ready (i.e. have at least a draft of a proposal, first chapter, and outline), then get some expert advice.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The new Creamery Restaurant & Inn in Downsville

True to the American spirit of holiday celebrations, we not only ate and drank and socialized on Friday, the Fourth of July, but we also ate and drank and socialized on Saturday, too! We went with two dear friends to the new Creamery Restaurant in nearby Downsville. We’ve been dedicated patrons of the restaurant for years, even when we lived 225 miles south in Madison. It closed in February when the original owners sold it, and it just reopened on June 20. The new owners, Terry Vajgrt and Paula Williams-Vajgrt, have beautifully redecorated, maintaining the elegant simple feel of the old creamery, while making their own mark on it. Art still fills the walls, but now it is by artist Clay Vajgrt, Terry’s brother.

And the best news of all—the tradition of excellent food and service continues! The five of us all had different starters (I had the smoked trout cakes), and different entries. I worried about room for dessert, so instead of an entrée, I had two sides of perfectly cooked and seasoned asparagus and fingerling potatoes. We also each had different desserts, which we also shared I had the balsamic strawberries and panna cotta. Everything was magnificent.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Have a happy Fourth of July!

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July. We'll be celebrating this holiday with friends who only live 15 miles from our house--a key consideration, not because of gas prices so much as because we are conservationists. I would like to see America reduce our dependence on all oil, not just foreign oil.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Recently read: Andrea Camilleri’s The Paper Moon

Here is another excellent novel by Sicilian author Camilleri. Inspector Montalbano is again battling the mysteries of Sicilian secrets, Italian politics and hidden wealth, with a few sexual oddities and killer cocaine tossed into the brew. I enjoy these books, with the imaginative and solitary Montalbano once more having trouble with male menopause and too many attractive females. You’ll be glad to know that he remains true to his absent girlfriend (no, by telling you this it doesn’t spoil the ending at all) and fights crime with his typical mix of truth, justice and the Sicilian way.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Celebrate Canada Day with ice cream: July is National Ice Cream Month

Today is Canada Day, the Canadian federal holiday that celebrates the uniting of the British colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada (Ontario and Quebec) on July 1, 1867. To honor our neighbors to the north, eat ice cream today. We’ll be heading to Culver’s Frozen Custard for Concrete Chocolate Shakes.

In 1984, the International Dairy Foods Association sponsored the effort to have July designated as National Ice Cream Month in the United States. The proclamation signed by Ronald Reagan states that U.S. citizens should have “appropriate ceremonies and activities” to celebrate. Who doesn’t like ice cream? And in Wisconsin, we regard it as our patriotic duty to eat mountains of it all year long! So, whether your choice is ice cream, sherbet, frozen yogurt, Italian ice, or the richest cousin—frozen custard, celebrate it this month. I’m sure that if we were to read all the fine print of the proclamation, we would find that all calories have been waived for the month . . .