Archive for August, 2009


August 27, 2009

Getting settled in this morning after hitting the gym. I’m sitting down to read the last bit of Peter Selgin‘s book of meditations on “Ways to Save a Novel.” I’ve been enjoying it. It’s an introspective and contemplative book on the writing life while at the same time offering some thought provoking ideas and advice for improving your work. 

I’m also working on the layout for Becky Levine’s Writing and Critique Group Survival Guide. This is a great book that I would recommend for any writer (after reading it I would encourage any writer serious about completing their work and trying to get it published find a critique group). 

I’ve got lots of other projects going on as well and I’m trying to get everything wrapped up before I go on vacation the week of Labor Day. (Yes! Vacation! and yep, in this instance I feel the exclamation points are justified and genuine). I’m headed to Traverse, Michigan for a week of hanging out with friends and family, and possibly some hiking and kayaking. 

When I return I’ll have a few days in the office before heading to NYC for the Business of Getting Published Writer’s Conference. Hope to see you there. Get this: there’s a poetry slam at the Bowery Poetry Club on Friday night (9/18). I haven’t been to one of those since college. I hope everyone likes pirate haiku written in authentic pirate vernacular (cause that’s about all I’ve got poetry-wise). Here’s one I’m particularly proud of:

Scrape n’ boil me bones
Ye rotten ol’ chum bucket
Th’ Devil take ye 



Exclamation Marks

August 26, 2009

I have a writer/reader friend who hates exclamation marks. Passionately. 

I have to say I don’t care for them too much myself, and think they should be used sparingly. I ran across this F. Scott Fitzgerald quote in a book I’m editing that I thought I’d share:

“Exclamation marks–like laughing at your own jokes.”

I’m curious what other writing pet peeves people might have. Please feel free to post yours in the comments (or your own thoughts on exclamation points… Love them! Hate them. Inquiring minds want to know).

The Last 5 Books I Read

August 26, 2009

I love asking people about what they’re reading… a question I often ask authors I work with. So to be fair I thought I’d post my last 5 books (including my current read). This list doesn’t include the books I’ve been editing.

Feel free to post your last 5 in the comments (I’d love to see what people are reading).

1. The Angel’s Game by  Carlos Ruiz Zafon–I’m loving this prequel to The Shadow of the Wind, one of my favorite books. It’s creepy, mysterious, supernatural and full of literary references. It’s like I commissioned someone to write a book for me. Wait… that’s part of the story… omg.

2. Holy Man by Susan Trott–I love this little book full of parables and lessons. It’s something I should have read years ago. If you’ve never read it, pick it up–you’ll likely learn something about yourself.

3. Angry White Pajamas by Robert Twigger–I love this memoir by an Oxford poet who lives in Tokyo and trains with the riot police in an intensive aikido training course. Good for people who are interested in martial arts, but also just good. It’s a funny glimpse into another culture.

4. Tao Te Ching–I read this and then started rereading immediately. I think I might do that a few times.

5. A Single Pebble by John Hersey–A re-read from years ago. Makes me want to read more by Hersey.


August 24, 2009

Back in the office after a fun weekend. As promised here are a couple of pics from the Cincinnati Taekwondo Center picnic (I grilled 120 hamburgers on Saturday! And a boat load of hotdogs).

Sunday I spent the day reading (still reading Zafon’s The Angel’s Game… and loving it).


Student demonstration at the CTC picnic.

Student demonstration at the CTC picnic.




Zen grilling.

Zen grilling.


August 21, 2009

Can I say how stoked I am that it’s Friday? It’s been a good week, but I’m definitely ready for the weekend.

A few highlights from the week:

  • I learned that the “Novel Writing” special issue I edited is doing really well. It’s been on newstands for 4 weeks and has outsold any of our special issues from last year! Check it out. It should still be available on newstands for another month or so.
  • I found out some details about what I’ll be doing at the upcoming Business of Getting Published conference in NYC. Who knows, maybe I’ll get a chance to sit down with someone reading this for a critique. Seriously, this is going to be a great event. Check it out here.
  • My article for the Nov/Dec issue of WD magazine was finalized. Very excited to see this go to the printer.
  • I finished doing the inital layout for a hefty 304 page book that I’ve been working on, and I’m very happy with how it has turned out. (Can’t wait to see what the designer does with it).

Anyway. It’s been a productive week. Tonight I’m looking forward to watching a couple of my taekwondo students perform at their belt promotion test and tomorrow I’m off to a school picnic. So it’s gonna be a busy weekend too. I’ll try to take some pics.

Book Trailers

August 20, 2009

Book trailers just keep getting better and better. Seen this?

Holly DeWolf Interview

August 19, 2009

As you may have read in earlier posts, I recently finished editing a book titled Breaking Into Freelance Illustration. It’s a great book full of business tips and self-promotion advice for artists (primarily illustrators and designers)–but I think the advice can really be applied to any creative endeavor. 

I had a chance to sit down for a quick Q&A with illustrator/author and super-energetic coffee aficionado Holly DeWolf. Here Holly talks about crossover in creative work and self promoting. Check it out:

Q. Your book is targeted to illustrators, but you wear a lot of hats—being a writer, for example. I think anyone who is creative could take something away from your book. What’s your view on the crossover between different creative occupations (for example, writing and illustration)?


Holly DeWolf

Holly DeWolf

A. I truly believe that creatives are good at many things. We usually have one or two major talents and some hidden talents that do not always surface right away. A job could require us to write something or create something in a different manner. This discovery can be an asset. Use it! 

It’s like being a Jack & Jill of many skills but we are actually good at it. This flexibility is good to have in our economic climate. Our many talents can add new life to our career, fill in an income void and shake things up. In my book I talk about tackling unconventional markets. There are many options to your career if you need a change or more revenue. To me its like the ripple effect-you may be a top notch illustrator but you could be a whiz at words that could lead to children’s books or other hidden possibilities. 

Q. In your book you give lots of advice about how to promote your work and yourself as a brand. What do you think is the number one thing that creatives need to do in order to succeed in a creative business?

A. Our talent comes natural for many of us. We usually end up spending the majority of our time time focusing on our skills and style. The other part of our effort is spent wondering how to get work. So, to me the number one area you need to focus on is knowing what you want! This ‘want’ can be a bunch of things such as: Who do you want to work for? What market/s do you want to focus on? 

Then the next step is asking for what you want. Asking is not an easy concept because it feels like walking the plank. As it turns out asking is a huge part of getting your creative needs met. Potential clients don’t guess so we have to get chatty!

Another very important question to ask yourself as you move forward: What is the creative market asking of you? This is a tough one. We really have to be paying attention to feedback, what clients notice about our style, and how versatile our work can be. This all comes down to our real creative strength and the desire to move in directions you were not expecting to go in but could lead to many great things and more earning potential.

Q. What inspires you?

A. So many things (open up the coffee flood gates)

• The big one for me is words! This can be anything from song lyrics, odd conversational banter, to quotes… I’m very narrative based. I write down everything.

• I love the creative process. This is primarily why I love to paint. Often what I start out with surprises me as it becomes something entirely different than what I had originally planned. Surprises can be a huge motivator. 

• Another is people. I love creative connections, finding out how people think and how they come up with ideas. 

• A funny thing I do daily is pick a theme of sorts and this can be an image in my mind or a word that helps me make connections to many other possibilities. 

• Quiet time allows me to decompress so I can really focus on the inward chatter that goes on. We cannot always pay attention when we become too busy. 

• Breaking out my Nikon helps. Photo essays are another playful thing that helps me break out of norms so I can tinker with a new way of looking. 

• Brainstorming alone or with someone is a playful way to break myself out of a slump or to help me look at things at another angle.

• I try to do something everyday that scares me which does not mean I am running with scissors while wearing stilettos juggling a coffee (quite an image) but this means breaking out of old habits &  letting go. It frees me up to go after things that I want in life & my career such as making that dreaded cold call or approaching a publisher about a book idea!! 

• Humor is another huge one that releases those wonderful brain chemicals and lightens the day and lowers the Stress-o-Meter which is always good for the creative soul.

Q. Running any business (even a creative one) requires a lot of diligence. How do you stay focused and on task? (You’re going to say coffee, aren’t you?)

A. Well, coffee is a wonderful asset to any creative career and without any it can make a day feel like sleep! I do try to look at my day in chunks or a series of baby steps. I approach my creative work life on the idea that it will be perfectly imperfect. This keeps me grounded because life happens and we have those tiny earth quakes that normally go on in any business. So my my approach involves escaping. I’ll go to my desk and try to avoid distractions as much as I can. I ignore the phone, the e-mail and turn off any chat sites that can distract me and put on the head phones. Sometimes when it gets too noisy or I need a new view, I’ll go to a coffee shop or just go sit outside. 

Distractions happen, computers act up and kids need snacks so I am learning to roll with it. My philosophy is the 20/80 rule. If I get that 80% done and if that 20% did not happen today, its OK! I’ll get it done when I gets it done. I did try to put in an order for a genie with a lamp, a decoder ring and a time machine but its not in the budget quite yet! So, in the mean time I’ll just keep doing what I do but I wouldn’t give up self employment for the word no matter how busy it gets.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Just begin! It sounds basic but its amazing how quickly we stop ourselves with excuses, lack of energy, lack of focus, or just plain fear. And the worst stopper of all is comparing our work to another illustrators/designers or artists work.

We think there are rules…rules to creativity, rules to illustration, rules to sketching and coming up with ideas… rules to creative business. There aren’t any. There are guidelines and creative blue prints that you can follow. However, creatives will come up with ideas and create in your own distinct way that makes you an attractive member of this creative corner of the world. There isn’t a box to creativity. When we stop over thinking we can just focus on doing. Just try to remember that creative life happens in between the trapeze bars! If your not paying attention you might miss something!!


“Chance favors the prepared mind.” -Louis Pasteur


Learn more about Breaking Into Freelance Illustration

Visit Holly DeWolf’s website


August 17, 2009

After a Friday off riding roller coasters at Kings Island  with my in-laws (including the scariest ride of my life on the new Diamond Back coaster–I swear I had dreams about it all night that night) and a weekend of sweltering heat, I’m back at work. 

My mind is still on that coaster, though. The first drop is like 215 feet and then the subsequent one is nearly 200 feet, followed by several more drops (all scary if  you ask me). I don’t like roller coasters, but I rode several of them on Friday to try to push myself. It’s good to face fears and push yourself outside your comfort zone (something that you can apply to anything in life… your job, your writing…). I’ll make that an inspirational thought for the day: try doing something that frightens you for the experience of facing your fears–in the very least you’ll end up with a story to tell (or to write about).

Author Interview: Michael Christian

August 13, 2009

As you may know from an earlier post, I just finished editing a great book called Write Like the Masters. The book analyzes the writing styles of literary greats like Hemingway, Faulkner and Salinger and offers advice for incorporating their techniques into your own writing. It was a lot of fun to work on and I’ve enjoyed working with the author William Cane immensely. Cane is also the author of six books including the international bestseller The Art of Kissing. 

Cane took a few minutes out of his busy teaching and lecture schedule to answer some questions:

Write Like the Masters, aside from being an instructional book for writers, is full of interesting facts about some of the greatest writers in history. I’m curious: Who is your favorite writer and why?

William_CaneThere’s no question my favorite writer is Kafka. I like the darkness of his stories and the unique way he tells them. Something else I really like is his style. For example, he’s one of the very few writers who puts multiple speakers into one fat paragraph when writing dialogue. This may seem too dense for the modern reader used to the Hemingwayesque stichomythia, but it condenses dialogue into topical segments that is very helpful to savvy readers. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, on his stylistic virtuosity. I also like his dry sense of humor.

What are the last 5 books you read?

No one ever asks me this, and I’m delighted to give you the answer. The last five books I’ve read are:

Edmund Spenser’s THE FAERIE QUEENE
Ian Fleming’s THUNDERBALL (re-read this summer)
W. Somerset Maugham’s OF HUMAN BONDAGE
Edith Wharton’s THE CHILDREN
bonus sixth book: Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD

You’re obviously well read, is there a particular writer who makes you say “I know I should like this, but I just can’t get into it?”

The funny thing is that if I can’t get into a book I don’t usually think “I should like this”; instead, I think, “I don’t respond to this.” Into that category I place most mysteries and thrillers, although I do enjoy Sherlock Holmes and especially Ian Fleming. Fleming, of course, is one of the chapter in my new book, and one of my favorite writers. I have to admit that there are some things by James Joyce that I can’t throw my hat up into the air about, like his later work (especially Finnegans Wake). But I don’t think I should like it, I just think I’m not on his wavelength here. Maybe some scholar could open my eyes and help me enjoy it, and probably that would be a good thing and I’d learn something.

I’m always curious how writers ended up becoming writers. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Up until the age of six I wanted to be a Don Juan. Women reacted quite well to me at that age, too. Then from seven to thirteen I wanted to be an inventor. I believed I could invent flying machines like Tom Swift. After my first year of high school, after I had been introduced to the Greek dramatists, I wanted to be a Greek dramatist. I think my wish to be a writer originates from a deep desire to obtain the same kind of recognition that Euripides and Sophocles have.

What was the first thing you ever wrote?

The first thing I wrote was a science fiction short story inspired by the work of Ray Bradbury, specifically his novel SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. His language and poetry knocked me for a loop. I knew I had a long way to go before I could hope to ever reach his level, and I kept asking myself: How on earth did he do this? Where did he learn this? Is he blessed by God, or what? Why don’t they teach me to do this in school? Where can I learn to write like this — or anything even remotely close to this — too?

What was the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

The best writing advice I ever got was from a law school professor who told me, “If something is worth writing it’s worth writing poorly.” What he meant, of course, was that if you expect perfection on a first draft, you’ll never write anything. Don’t let a poor style hold you back. Just get that first draft finished. There’s always time to revise. That’s what summers– and Christmas vacations — are for…

Preorder WRITE LIKE THE MASTERS (Due October 2009)

Visit William Cane’s Website

Breaking Into Freelance Illustration

August 13, 2009

Z2796c_FreelanceIllusYesterday advance copies of a Breaking Into Freelance Illustration by Holly DeWolf arrived. This is the last HOW Books title that I worked on before being assigned strictly to Writer’s Digest titles. 

The book is a guide for artists, designers and illustrators who are looking to start their own business and I think it makes a great crossover read for anyone who works in a creative field. While it is targeted to artists, it covers a lot of best business practices and advice for self-promotion that apply to any creative business. 

The author is very enthusiastic and was a lot of fun to work with. She keeps things light in the book by providing lots of fun examples of art work and inspiring quotes from books, movies, TV shows, and popular culture.