W3 Wise Words on Writing

W3 is a monthly newsletter for writers on a variety of topics from technique to the psychology of writing. It appears by the 15th of each month. More information is available from www.wisewordsonwriting.com

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

No.32 A Strange Writing Lesson

I was curled up on my Parisian friend's couch. Rain splattered the windows, making staying in the best possible alternative. I'd spent the last three hours writing, which fulfilled one childhood fantasy of writing in a garret in Paris (although this was nicer than my fantasy garret).
I watched Marina's DVD ON THE ROAD TO PERDITION then I listened to the bonus: the director talked about how he made his creative decisions. It was one of the best writing lessons I've had. The DVD is available on http://www.amazon.com/ for as little $2.99 used, but be careful of the different zones.

Rather than explain that Paul Newman was the surrogate father and loved his surrogate son Tom Hanks, at a wake, Newman sits at a piano and plays a song with one hand. Hanks joins him and plays the harmony, also, with one hand. The look they exchange and Newman's pat on the back tells everything.

In the background we see Newman's biological son's face reflecting hatred and jealousy. The camera angles down so only the son's legs show, effectively cutting him out of the relationship.
In another scene Hanks' son has seen him kill a man. Hanks and he talk about it in their Model T. They make no eye contact until the last moment of the scene. There is another separation that the director did deliberately. He shot the scene in such a way that the bar of the driver's door separates father and son. It is so subtle that no one would say, "Oh look at the bar of the driver's door emphasizing the separation between the father and son." Yet visually and psychologically it is there.

Whenever there is a death, water is involved. Sometimes it is rain, another time it is water in a bath tub. Repeated symbolism can be effective. The more subtle it is, the more effective.
To show Hanks' son as slightly alienated, the boy is bicycling in the opposite direction of people going home from work.

The director uses light and dark and many other techniques to show the action of his movie.
Scene by scene he covers the little details that show what he wants us to see.

As writers we need to think as carefully as that director on how to work the details to convey the message we want to our readers.

When I went back to my writing, I rewrote the chapter I thought I had finished, using the director's message. We learn from the strangest places.

"If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul. " Joan Didion

"Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them." John Ruskin

"I've always thought of writing as active thoughtfulness thinking taken to a physical level made manifest on paper, where the thinker is able to account for his thoughts, reflect on them, question them, revise them, and ultimately, communicate those thoughts to others." Mary LaChappel, talking about Sarah Lawrence College in Jan/Feb 2005 Poets & Writers

Watch your favorite movie. (Mine is LION IN WINTER http://www.lioninwinter.com/) And watch it through. Then go through scene by scene without the sound to see what you notice in sets, color, props and any other details.


Author Linda Oatman High (http://www.lindaoatmanhigh.com/) will teach a writing workshop in Tuscany! Join Linda on July 2-9, 2005, in Cortona, Italy for an instructional and inspirational workshop. Package prices include meals, accommodations, and tours. Reduced registration before February 30th. For more info: http://hometown.aol.com/upcoevents/differentdrummerhomepage.html Tel. 717-445-8246

Sadly the library in Salinas, CA is closing because of funding problems. John Steinbeck's papers are stored there.

Although the American Library in Geneva is a warm friendly place that keeps me in Reading matter, it was a real joy to be in the Boston Public Library with its hundreds of thousands of books.
I met Louisa May Alcott when I was in Boston. No I do not need to be committed. Jan Hutchinson, who is the curator of Orchard House Museum, the house where Alcott lived and used as a model for LITTLE WOMEN did a one-woman show as Louisa May. She totally transformed the small theatre at the Boston Public Library, with her tales of nursing during the Civil War. She "confessed" that when people stopped to meet her because of her fame as a writer, she put on an apron, covered her hands with flour and pretended to be the maid. Orchard House as many small museums, could use help with funding.

No 31.Playing with Words

New writers often think they can write something once. Experienced writers know that our work needs to be cut, added to, polished, reworked. Even the slightest change can add depth or give your readers more information. In the same way stretching warms us up before exercising, reworking the same sentence or two can increase our craftsmanship. Supposing you want to get your character, John, up a hill fast - there are many ways to do it.

Version 1: John was running up the hill. (Okay, John is getting to the top of the hill fast where we want him. But is the writing as strong as we want it? It depends on the image we are trying to create in the reader's mind. )

Version 2: John ran up the hill. (Was +verb+ing is weak. Ran without the was and the ing is better.)

Version 3: John catapulted himself up the hill. (It implies John put himself into a machine and somehow launched himself up the hill, however, the force with which he got up the hill is stronger.)

Version 4: John bounded up the hill. (We see John as athletic taking the hill like Superman.)

Version 5: John sprinted up the hill. (Makes the hill seem smaller if he can reach the top with a

Version 6: Breathing heavily John struggled up the hill. (Instead of John being seen as an athlete easily running up a hill now he is struggling. We don't know if he is running or walking, but we do know that he is having problems.)

Version 7: John's feet pounded against the dirt path as he raced up the hill. (John is racing again, and now we know there is an unpaved path. Also we have some sound, pounding, adding another sense.)

Version 8: Breathing heavily, John ran up the dirt path until he reached the summit of Grey's Hill. (Now we have given the hill an identity. We have the sound of his breathing, but we eliminated the pounding.)

Version 9: Breathing heavily and with his backpack slowing him down, John ran up Grey's Hill. (Now we can see that John is being handicapped as he goes up Grey's Hill. We have increased the visual image with the backpack.)

Version 10: Breathing heavily and with his backpack slowing him John pounded up the dirt path of Grey's Hill. Trees hung low scratching his bare arms. (A new fact and we are back to pounding feet adding sound to the scene.)

We could go on indefinitely until John totally collapses from all those trips up the hill.
What does this prove? The more we manipulate words, the more of an image we can create. Playing and rearranging, adding and subtracting can increase the strength of our writing.

"Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead."Gene Fowler

"The tendon part of the mind, so to speak is more developed in winter: the fleshy in summer. I should say winter has given the bone and sinew to literature, summer the tissues and blood."John Burroughs

"This is the challenge of writing. You have to be very emotionally engaged in what you're doing, or it comes out flat. You can't fake your way through it."RealLivePreacher.com

"The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense."Tom Clancy

"Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and the
writing will be just as it should be."Mark Twain

1. Find a paragraph in a book. Now rewrite it by changing the words, sentence order, etc. Rewrite it again. Rewrite it a third time.

2. Take a paragraph from your own writing and start polishing it. First change the verbs. Change the sentence order. Add another sense (smell, sound, etc) to the paragraph.

The Writer's Guide to Places by Don Prues & Jack Heffron (2003) will help you write about 51 cities in the US and Canada. .

Good website: www.FabulistFlash.com.

If you are approached by Nobel House to publish your poetry, there have been some complaints that they do not send the books that you will buy.

As a fascinated reader or blogs, I finally started my own - theexpatwriter.blogspot.com. It's great therapy, much cheaper than a shrink.

A Russian friend who borrowed the Russian edition of my novel Chickpea told me there was a quote from the Russian edition of Cosmopolitan on the back cover. Not being able to read anything at all including my name and the title, I was pleased.

After two months of waiting I received the contract for the publication of my second novel, THE CARD. As always the novel had gone through many rounds of rejections, so to those writers who get discouraged and who doesn't, keep trying. This was the novel I wrote for my M.A. in creative writing at Glamorgan University in Wales, and I feel part of the credit goes of my mentor, Siân James, who patiently chanted "less is more" until it became my mantra. Siân also kept my characters in line, my descriptions believable and a thousand other nags that eight years later still are there. Thank you, Siân.

No 30. Make Description Work ard


If dialogue moves the plot forward, then description should flesh out scenes. Description puts readers into your story while engaging their senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, feel).
Victorian writers over described scenes giving credence to the statement "That's more than I needed to know." However the selective use of details (See earlier W3 www.wisewordsonwriting.com/newsletter-0202.html ) adds to the description.

The most common things writers describe are: character's physical appearance, clothing, neighborhoods, housing, furniture, scenery, weather. W3 will deal with writing about emotions and interior thought at some future date.

New writers often break into the story creating author intrusion especially when describing people. The reader is subjected to a litany of details about height, weight, hair color, etc. Slightly more experienced writers use the overworked mirror trick, letting the character herself describe how she looks - She watches herself in the mirror as she brushes her "long black shiny hair and puts a touch of pink lipstick to her full lips, etc..

Showing not telling is a better way to introduce appearance. Shortness could be shown when a character has to stand on a chair to reach the middle cabinets in a kitchen. Overweight can be shown by struggling into an outfit that refuses to zip, a man can rest his hand on the stomach that overhangs his stomach.

My pet peeve is the statement "she didn't look 45," which I've read in any number of books. I am not sure what 45 looks like nor 32 or 55 for that matter. At a high school reunion my classmates had aged at such different rates that there could have been 20 years between us instead of the real 12 months. Perhaps a better way to describe someone appearing younger than their years might be - Her face was unlined and she moved with the energy of a young woman. Then he looked at her hands and saw raised veins and age spots. - By adding the details the reader does the work instead of having to figure out what X number of years look like. We also get the reaction of the observer assuming he is a major character. Or if the woman is a major character she could hide her hands as a tell tale sign of her age if she were ashamed of it, or flaunt them if she were not. How we manipulate our description changes the story we are telling.

Likewise when describing a room make the description work - The cracked red leather was molded to his shape from countless hours of watching the boob tube. Although there was standing room only at the mandatory after-funeral feed, no one dared sit in Papa's spot, even though he would never sit there again. Instead they stood crowded together with their plates piled with baloney sandwiches and potato chips. My brother watched from the sidelines. Then he walked over and sat down in the chair. Everyone stared. The king is dead, long live the king, I thought. - That description tells a lot more about Papa, the son, the economic class of the family and the speaker than it does about the room.

The same goes for exterior description. A playground with brightly colored and innovative equipment built by a committee of parents is different from a playground with a netless basket rim, cracked cement and a broken swing. Each fleshes out the economic status and condition of far different neighborhoods with out giving the professions and incomes of the people who live there.

Personal perspective makes scenery more than scenery. In Switzerland I love looking up at the mountains and feel they are opening to eternity, but they mentally imprison a Swiss friend. They are the same mountains: an Alp is an Alp is an Alp. Which way a character reacts makes scenery work hard for your story. Does the person love the sea? Is it frightening because of an accident that killed a relative? Does sailing a boat through a storm represent a (wo)man vs. nature challenge?

Weather gives chances for all types of descriptions, but it shouldn't always rain at funerals or when characters are in bad moods. Describe cold to give readers a feeling of temperature without saying it is below freezing - Jenna's cheeks were bright red as she unwove the long hand-knitted scarf, unzipped coat. The smell of cold rose from the wool as she tossed it on the chair nearest the fire. "Thank God, you lit it," she said holding her aching hands out to the flames.

Noises and smells in a neighborhood can flesh out a story - the cock from the other side of the village went off about five minutes before her neighbor's alarm gave a ping ping ping that floated up from the window below. The street cleaner's broom scraped the pavement, followed by the village's new street washing machine that chugged and released a water scented with so much lemon that she wanted to vomit.

Notes on the samples: two novels both have windows. One character wounded in war recovers by looking out. The other with a woman wounded by love looks inward. Frazier doesn't say Inman sees a road, a wall, a tree, etc. but says it might have been a painting of the same yet we know the objects are within Inman's range. Rees, on the other hand, mentions looking out the window, but her description of everything is what is happening around her and more importantly for her novel, in her.

That summer, Inman had viewed the world as if it were a picture framed by the molding around the window. Long stretches of time often passed when, for all the change in the scene, it might as well have been an old painting of a road, a wall, a tree, a cart, a blind man. Inman had sometimes counted off slow numbers in his head to see how long it would be before anything of significance altered.COLD MOUNTAIN Charles Frazier.

She turns the bed against the other wall, under the slope of the roof so she can look out of the side window, moves the sofa to the wall opposite, settles her blue Indian cotton wrap over the table and arranges the fruit she brought on her way home in a china bowl. The two novels she plans to read she stacks on the floor by the side of the bed. OVEN HOUSE by Lynne Rees

For the next few weeks keep track of HOW you write, WHAT you write, WHAT HAMPERS your writing, WHAT WORKS with your writing. Then look it over to determine any patterns that will help you plan your writing in the future.

More on people writing in their second language. If anyone looking for a partner writing in their language wants to register with me, please let me know your email and the language you are writing in. I wish I had the resources to pair writing mates in English, but I don't. However, I recommend that highly. I would have not made the progress I did without mine, not just because her critiques were so valuable, but because it made me critique another person's work.
http://www.wakeupwriting.com/ For people who need help in doing daily writing. There's a daily assignment.

No 29. Do you need a writing degree?

In the last two decades university creative writing degree programs in Anglophone countries have cropped up faster than poppies in Afghanistab. Do writers need them? The answer is yes, no, maybe.

It all depends on what a writer needs to further the mastery of the writing craft.

What advantages and disadvantages can a university creative writing degree offer?

A publisher won't publish a novel just because the author holds a degree if the novel is bad, nor would they turn down a good novel because the writer didn't have a degree. However, the flicker of the idea that a person who held a degree was serious might cross their minds…or not. However, if the studies help someone write a publishable work, then the degree would be worth it.

If a person wants to teach creative writing, the degree is a plus. One university, Antioch in California offers a post M.A. in teaching creative writing.

Degree programs are varied. Some are heavy on theory and academics with courses called things like form and theory in literature, studies in short fiction, etc.

One of the most frequent pieces of advice given to new writers is to read. A degree program that insists students read the great writers and examine them for technique could offer an advantage to those writers who feel they are lacking in these areas. However, if a writer wants to devote as much time as possible to the writing, reading Nathaniel Hawthorne could be a time waster.

Other programs concentrate on writing itself putting students through writing workshop after workshop. These are ideal of the writers who want to do little else but write, but not so for those who want theory.

For many adults dropping back to full-time student-status is not financially possible. Distance learning programs or low-residency programs fill this need. Distance learning programs such as Humber in Canada pairs a writer and a student. Low-residency programs such as Goddard requires student to be on campus for short bursts of times then sends them off to write.

How important is it that a "name" writer is on the faculty? Working with a name writer might bestow status and may even result in an endorsement on the back of a novel when it is published. However, working with a name writer won't guarantee an agent or publisher introductions. Working with a university, however, sometimes brings connections. Many invite agents and publishers, but again it is not a guarantee of publication.

Writing students want to work with good writers (with or without a name) who can teach. The quality of individual teacher is only apparent after enrolment when students talk about who is good and who is bad. One writer, paired with a successful writer, spent six months working on the first twenty pages of her novel, but when she finished she was sure of every word and more importantly why the word was there. She could then go on with the novel and had a greater confidence in what she was doing.

The critiquing is a major element, but a writer involved with Open University felt that the criticism wasn't deep enough - certainly nothing like the woman who spent six months on twenty pages. In fact he felt the comments were so superficial they were almost useless.

Many of the people I talked with cited the major advantage for them was to be around other writers who could look at their work and see its strengths and weaknesses. They also cited the discipline. Having to write created or strengthened good work habits.

My own personal experience with two creative writing degree programs was mixed. One helped me make giant strides in my writing, thanks to the perceptive demands of my talented mentors writers Catherine Merriman and Siân James. Both pushed me to be the best I could be. The second program hurt my writing. I was caught between my own voice and what the school wanted and I dropped out.

Here are some things to check on:

  1. Do graduates have publishing credits?
  2. How much emphasis is there on writing vs. theory/literature?
  3. Is the program accredited (depending on the country)?
  4. What type of writing support is there?
  5. What writers will be working directly with the students (guest name writers can be inspiring, but will they evaluate student work?)
  6. Is it possible to take a test course?
  7. Who is on the faculty and how much involvement do they have with the students?
  8. How much professional writer-student contact is there?
  9. How are workshops handled?
  10. What needs to be produced for the degree (novel, play, chapbook, academic paper, etc.)
  11. How long is the program?
  12. Cost?
  13. Are there networking opportunities?
  14. Will the program help you improve your writing?

Only after you weigh what the degree offers with your own needs will you know whether to proceed or not. As for me I regret neither the program that brought me so much nor the one I didn't finish. Both advanced my own sense of my craft, albeit in very different ways.


Rather than samples from writers I have included samples from people who went through degree programs and were kind enough to share their feelings.

Lynne Rees THE OVEN
The MA was, both at the time and in retrospect, a very positive experience for me. I was at a very early stage in my development as a writer and the structure of the course - regular submission of work, feedback from my tutor and other students/members of staff at the weekend meetings, reflecting on my own processes and discoveries - gave me a much needed discipline and focus, and encouraged me to immerse myself fully into the world of contemporary poetry.

At the end of the two years, while I had a number of very strong poems and a few publication credits, my work was, generally, still in an embryonic stage and the submitted collection a long way from being ready for publication, though I was still awarded the degree. I like to think that my potential was recognised (my poetry has been widely published and anthologised in the last six years, this year my first novel was published, and a poetry collection is forthcoming in 2005) and I value that a great deal, and hope that tutors and leaders of all creative writing courses keep this in mind when assessing creative work. It's something I'm aware of as a tutor myself now.

No writer's development can be confined to a particular time scale. Some graduates…published very quickly and very successfully, others, like myself, needed more time and/or have published more in the world of the small presses, some are yet to place their work. But we have all succeeded in our own ways.

I understand that MA programmes thrive on the recognised publication successes of their graduates, but I'd still like to see a continuing place for the nurturing and encouragement of new voices, the recognition and celebration of 'good' writing regardless of it's ability to find a place in the current market.

Tony Curtis THE ART OF SEAMUS HEANEY, THE LAST CANDLES LOVE FROM WALES, THE ARCHES, WAR VOICES, TAKEN FOR PEARLS, The POETRY OF SNOWDONIA (and more)(Note: Curtis is a graduate of Goddard in the US and went on to found the creative writing program at Glamorgan University in Wales)

I decided to enrol in the Goddard program because it seemed like the right thing to do at my stage - I'd published one book and won a couple of prizes, but needed a kick. Goddard fitted in with my family and professional commitments (my college also paid the fees!!). Also, I was open to the American confessional approach because I'd dealt in my poetry with the recent deaths of my father and grandmother.

The Glamorgan Masters was based on the distance-learning program at Goddard. It was the first such in the UK.
Our course brings personal satisfaction, a professional qualification by a research degree and, for over two dozen writers, publication.

Kaytie M. Lee(Note: I have included this lengthy description to help those who want an in-depth program to share the experiences of one degree candidate.)
I am a thesis candidate…(for a) Master of Professional Writing Program. The MPW program is set up so that a student takes 15 units in a major, 9 Units of electives, and two mandatory classes, one with a thesis advisor and the other a survey course. The idea is that writers should be able to create in different forms, so diversity in electives is encouraged.
As a fiction major, I took fiction workshops with Gina Nahai, S. L. Stebel, Aram Saroyan, and Shelly Lowenkopf, and I was fortunate to take Hubert Selby Jr.'s last fiction workshop--he died in the spring, a few weeks before the end of the semester. Each instructor is a published and publishing author, and they each had very different approaches to fiction.
For electives I took non-fiction with Noel Riley Fitch, and two sections of screenplay development with Jason Squire. Though I had the opportunity, I did not take poetry, playwriting or technical writing.

I enjoyed the screenplay development classes. They helped me focus on dialogue and character development in a focused form because I was not able to rely on description and internalization for my characters. Story arc was more rigid than I was accustomed too - it's good for novelists to think in overall terms. Diversity of form is a benefit of the program--students are encouraged to try something outside of their experience--many traditional MFA programs limit a student to Poetry and/or Prose.

There are approximately 130 students enrolled in it at any one time, some just starting and taking three classes a semester, others at my stage, taking only a one-credit class with their thesis advisor. The large number of enrolled students is, I think, a benefit in the long run because every class affords a new opportunity for fresh perspective on writing, whereas I imagine in those smaller programs, the same faces across the table in each class might get a little predictable in commentary. Of course, it's difficult to develop camaraderie when people disappear after the class is over, but since I wanted to hear as many opinions about my writing as possible, the large student body worked for me - most of the time.

Some instructors used exercises and prompts, others assigned submission times and looked at whatever a student brought in.

Each workshop consists of a mixture of students-a fiction workshop is never just fiction students. While this mixture allows for a range of viewpoints, it became discouraging to me when students commenting on my prose claimed never to read novels because they were too busy watching films or reading poetry. It was when one (screenplay) student objected to an assignment that required reading novels in a fiction workshop that I began to long for a more traditional MFA program experience.

The MPW program wants its students to be writers, not scholars. Consequently there is very little emphasis placed on reading and discussion what's being published and virtually no study on literary critique. By not bogging down students with "homework" the program encourages students to "create."

While I am grateful for the extra hours to write, I think the program stunts its students by not giving them the vocabulary or even basic understanding of literary criticism that a Master's degree ought to deliver. It may not be a Literature Degree, but if we're trying to create it we damn well better know what's being said about it!

There were no novel workshops! As an aspiring novelist, I was looking forward to developing my novel and having the whole of it work shopped. This did not happen. Most of the instructors requested that students start new projects in their classes. I can see their point--it's difficult for a new teacher to take over where another left off, since comments and suggestions may be very different or even contradictory from one instructor to the next. And it never seemed to work when students brought sections from the middle of a novel that no one in the class had read-what could we say since we hadn't read the rest of it?

Since I wanted to take as many of the teachers as possible, I sacrificed continuity in my novel. I wrote more short stories (which was a good thing) and now that I've just got my thesis to complete (which is a novel) I am working solely with my thesis advisor. I suspect that novels would flourish more in a smaller program--but perhaps that's just me longing for greener grass.

My Own Bias: I prefer to read and write literary fiction -many of my peers want to write genre fiction. Nothing wrong with genres, and I'm pleased to know that there are writers of genre fiction who love to read and love to write and want to make their work of the highest calibre they can. I quickly found the other students who shared my interest, and we seek each other out when we feel we aren't getting the criticism we need. After the program that's what will last--the small community we created, our own salon of writers who write very different work but who share the sensibility that we want our writing to transcend the confines of genre.

I'm Terrified of the Creative Writing MFA Backlash: Now that I'm done I fear that my writing has ceased to be my own or that I have lost my "voice." Work shopping is a dangerous tool- if a person isn't stubborn or able to refuse suggestions (not belligerent in class, not that at all), she risks morphing into the sanitary graduate writer that some critics loath and deride. Is that me?

I don't know.

I think not--but the fear is there. Perhaps I'd have been better off toiling or traveling, working odd jobs and writing in coffee shops or laundromats.

When I get too angsty about writing I shut up, sit down, and just write. Better to do than to agonize over doing.

Sit quietly and think what help you need to improve your writing: feedback from other writers, a single course, a writing group, a degree program. Then go out and find it. By the way the internet gives lots of degree programs if you enter university writing programs.


We are coming into fall or autumn as my British friends call it. I've always thought of this season as the New Year, perhaps because this is the time of year to start school and new projects after the summer break. In the South of France cool weather alternates with leftovers of summer heat. Up in Geneva, a sure omen of fall is the appearance of the hot chestnut stands along with signs in restaurants announcing they are serving meals from the hunt. I divide my time between the two places, but it is one of the few times that I really miss the bright reds and golds on the trees of my native New England, Saturday night baked beans and football games.

Grammar questions? www.grammarbook.com.

Monday, May 16, 2005

No 28. VALS and Your Characters

When I was working in marketing at the now defunct Digital Equipment Corporation, I found a marketing tool called, VALS, Values and Life styles. It "explains the relationship between personality traits and consumer behavior. VALS uses psychology to analyze the dynamics underlying consumer preferences and choices. VALS not only distinguishes differences in motivation, it also captures the psychological and material constraints on consumer behavior. "
The company that wrote VALS can be found at http://www.sric-bi.com/VALS/. If any of you are doing marketing, it is an extremely efficient tool.

However, I found a second use for it while I was working on a creative writing degree. I needed a research component about my writing, and I used their survey to categorize my characters by answering the questions as each of my characters would. http://www.sric-bi.com/vals/surveynew.shtml It helped me keep them in character by reaffirming that the traits I ascribed to them were consistent. The survey is also interesting in judging our own characters.

Admittedly, there is an American slant to it, but some aspects of human behavior transcend geographical borders. It is another way to think about the people we create.

The groups are as follows:

Innovators are "successful, sophisticated, take-charge people with high self-esteem. Because
they have such abundant resources, they exhibit all three primary motivations in varying degrees. They are change leaders and are the most receptive to new ideas and technologies. Innovators are very active consumers, and their purchases reflect cultivated tastes for upscale, niche products and services. Image is important to Innovators, not as evidence of status or power but as an expression of their taste, independence, and personality. "

Thinkers "are motivated by ideals. They are mature, satisfied, comfortable, and reflective people who value order, knowledge, and responsibility. They tend to be well educated and actively seek out information in the decision-making process. They are well-informed about world and national events and are alert to opportunities to broaden their knowledge. Thinkers have a moderate respect for the status quo institutions of authority and social decorum, but are open to consider new ideas."

Achievers are "motivated by the desire for achievement, Achievers have goal-oriented lifestyles and a deep commitment to career and family. Their social lives reflect this focus and are structured around family, their place of worship, and work. Achievers live conventional lives, are politically conservative, and respect authority and the status quo. They value consensus, predictability, and stability over risk, intimacy, and self-discovery."

Experiencers are "motivated by self-expression. As young, enthusiastic, and impulsive consumers, experiencers quickly become enthusiastic about new possibilities but are equally quick to cool. They seek variety and excitement, savoring the new, the offbeat, and the risky. Their energy finds an outlet in exercise, sports, outdoor recreation, and social activities."
Believers "are motivated by ideals. They are conservative, conventional people with concrete beliefs based on traditional, established codes: family, religion, community, and the nation. Many Believers express moral codes that are deeply rooted and literally interpreted. They follow established routines, organized in large part around home, family, community, and social or religious organizations to which they belong."

Strivers "are trendy and fun loving. Because they are motivated by achievement, Strivers are concerned about the opinions and approval of others. Money defines success for Strivers, who don't have enough of it to meet their desires. They favor stylish products that emulate the purchases of people with greater material wealth. Many see themselves as having a job rather than a career, and a lack of skills and focus often prevents them from moving ahead."
Makers "are motivated by self-expression. They express themselves and experience the world by working on it-building a house, raising children, fixing a car, or canning vegetables-and have enough skill and energy to carry out their projects successfully. Makers are practical people who have constructive skills and value self-sufficiency. They live within a traditional context of family, practical work, and physical recreation and have little interest in what lies outside that context. Makers are suspicious of new ideas and large institutions such as big business. They are respectful of government authority and organized labor, but resentful of government intrusion on individual rights. They are unimpressed by material possessions other than those with a practical or functional purpose."

Survivors "live narrowly focused lives. With few resources with which to cope, they often believe that the world is changing too quickly. They are comfortable with the familiar and are primarily concerned with safety and security. Because they must focus on meeting needs rather than fulfilling desires, Survivors do not show a strong primary motivation."
All quoted material is from the company site that developed VALS.

Daisy had a job running a food bank. Though this might not seem like suitable work for a newly minted Harvard cum laude, Daisy saw it as a natural progression from the soup kitchen where she and Henry had volunteered as undergraduates and where her heart had leaped at the tenderness with which he had placed bowls of minestrone into scabbed and trembling hands.
(Notes: From HOST FAMILY by Mameve Medwed. Notice how much information is crammed into this paragraph. We learn where she went to school, which carried many social and intellectual connotations. We see she doesn't follow the crowd and look for top dollar in a job. We see what attracted her to her husband, as well as her sensitivity to those around her. I ran Daisy through the VALS test and her primary personality if a Thinker and her secondary is an Achiever.)

Take one of your favorite characters in fiction and run them through the VALS suvery.
Take one of your own characters and run them through the VALS survey.

This is from an artist, but the creative process can be the same for writers. So many times someone says, "I love your symbolism," and I reply, "what symbolism?"

I found this story of the creative process fascinating. Whether painting or writing, sometimes wonderful things happen. Thank you Barbara for letting me reprint it.

"I can tell you as an artist that paintings not only take on a life, but also take over at times so that I don't know what I've really painted until sometime later. Other artists tell me similar stories. A Montreal artist told me a story about a painting she was working in a workshop she attended with fellow artist friends. She commented to the artist at the easel next to her that she had no idea what she had painted. Her friend looked at the painting and told her it was so obviously her pet cat. On second look, her cat just looked at her out of the painting.

When I saw the painting, all I could see was her cat, yet she did not consciously paint her cat.

"This month I share a story of my latest painting "Saratoga Springs Passion," a red, black, grey and white painting on glass meant to be hung in a window.

"The Saratoga County Arts Council has a "Win, Place & Show" juried equine member exhibit every August when the Saratoga Race Course horses are running. Every painting has to have a connection with horses or racing. Never wanting to be a "me-too," I pondered over the image I would create.

"As luck or fate would have it, I acquired a nicely grained wood frame at an estate sale. I chuckled when I realized the framer had assembled the matted image backwards in the frame. Well, the last laugh was on me when I got it home and realized that the "framer" had glued everything into the frame. A die-hard, I refused to chuck it and painstakingly ripped and tugged at the mat and framed poster until it cleared the glass. Now, I had clear glass glued into a frame. And, I had just received some samples of professional grade liquid watercolour and acrylic I had been anxious to try. I always wanted to do reverse painting on glass.

"I am now in my Red Period and white horses were the subject. After I painted them, I decided to put a black silhouette of myself in the painting. The horse on the right looks menacing in hard darks into the white with some greys. The horse on the left looks as innocent as the horse it faced looked fearsome. In the middle, facing the viewer comes a galloping horse with mane moving. When I first looked at the painting, I saw the menacing horse as a racehorse hot to win.

"The innocent mare as a pet and the galloping horse as a wild horse. I named it "Saratoga Springs Passion" after the fascination and obsession with horses there exists here with our City mantra of 'Health, History and Horses.'

"Three days after I painted it, I woke with a start early one morning and got the message of what the painting really meant to me. Recently, three friends in their 60s were out of my life due to a variety of illnesses that confined them to spaces. One widowed friend was put in an adult home and was lost to me both physically and mentally and she was represented by the menacing horse. Another friend was suffering from a myriad of illnesses along with her husband and was represented by the innocent mare walking resolutely forward eyes to the ground. Finally, another diabetic friend went in for a routine colonoscopy where doctors discovered a cancerous polyp, which was removed with a section of her intestines. She is represented by the galloping horse running to take back her life. I am in shadow because they don't see me in their lives any more.

"So, a routine theme painting for a juried show turned into a picture of my heartache at the recent absence of my three friends in my life. "There you have the painted message my soul wanted to tell me."

Source: "Watercolors Your Way" free Monthly E-Newsletter (to subscribe please go to http://www.barbaragarro.com/ and click on "Newsletter.
http://mudsmith.net/bobbing.html#writing Has some interesting articles on writing.

A W3 reader is really clicking up some credits. To those of you who haven't yet seen your work in type or on the stage, keep working. Sandra Seaton, a playwright and librettist, has a play THE BRIDGE PARTY which won a Theodore Ward Prize for New African American Playwrights. The renowned actor Ruby Dee appeared in a 1998 production of the play Seaton's text, from THE DIARY OF SALLY HEMMINGS was set to music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom and has been sung at the Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center, San Francisco Performances, the University Musical Society in Ann Arbor, and other venues. Her most recent work, SALLY, a solo play about the life of Sally Hemings, premiered at the New York State Writer's Institute in Albany, New York. Website: www.grad.cmich.edu/seaton Congratulations Sandra.

One of my readers who writes in English as a second language asked me if I had any tips for people in her situation. At the moment I don't but if anyone out who writes in any language as a second language, has any ideas please let me know so I can pass them on to her.
Break through writer's block and embark on a journey of self-discovery during a Reflective Writing Workshop, September 10 to 12th, in the Swiss Alps. We will practice a number of journaling techniques and explore a form of meditative writing. For more information, email journalingingeneva@yahoo.com or call 33 4 50 20 26 23

The e-rater is a computer that grades essays for the GMAT, the exam students take in the US to get into business schools according to an article in the Washington Post. A spokesman "emphasized the modest goal of computerized scoring: to judge the structure and coherence of the writing, rather than the quality of the thoughts and originality of the prose. In college, he said, professors grade the development of ideas, while essay-rating computers "are better suited to judgment about more basic-level writing." The College Board which regulates the SATs (the exam taken by high school students and used as a tool by universities for admission) which are the entrance exams does not rule out that the future SAT essays will be graded by computer too.

Maybe I am being old-fashioned, but I always thought the quality of thought and originality of prose major factors in writing.

No. 27 Writing Habits

The Writing Process (with apologies to Dr. Seuss)
I can write in a carI can write by a fire*
I can write in a boat
I can write on a float
I can write on a table
I can write when I'm able.
I can write anywhere
*with my Boston accent fire, fah rhymes with car, cah

Many of my writing students ask if they should write the complete work then edit, or edit as they go along. They want to know should they create biographies of their characters before starting or invent them as they develop the work. Should a writer do the first draft by hand then type into the computer or go directly to the computer? Should they have fixed writing hours or not? Is it important to write daily or not? The answer is yes.

Confusing? Yup. As a collector of how-to-write books, all of which I have read, the amount of contradictory advice is only limited to the number of books I own. Does this mean that all writing advice should be disregarded? Not at all - if so I'd give up writing this newsletter.
When I talk to successful writers about their working habits, I have discovered they are as varied as their personalities. Some are extremely disciplined setting aside a time each day to write. Others cram writing time around other responsibilities. If any common factor exists, it is their extreme seriousness about their work.

Many things in this world can be standardized, but standardized creativity is an oxymoron.
The secret is to find what works best for you and throw away any guilt or inferiority that you are disregarding the advice of Best Selling Author X. Remember Jeffrey Archer once told would-be writers the only way they can be successful is to quit their jobs and write full time. Tell that to a single mom trying to finish her first book.

Does that mean the advice of Best Selling Author X is worthless? Absolutely not. Try their methods, but adapt them to your needs. Testing allows us to develop new skills.

So to continue the poem…
I can write on my head,
I can write in bed,I can write as I eat,
I can write on my feet,
I can write with ink
I can write in a sink,
I can write everywhere

What is important is to find what works for you and then have the confidence to do it as well as the wisdom to know when it needs to be changed. And do it without guilt.

The dichotomy of this topic is if you follow my advice, you will disregard my advice if it doesn't work for you. Do it with my blessing.


"I merely took the energy it took to pout and wrote some blues."Duke Ellington.

"Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time... The wait is simply too long."Leonard Bernstein

Note: I know the first two quotes are about music, but writing music and writing words are variations of the creative process.

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."Henry David Thoreau

Note: I know this is often quoted, but whenever I realise the crowd went in the other direction, I realise that it is okay if I don't follow.

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it." Jesse Stuart

"I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. "Joan Didion

"A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. "Thomas Mann

For the next few weeks keep track of HOW you write, WHAT you write, WHAT HAMPERS your writing, WHAT WORKS with your writing. Then look it over to determine any patterns that will help you plan your writing in the future.

One of the purposes of W3 is to share information between writers. Because we are an international publication, we welcome information from all continents.

Kwickee Bitesize seeks short articles and fiction. No registration fees or charges to writers. When work is downloaded by customers paying to view on mobile phones or PC's you'll receive royalties. Editors and Sub-Editors also needed and paid on a royalty basis. Read guidelines etc.at www.kwickee.com/

A person who happened on my website submitted this thinking my readers would find it interesting. It's a place to show your work. www.eliteskills.com/
Any artist who would like to rent art studio space or to give courses in Argelès-sur-mer, France, www.argeles-sur-mer.com/ email Christine at argeles.hostalet@wanadoo.fr / The studio is located about five minutes from the hotel. Argelès is a French-Catalan village on the Mediterranean less than hour's drive from the Spanish border. I find it a terrific place to work, but am prejudice since I have had my nest here for 17 years and divide my time between here and Geneva.

Spelling: W3 uses American spelling. The differences in the usage of English from country to country, is fascinating. Once I worked in office, with American, English, South Africans, Australians and Swiss who learned either American-English or English-English. We often needed translators from English to English.

When it was my turn to make the tea, I made it the English way, heating the pot, measuring the right amount of leaves, then adding the water. We all took our tea seriously, that was something we never disagreed on. "I've left it to steep," I said to the room where we had all gathered. A couple of blank stares.

"You mean draw," someone said. "Steep is an incline."

"Draw is what artists do," someone else said.

"Set, the tea is setting," another person said.

By that time the tea was ready (a word we agreed on), we had no problem on agreeing to drink it.

We had tons of this type of conversation describing tights-stockings-pantyhose-legwarmers, or shops vs. stores, chemists-apothecaries-druggists-pharmacies, parking garages vs. car parks (I suspect the latter have smaller spaces due to smaller cars) the American habit of changing nouns to verbs as in to party and to charge it.

English is such a rich language to write in.

The same company had the habit of opening a bottle of champagne for whatever good news came about. Maybe because champagne is a French word, we never debated that.

No. 26. Listening to What We Write

Let your computer read to you. Guest Editor

Many Text-To-Speech (TTS) programs are inexpensive, have almost human voices, and are designed for sighted people to operate. In the past, writers read their work aloud in order to catch grammatical errors and to edit mistakes more effectively. Even improper word choices which spell checkers might miss can be spotted and corrected with the help of synthetic voice software. Why not rest your eyes and let the computer read to you?

One of these inexpensive Windows-based software packages and one of the best as far as voice quality goes, is Fonix' i Speak. It can be purchased at the www.fonix.com web site. Not only does this program read text from the clipboard, highlighted portions, and from files but it can create MP3 versions of the text. This is useful for listening to your writing on an MP3 player while away from the computer, perhaps on a long bus trip or while jogging.
Read Please www.readplease.com offers a number of voices to choose from and it highlights the words or sentences being spoken. It also offers translations into four languages.
Real Speak www.scansoft.com can speak 21 different languages plus this software works in Linux as well as Windows.

Text Aloud www.nextup.com also makes MP3 versions of text files and is inexpensive too.
If you want to make use of an old PC, HELP Read www.helpread.com is free and runs with Windows 3.1.

Unfortunately there aren't many Mac TTS programs. Information regarding outSPOKEN, plain Talk, and KeyRead can be found at the www.apple.com/speech/ page. outSpoken won't work on Mac OS X and is not supported by ALVA Access Group but it still can be obtained for use with

Earlier OS versions. E-mail info@enablemart.com to learn more. Mac OS X, Windows 2000, and Windows XP have built-in TTS programs, making it even more convenient to hear your writing.
The previously mentioned programs are not screen readers, designed to verbalize everything on the monitor. People with extremely low vision or none at all need to use software packages like Window Eyes www.gwmicro.com, JAWS www.freedomscientific.com or HAL www.dolphinoceanic.com These programs are in the $1000-$2000 range but are a boon for computer users who can't see the screen. The next release of Mac OS X will have a built-in screen reader called Spoken Interface.

Speech-To-Text (SST) programs are a great help to writers who can't type, have diseases like carpal tunnel, or who express themselves more freely by talking. IBM's Via Voice www.scansoft.com and Dragon Naturally Speaking www.vocalinks.com are two of the best in this category.

There's a ViaVoice version for Mac users too. Another nice thing about these programs is that they have demo versions, allowing people to decide if the program is worth buying. Some demos are full working versions which run for a specific amount of time while others have built-in limitations.

Either way, this gives writers a chance to use and intelligently choose suitable software for your needs.

In keeping with the topic, I decided to use as samples that have the word listening in them. Very few people are good listeners but listening is an active, not a passive skill. Writers may listen more closely than the general public but we often superimpose our own stories on what is being said.

Example 1

"He did not know whether it was late or early. The candles had all burned out. Dolly had just been in the study and had suggested to the doctor that he should lie down. Levin sat listening to the doctor's stories of a quack mesmeriser and looking at the ashes of his cigarette. There had been a period of repose, and he had sunk into oblivion. He had completely forgotten what was going on now. He heard the doctor's chat and understood it." Leo Tolstoy ANNA KARENIN

Example 2
The Lion once gave out that he was sick unto death and summoned the animals to come and hear his last Will and Testament. So the Fox came to the Lion's cave, and stopped there listening for a long time. Then a Sheep went in and before she came out a Calf came up to receive the last wishes of the Lord of the Beasts. But soon the Lion seemed to recover and came to the mouth of his cave and saw the Fox who had been waiting for some time. "Why do you not come to pay your respects to me?" said the Lion to the Fox.

"I beg your Majesty's pardon," said the Fox, "but I noticed the track of the animals that already come to you; and while I see many hoof-marks going in, I see none coming out. Till the animals that have entered your cave come out again, I prefer to remain in the open air."Moral: It is easier to get into the enemy's toils than out again.Fable

Example 4
I should not dare to leave my friend,
Because - because if he should die
While I was gone, and
I - too late - Should reach the heart that wanted me,
If I should disappoint the eyes
That hunted, hunted so, to see,And could not bear to shut until
They "noticed" me - they noticed me;
If I should stab the patient faith
So sure I'd come - so sure I'd come,
It listening, listening, went to sleep
Telling my tardy name, -
My heart would wish it broke before,
Since breaking then, since breaking then,
Were useless as next morning's sun,
Where midnight's frosts had lain!
Emily Dickinson. Poem 76

If you don't have listening software read your writing into a tape recorder and listen to it. If you don't have the software or a tape recorder, ask someone you trust to read it to you. Keep your eyes closed and listen. Listen a second time following the text on the paper. Mark whatever sounds the least bit out of kilter.

Conduct an interview and record it. Ask open and closed questions. (An open question has unlimited possibilities for answers. How did you feel about that? A closed question asks something that has a simple answer. How old are you? What is your favourite color?). www.businesspotential.com/charles_listen.htm and www.joansvoboda.com/listening_skills.htm have good information on how to improve your listening skills.

NOTES (guest writer and editor)
Bruce Atchison is a legally blind freelance writer who has appeared in a range of paying and non-paying magazines. He has written articles on a diverse range of topics ranging from being a cheapskate to the time some friends and I had a clandestine tea party in the blind school dorm after midnight. He is reviewer of electronic music.

Take a second each day to help. Subscribers to W3 come from over 16 countries. All industrialized countries except the US have some system of universal health care. In June it was reported that during 2003 82 million Americans at one point or another had no health insurance. One of the problems is that many people go without treatment including women who can not afford to have mammograms. The Breast Cancer site www.thebreastcancersite.com has a number of sponsors that if people click on the site once a day will fund a free mammogram for a woman who can not afford it. At the moment they are having trouble getting enough people to click. Please do this daily even if you are outside the US.

If you run a writing circle and want a special course for your group, I will come to you. Reasonable rates. donna-lane.nelson@wanadoo.fr or call +33 4 68 37 90 11. I will also work with you online or here in my nest in Argelès- sur-mer France. (doesn't include accommodations but inexpensive housing and kitchen facilities available).

Warnings: How do we know if a magazine will pay us, an agent is honest, or a publisher is on the up and up? The internet makes it easier to check. Here are some sites to look at. www.sfwa.org/Beware/. Likewise another warning list www.nwu.org/alerts/alrthome.htm/ However,one warning holds true NEVER PAY A READING FEE. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER Another source of unreliable payers for free lance writers is www.writersweekly.com. Most of this is directed toward American writers, but any warnings from anywhere else of people who take advantage of writers will always be gratefully received and will be passed on to W3 readers.

Here is a list of 400 agents http://www.authorsteam.com/agents/ I have not verified quality.
Although many writers write me, the letter below brought me great joy.
Hi DonnaJust thought I 'd say many thanks for your excellent newsletter. In particular I sent off my first two query letters using the guidelines in your newsletter. Both replies were swift and exciting. I chose one. In short I've now signed a contract for a collection of short stories.
Thank you so much for your help

Cleveland W. Gibson

Cleve was willing to share his letter with our readers in the hopes that it will help others.

I am seeking representation for my ever-growing collection of short stories, Pure Adventure, currently at 38,000 words. I am enclosing a synopsis of the stories and a sample story.
All the characters are portrayed in an exciting way, often as being dark and ruthless yet imbedded in surreal surroundings. It is the interaction of characters with settings that create a spark of danger, tension and intrigue.

As a writer I already have credits to my name. I have been an associate member of the National Association of Writers Groups. My work has appeared in Acorn, Auguries, Link, LBF books, Thriller UK, Creature Features, Thirteen Magazine , Lost In The Dark, and other magazines. Some of the stories have appeared on the RD Larson and Mike Broemmel web site as well as the Star Trek web site. RD Larson is an EPPE award finalist and Mike Broemmel is author of 'The Miller Moth.' I have also had work broadcast by the BBC. I am a BeWrite.net writer
Thank you for your consideration of this proposal. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Cleveland W. Gibson

No 25. Why do we write?

What drives us to spend hours trying to create formations of words that resonate with others?
We can rule out wealth. For every rich Stephen King or Anne Rice there are another 5000+ writers toiling below the poverty line. We may make money as freelancers, journalists, or corporate communicators, but our creative work is much harder to sell. Even when a check arrives it usually gives an hourly rate of less than a person toiling on the land in a developing country.

I asked several writers the question: Why do you write?

A woman writer who has published a series of short stories in various literary magazines says, "I can't not write. Words pound in my head. Stories pop up all around me. I have to get them down."

A writer, one who is wonderfully talented but only submits her work to top commercial publications has a large stack of rejections, said, "People say I should build credits with the little presses, but I want my first publication to be a big name. I am good and sooner or later an editor will see it." This is a person who spends at least two hours daily writing despite the heavy demands of a family and a part time job. She has Erica Jong's poem about wanting a clean house but not enough to sacrifice writing time, taped on her refrigerator. Woe to the family member that interrupts her at her computer. They didn't even knock to tell her about 9/11.

"I don't know if writing makes me happy, but not writing makes me miserable," a poet told me. He scribbles his poems during his subway rides, at lunch, and when the boss isn't looking. A few have been published in literary magazines, and every time he sees his work in print he says,

"Knowing I've shared that moment with others makes it worthwhile."

A writer who writes for the Christian market said, "I feel God gave me a gift. I can't deny it by not writing."

"I love language, manipulating words on the page until they carry the exact meaning that I want," a writer in her 50s said.

"For me it's therapy. I've had so much pain in my life, that it is one way of getting it out. Cheaper than a shrink," said a man who seemed much too young to have suffered as much as he did.

"If I don't write, I'll shrivel up."

"I've stories to tell. I just hope someone will listen."
And on and on and…

Does it matter when we start to write? I don't think so.

At four I knew I wanted to create stories. The writing compulsion came to my writing mate late in life after realising that the corporate ladder and MBA was not what she wanted to do. Both of us take the same pride in our work ever searching for ways to improve ourselves in our craft.

Does it matter what genre we write in? I don't think so. A student in my creative writing class apologised that she liked to read romances and hoped to write one. A genre writer needs to work just as hard on technique. The need to tell a story in the best way possible is true regardless of genre.

Energy is the operative word. Whatever we write, when our work takes on energy, we experience an incredible rush. Sometimes the rush is for us alone. If we are lucky the rush will extend to a person who buys the piece and finally to an ultimate reader.

Years ago writer Pamela Painter, who was teaching at a Simmons College writing program, defined a writer as someone who writes, not someone who is published. Others believe you aren't really a writer until you are published. Under that definition if Emily Dickinson's poems had never been published, she wouldn't have been a poet. Although her words would have been lost to the world, would they have been any less moving? Is it a variation of if a tree falls in the forest and if no one hears it does it make a sound?

Last night at Les Flowers, a restaurant in Argelès, after we had satiated ourselves with magret de canard, I asked the same question of my two female friends, both excellent communicators.

"No, if no one reads the writing, only half the process has been completed," the anthropologist said. "I agree," said the photographer.

It is one of those issues that could be argued endlessly with no clear result. We write.

What we do with our writing is another thing. We may keep it for ourselves, share it with our
families or seek publication. One woman I worked with is writing her life story for a friend. Another is trying to capture the Baghdad of her youth so the world can see another view from that portrayed in the news. Many, many writers are working on peace issues whether through letters to the media or world leaders. Others work with International Pen to free writers in prison, feeling they need to use their writing to give back. For some it is a need to look inside to touch something hidden: call it a soul, heart, etc. Others want to find the universal in the detail. Some admit they want to see their names on the best-selling books list.

Writing makes us writers. Work makes us good writers. Why do we do it? Because we must.


Example 1
"' Success at any price' is not my motto. In particular I don't urge what Virginia Woolf called 'adultery of the brain.' Prostituting one's talents to the highest, most prestigious or only bidder is not ultimately satisfying. .. if we define writing with integrity as remaining true to one's own values, what counts in this respect will differ from person to person…Aim to find your own path to success as you define success and keep in mind that you'll probably feel your way through by trial and error."

Example 2
Anyone who has struggled to teach a creative writing course and explain to a bunch of would-be writers just what makes a piece of writing come alive, what makes it heat up and burst into life, will know what an impossibly slippery thing it is to define. What is that enviable, indefinable something that makes a piece of fiction fizz? What makes you believe in it absolutely and without question right from the start?
Julie Myerson reviewing ZZ Packer's DRINKING COFFEE ELSEWHERE in The Guardian.

Example 3
"My work and my art, it is life."

Example 4
"The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it immediately or in the long run."
Henry David Thoreau.

I included this sample because everything in life has a price and whether it is the time we devote to writing, earning a living, or anything else. Hopefully we will all make these decisions wisely.

Example 6
Lots of people want to be writers; just about everybody talks about writing a book someday. Most don't know about the typical annual income and the isolation; they know about only the cocktail parties and the bylines. Of those who wouldn't mind being writers, relatively few really want to write. It's work.

Talent is potential. Develop it and you have something; let it atrophy and you squander it. Talent is not ability.
Art Spikol

List all the things about writing that frustrate you.
List all the things about writing that make you happy.
List what you would do if you didn't write.
List what you've discovered about yourself by writing.
List observations you have made because you write.
List the things you want to write.
List what stops you writing.


When I moved to Europe I discovered different nationalities use different terms for punctuation: an American period is a British full stop. Because W3 has an international audience (14 different countries), I arbitrarily decided to use semicolon for ; in this note.

An editor once said he never bought a manuscript unless someone used a semi-colon (;) correctly on the first page; probably not a good way to find the next best seller, but I thought just in case you submit your work to that editor, I'd review their use.

Semicolons separate the clauses of a compound sentence that have no co-ordinating conjunction. Ex: Harry ran to the store; he did many errands.

Semicolons separate the clauses of a compound sentence in which the clauses contain internal punctuation when the clauses are joined by a conjunction. Ex: Harry, who is often late, ran to the store, stopped at the dry cleaners, washed the car; and he rushed home.

Semicolons separate the elements of a series in which items already contain commas. Ex: Many people attended: Dr. John Jones, president; Irene Dunn, ghost and actress; Jason Haskell, architect and artist; and me.

Semicolona seperate clauses of a compound sentence joined by a conjunctive adverb (nevertheless, therefore, hence, etc.) Ex: The electricity was off for several hours; therefore the play was cancelled.

Write in Italy
The Centro Studi Pokkoli, a non-profit organization, makes available to individuals or institutions, for a small fee, workshop space for up to 15 people, free lodging for instructors, and arranges housing and meals for participants. We are located in a historic building in the old center of Vitorchiano, a medieval town one hour from Rome. For information: contact Linda Lappin md2948@mclink.it

Write in Southern France
I will work with students either individually or in small groups for up to a week in my French-Catalan village, Argelès-sur-mer, in intensive workshops designed to your needs. The workshop includes an in-depth analysis of your manuscript. For more information contact me at donna-lane.nelson@wanadoo.fr or call +33 4 68 37 90 11.

To the many people who commented on the article about Lee Gutkind and passed me information, thank you. Creative fiction has also been called the new journalism as many pointed out to me.

No 24. The Godfather of Creative Non Fiction

Lee Gutkind (Goodkind) ambled into the Geneva mansion, the current home of the local press club, with a beige paper cup of coffee in his hand. In Switzerland coffee is normally drunk in cafés but seldom carried around. However, Gutkind was there to lead a one-day workshop in Creative Nonfiction (CNF) not to follow local coffee-drinking customs.

Some call CNF a genre, but Gutkind considers it a movement. When he started CNF at the University of Pittsburgh in 1973 where he teaches, the powers-that-be did not consider it worthy of much more than a course. Now some thirty years later not only does Gutkind publish a CNF magazine with a circulation of 25,000, universities as far away as Australia are offering degrees in CNF. Gutkind has authored several CNF books.

As a CNF writer he spent four years with an organ transplant team, lived and worked with baseball umpires and been a circus clown. It is a life that writers stuck in routine jobs can only dream of.

Gutkind and CNF are not without critics. James Wolcott in VANITY FAIR damned the format as "confessional writing" and its proponents as "navel gazers." It was Wolcott who first called Gutkind the Godfather of CNF, meant derogatorily, but Gutkind adapted the title as a badge. It did not hurt the development of the format to have the term Creative Nonfiction adopted by the US National Endowment of the Arts.

Gutkind divides CNF into two types: Personal experience and emersion journalism. Gutkind defines CNF emersion journalism, where the writer "captures other people's lives or places" by spending large blocks of time with the subject. It is extremely marketable.

CNF does not create untruths. CNF involves imaginative ways to present the truth. There is no CNF police to stomp out untruths, but unlike journalists who must be objective, the CNF writer can be subjective. "The concept of trust and direction of accuracy doesn't stop us from interjecting ourselves into the story," Gutkind says.

CNF writers use the same techniques as fiction writers do. Scenes are the building blocks throughout the entire work. Gutkind was quick to remind the writers that "a scene is where something happens."

Scenes use dialogue that move the story forward. Gutkind does not work with a tape recorder because he feels it hampers spontaneity, but uses his memory. The second he leaves his subject he writes down as much as he can remember. He often shows his last draft to his subjects to make sure he was accurate. Almost always they accept what he has written with the exception of one person who asked that the swear words be removed so he could show the piece to his mother who didn't know he swore. Gutkind did.

Scenes use description. Gutkind uses the word "specificity" and just like fiction writing is stronger when someone says "yellow roses" versus "flowers". CNF benefits from this type of detail.

Scenes must have action or tension. Gutkind considers that CNF writers cannot be boring. He tells CNF writers that they must, "manipulate, seduce, twist readers around your finger to make them listen."

Gutkind draws a difference between CNF and straight journalism which often by necessity of space need to be brief. CNF allows a writer to be more expansive and he cited that a number of his CNF students who have worked as journalists who in the beginning had trouble producing 12+ page assignments.

Gutkind summarizes that "Creative nonfiction writers visualize a world in three multi-colored, multi-conflicting dimensions." In that aspect they are like fiction writers, but instead of plumbing the depths of their own minds, they base their work on what they have witnessed.


Here are two samples from his FOREVER FAT.

Example 1
I was in the office of a dermatologist who, while tearing into the plantar's wart on my right foot, glanced curiously up at my chest. "Wait," she murmured, "Melanoma."

At the time, I did not know precisely what melanoma was, but I knew the word to which it was most associated: cancer. She tenderly touched the mole she had spotted as the likely suspect and commented: "I don't think this is malignant, but you need to have it removed immediately." She paused and continued in a hushed voice. "Not that I want to worry you." I braced myself for what was coming next. "But three weeks from now, in a worst-case scenario, you could be dead."

I smiled bravely. "I thought you didn't want to worry me. "

Notice the dialogue. It is short and realistic. The details are tight. The dermatologist wasn't simply removing the wart she was "tearing" into it. The circumstances certainly create tension.

Example 2
"My father, an egg-shaped, balding man of eighty-three, was struggling with a corrugated cardboard boy he had been lugging from the car into the terminal. Without asking, Richard decided to help. He snatched the box from my father's hand and flung it up over his shoulder-and then he almost toppled over backwards. 'What's in this?' he asked. My father didn't answer."

Notice the father's description. He is easy to visualize. We know we are in a terminal so in one word we can see the scene. We know exactly what the box looks like. It is neither a Bonwit Teller box nor a jewelry box, but a corrugated cardboard box. Gutkind doesn't need to tell us that it is heavy. He shows us because his father is lugging it, not swinging it. He reinforces the heaviness when Richard almost topples over from the weight. The father not answering builds tension. If we wrote a fiction scene, we could have built it exactly that way, except for on thing. This happened.

EXERCISEThink of an incident that you witnessed, a mother hitting a child in a supermarket, a group of kids on a plane ride, whatever struck you strongly and write up the scene as accurately as possible using dialogue, description and tension. You can be subjective, but keep your involvement more as an observer.
Write a personal experience that touched you using CNF techniques.

NOTESTo order Gutkind's Creative Non Fiction magazine: www.creativenonfiction.org. His books are available on www.amazon.com.

No 23 Writing Query Letters

Writing query letters is almost as much fun as writing a synopsis, and we all know how horrible synopsis writing is. But here are some of the common questions I've received when talking to new writers about marketing their work whether it is fiction or non fiction.
  • When do I need a query letter?
  • When you want to interest a publisher in your book.
  • When you want to interest an agent in your work.
  • When you want to interest an editor in article, story or to get an assignment not yet written
  • When you submit an unsolicited piece and require a polite cover letter. This is usually for short work not full books.
  • Should I send my query by snail or email?
Many publishers accept submissions by email. In the past we checked with different writer market directories but now most publishers have websites with publishing guidelines. I can not stress strongly enough CHECK GUIDELINES!

How do I know where to send my writing?Research. Don't waste your time to mail science fiction to a mystery publisher. It won't work.

Is it important to send the query to an exact person?
Yes, yes, yes. Look at the website or directories and find the name of the correct person. The website should be up-to-date but the directory might not be. It is worth it to telephone to get the name of the current editor.

Does neatness count?
Yes, yes, yes. Although there are no hard and fast rules, the query should have good margins, a normal typeface, etc. 10 to 11 points, spacing between paragraphs. Neatness is the easiest part. Proof-read several times or if you're as bad at proofing your own work as I am, ask someone you trust.

What kind of letterhead should I use?
Create your own letterhead. Include all the relevant information: name, address, email, telephone number, fax, URL if you have the last two. However, don't use cute drawings.
Use good quality paper. A problem for submitting work internationally is that the US has a standard 8 1/2x11 size of paper and the standard for most of the rest of the world is A4, a slightly bigger sheet. However, an editor, agent or publisher won't say, "Although this is the best query I've ever seen, and the idea is fascinating, I won't use it because the letterhead is the wrong size."

What should I avoid?
Too much blah blah. Make every word count. Don't use meaningless phrases like "Attached please find." If the editor isn't bright enough to see an attachment, you won't want your work published by that person anyway. Also avoid trite phrases such as "in due course" which is different from due north.

What goes in the first paragraph?
You only have one chance to make a good impression. Your first paragraph should work the same way as the lead in a good news story. Make the reader want to go on.

Ex: fiction: Chickpea Lover (not a cookbook) is a 90,000 word novel about a woman who falls in love with a man who dresses as vegetables. Note: The title and the premise I hoped were strong enough to capture the publisher's attention.

Ex: feature article: Although absinthe, the liquorice-tasting drink that drove people mad in the late 1800s was banned in Switzerland in 1905, it is still made illegally in the Jura Mountains. Instead of asking guests if they prefer white or red wine, absinthe moon shiners in the little town of Môtier ask if they want red, white or blue. The blue refers to the blue fairy, another name for absinthe. Note: I didn't take for granted that the editor knew what absinthe was, so I identified it, mentioned it was illegal to titillate and then tried to add some color with words like moon shiners. I also tried to establish my expertise by giving one of absinthe's nicknames.

What should I tell them about myself?
Enough to show you are professional and any related knowledge depending on the market.

For fiction I once used: I am an American writer living and working in Geneva Switzerland and Argelès France. My short stories and poems have been published in six countries and read on BBC radio. My novel CHICKPEA LOVER was published in paperback in 2003 and will be published in paperback in the US in 2004. It will also be published in Germany and Russia this year.

For non-fiction I once used: I am an overseas correspondent for an American trade journal and the author of a novel that has appeared in the US and will appear next year in Germany and Russia. My news articles have been published in the US and the UK. Note: If I have some expertise in the area, I try and do it. While trying to sell an article to a religious magazine I added: For four years I judged the Templeton's Foundation Annual Religious Writing Award. The 3000 CHF ($2500) prize is awarded to the person who has done the most effective job covering religious issues for a major European newspaper. I gave them the Templeton Foundation website.

What if I don't have any credits?

If you have none at all, say nothing. A good idea is to join a professional writing group or say: I have a been writing for X years and am a member of: Otherwise try and find whatever, an article appearing in a magazine, a degree (if related) e.g. A writer sending an article on child development might say: I have been a teacher for 12 years and have worked with over 1000 students. In other words: establish you are serious about your craft and/or knowledgeable about the topic.

Do I include writing samples?
Although it depends on the guidelines, if you have a good sample it wouldn't hurt to send it along when looking for free lance work. One way to build a small portfolio is to have articles printed in small papers. If you have a small local paper try and work with the editor to get published.
For fiction it depends if the guidelines ask for sample chapters.

What about an SASE?
This is becoming more and more a thing of the last century. A stamped self-addressed envelope is required for your manuscript to be returned. However, in this time of cheap printing and high postage costs it might be more economical not to include an SASE and say, "Please notify me of your decision by email at Imasuccess@yahoo.com I also like to keep everything positive and saying things like "If you don't want my manuscript…" reminds me of the Girl Scout who knocked at my door and said, "You don't want to buy any cookies do you?"

How long should a query letter be?
No more than three paragraphs: a powerful opening, a paragraph about yourself and a closing. Short letters are less intimidating to read. If the opening is powerful enough, the person will probably scan the rest of the material. An editor once said he spent 30-second on a query and if it didn't catch his attention it was binned.

How should I end a query letter?
Successful sales people (when we trying to get our work published we are sales people) ask for the order. Writers need to be a little more subtle. I've had the best success with "I look forward to your response and thank you for your consideration" which is both polite and almost asking for something.

How long should I wait before I follow up?
I would say six weeks to two months so you don't look too pushy. Editors are busy people. They may not remember anyway.

Note: I find people outside the US much more polite and tend to send rejection letters or if interested get back to you immediately. Americans often don't respond at all. When I got the offer for CHICKPEA I needed an agent because I am NOT a detail person and have no idea of contracts. I emailed 35 New York agents and said "I have a firm offer for a book contract for my novel. I need an agent to negotiate it." Not one came back to me. Years later I am still shaking my head that anyone would refuse business that was handed to them.

Is a cover letter different?
Unsolicited: The opening paragraph should mention the title, what it is and the word count. The second paragraph should be about you. The third should be a polite close. In that way they are the same. The cover letter is polite although the manuscript should speak for itself.

Solicited: Always mark the envelope and the top of the cover letter "REQUESTED MATERIAL" to make sure it isn't added to the slush pile.

TIP: Mark all the pages in the manuscript in the footer with your name and the number of pages. Nelson 1 of 5. Editors' desks are usually messy and things can get lost. This is NOT necessary with email submissions.

Although there is no 11th Commandment referring to query letters the guidelines above are just that. The best query letter is the one that works. Here are two books that might help:

QUERY LETTERS THAT WORKED! Real Queries That Landed $2K+ Writing Assignments hhttp://www.booklocker.com/books/1409.html
How to Write Attention Grabbing Query & Cover Letters by John Wood


Here's the query letter that sold several agents on Luck and ultimately led to a two-book contract with Bantam.
  • Specific person
  • Agency
  • Address
  • Address
  • Dear (Agent/Editor's Name):

I am seeking representation for my fantasy adventure novel, Luck In The Shadows, complete at 170,000 words. I am enclosing a synopsis and a sample chapter. The sequel, Stalking Darkness, is nearing completion and another free-standing book featuring the same characters is in outline form.

I love thieves and spies - those sneaky people who live by intuition, skill, and inside knowledge. In fantasy, however, they are often portrayed as dark, ruthless characters or relegated to second string roles, a la Falstaff, as useful or amusing foils for more conventional heroic types. Luck in the Shadows gives the rogues center stage.

Seregil is an experienced spy for hire with a murky past and noble connections; Alec is the talented but unworldly boy he rescues and takes on as apprentice. "I admit I've cut a purse or two in my time," Seregil tells Alec soon after they meet, "and some of what I do could be called stealing, depending on who you ask. But try to imagine the challenge of overcoming incredible obstacles to accomplish a noble purpose.

Think of traveling to lands where legends walk the streets in daylight and even the color of the sea is like nothing you've ever seen! I ask you again, would you be plain Alec of Kerry all your life, or would you see what lies beyond?" Alec goes, of course, and quickly plunges into danger, intrigue, and adventure as their relationship deepens into friendship. The interaction between these two forms the core of this character-driven series.

I've been writing professionally for ten years and am currently a freelance journalist. My articles appear regularly in the Bangor Daily News, Preview! Magazine, and Maine In Print. I've covered everything from software to psychics; my interview credits include Stephen King, Anne Rice, and William Kotzwinkle.

Thank you for your consideration of this proposal. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Sincerely,Lynn Flewellinghttp://www.sfwa.org/writing/query.htm

Write a query letter for the last novel you just read and enjoyed, but substitute yourself as the
author. Write a query for an article you read in a magazine, but substitute yourself as the author

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

No 22. Writing Dialogue


Riding on the bus from the Cornavin Train Station to the UN building in Geneva takes ten minutes. Two American young women sat near me. I knew they were American because their sentences were peppered with "like" and "you know." I started counting when we were at the main Post Office, half way. In five minutes they used the two phrases over 200 times.

"Like, you know, he called and like he said, like do you want like to do something you know?"

"Like what did ya say."

"Like I told him, you know, like…" and on and on and on.

Besides wanting to strangle them to get the story out without all the "likes" and "you knows" it reinforced the point that we can't merely copy real dialogue. We need to write dialogue realistically - a dilemma at best. (I admit to being an eavesdropper and have no desire to reform. It's a great way to get story ideas.)

For example the following conversation must be repeated millions of times each day, but makes boring reading.

"Hello," she said.

"Hello," he said.

How are you," she said.

"Fine," he said.

One of the reason dialogues like this fails is because it doesn't serve one of its primary purposes, which is to move the plot forward.

Many novices make the mistake of putting in too much information that the other speaker knows.

"You know, Sis, our Auntie Helen who lives next door at 113 Embury Avenue, and is married to our Uncle Ed, and works at the same supermarket as you do, is coming for dinner."

Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, but I've seen things close to that in the first efforts from my creative writing students.

Information should be imparted, but it has to be based on information the other speaker doesn't know. The same information given is more believable if done this way.

"Hey, Sis. Auntie Helen is coming to dinner. Did she say anything to you at work?"

"Didn't talk to her. When I went on break, she took over at the cash register. The store was mobbed today," she said. "Uncle Ed coming, too?"

"Don't know. Run next door and ask."

At least we know that Sis and Auntie Helen work together, Auntie is coming to dinner, she's married to Uncle Ed and they live next door. The rest of the information can be imparted in background information if it is necessary.

Dialogue can also be used to show character. People can be assigned speech mannerisms like the word "like" if it is not overdone. Gs' can be dropped, a man can talk down to a women by calling all of them sweetie, etc.

A character's educational level can be shown by the vocabulary used. A high school drop out might not use six-syllable words. A pretentious college professor would. However, if we use too convoluted language for the professor we'll lose our readers.

What people say can contradict their actions.

"I love you," he said right before he hit her.

Dialogue can also show accents, but caution is necessary. Too much can be hard to read. Consider this example of the Bostonian accent.

"I flunked out of Hahvahd, but Bawston College accepted me. That was too hahd for me, too."

A single sentence might work or wohk, but imagine reading that for 250 pages.

Dialect can be shown. While in Boston I was buying a camera for a friend, who wanted to take advantage of cheap US prices. The clerk waiting on me was from Russia. Later the same day watching a skating show, several Russian skaters were interviewed. I noticed none used articles in their speech. Likewise the English don't use the article the in front of the words hospital and university. They go to university, and are rushed to hospital. And if your character is a Scot, an occasional "wee" would not be out of place. Irish people sometimes refer to family with the word our.

"Our Maria will be late getting home."

If characters speak foreign languages sprinkling the foreign phrases is sufficient. Peter Mayle in his books does well in showing foreign language usage. A good trick is to use a foreign phrase and then explain it in the dialogue such as:

"C'est vrai?" Jean-François looked doubtful.

"It's true," Marie-Claude said.

Many new writers vary the appellation: she said, asked, replied, demanded, cried, smiled, grinned, screamed, whispered, etc. This marks the writer as an amateur. Use said or asked almost exclusively. An occasional whisper or screamed might be acceptable only in extreme situations. You want the reader to easily identify the speaker but you want the appellation to be invisible to the reader. Some writers avoid appellations as much as they can.

A way to get around it is to ascribe an action to the speaker.

"I won't go." Amy folded her arms across her chest.

"Oh, yes you will," Her mother grabbed her hair and pulled her.

If you want to check how your dialogue sounds, read it into a tape recorder and listen. Or have friends read it aloud. If anyone stumbles that is clue the dialogue doesn't work. Also what doesn't sound right becomes clear.

A quick word on punctuation based on manuscripts I've reviewed from new writers. (Experienced writers, please humor me). The correct formats are:

"I love you," he said. Quote mark-speech-comma-quote marks-lower case on a pronoun appellation-said-period (or full stop).

"You love me?" she asked. Quote mark-speech-question mark-quote marks-lower case on a pronoun appellation-period (or full stop).

Americans tend to use " marks and the United Kingdom uses '. Likewise quotes within quotes are reversed.

American: "I heard Aiden say, 'No way am I going,' and then he laughed, that laugh," she said.

English: 'I heard Aiden say, "No way am I going," and then he laughed, that laugh,' she said.

How you do quotations depends on which market you are preparing your manuscript for.


Example 1

This sample is from THE REMAINS OF THE DAY by Kazuo Ishiguro and is an excellent example of moving the plot forward. The butler Mr. Stevens, does not want to leave his duties. The housekeeper conveys the gravity of the situation in print. The hesitancy of the butler shows his character. He puts his job before his father. The relationship between the housekeeper and the butler is shown because it reveals what she did for the father and she is not about to accept no for an answer but calmly keeps adding information to convince the butler that he really cannot wait any longer.

'Your father has become ill, Mr. Stevens,' she said. "I've called for Dr. Meridith, but I understand that he may be a little delayed.'

I must have looked confused, for Miss Kenton then said: 'Mr. Stevens, he really is in a poor state. You had better come and see him.'

'I only have a moment. The gentlemen are liable to retire to the smoking room at any moment.'

'Of course. But you must come now, Mr. Stevens, or else you may deeply regret it later.'

Example 2

Jane Smiley in MOO doesn't use appellations in this sample. There is little doubt who is speaking. She does use ellipses and contractions. Notice the punctuation.

Marly, who had finished her shift after lunch and gone home without passing Lafayette Hall, was just waking up from a long nap when Nils called her from the emergency room at the hospital. She looked at her watch as she answered. It was nearly seven and she had slept through Father's suppertime. Where was Father anyway? She picked up the phone on the fourth ring after calling out. "Father" Father? You here? and receiving no answer. Rooms were dark.

"…pick me up because Ivar is all involved with the police," said Nils.

"What are you talking about?"

"Well, my dear, you'll be happy to know that my injuries seem to be very slight, although I am sure that there will be neck problems later on. And I am going to press charges against that little mat -"

"Nils, I've been asleep, so I really don't know what you are talking about."

Example 3

This sample is from TRUFFLED FEATHERS, a mystery by Nancy Fairbanks and shows how incorrect speech can be used. A waitress is speaking.

"You'd have to ask the cops. They didn' tell us. Ask a hunderd questions, don' answer none."

Later the waitress says…

"Well, it's not like people don't get offed in Jersey, too. Ma's got MS. She thinks someone's gonna break in an' tip over her wheelchair. Like anyone would think she's got anything worth stealin'."


  1. Eavesdrop on a conversation somewhere and try and transcribe it as accurately as possible. What are the speech mannerisms? Can you guess the social status and/or educational level of the speakers?" Rewrite it to a meaningful dialogue. (Don't get caught listening)
  2. Go to a movie or watch a DVD and listen closely to a dialogue between two characters in a single scene. Play it over and over. How is information given to the listener in dialogue? Unlike in prose, the background information is shown. Now go back and see what information you get from the set, the facial expressions, etc.



An earlier W3 wrote about naming characters. Netscape has just reported the 20 most popular names for babies born in America during 2003. They are really different than names chosen even five years ago. As we said in an earlier edition we need to select names that are appropriate for the birthplace and birth date of the character.

20 Most popular boys names.
Aidan/Aiden/Aden (could this be because of SEX AND THE CITY?), Jaden/Jayden, Caden/Kaden, Ethan, Caleb, Dylan, Jacob, Jordan, Logan, Hayden, Connor, Ryan, Morgan, Cameron, Andrew, Joshua, Noah, Matthew, Addison, Ashton

20 Most popular girls' names:
Madison, Emma (did Rachel and Ross have anything to do with this?), Abigail, Riley, Chloe (Good thing I named the baby in my novel CHICKPEA LOVER NOT A COOKBOOK this), Hannah, Alexis, Isabella, Mackenzie, Taylor, Olivia, Hailey, Paige, Emily, Grace, Ava, Aaliyah, Alyssa, Faith, Brianna


As writers we are so concerned about getting the words right, but we seldom think of the units that make up words, units being letters. I came across a book I found fascinating called HOW 26 LETTERS SHAPED THE WESTERN WORLD ALPHABET by John Mann. I'll never take my vowels and consonants for granted again.


Q: Who is D-L NELSON?
A: D-L Nelson is an American who makes her living as a novelist and freelance journalist. Her fiction and poetry have been published in six countries. Her novel CHICKPEA LOVER (NOT A COOKBOOK) is in its second edition hardback and will appear in paperback this year. It will also be published in German and Russian this year depending on completion of translations. She divides her time between Geneva, Switzerland, Argelès-sur-mer, France and Boston, MA USA.

Q: Where do the ideas for topics come from?
A: The first few issues were topics that I taught in my creative writing class at Webster University in Geneva and in seminars. Over half of the topics have been suggested by readers. In two cases, I felt that other people would be better to write the theory part of the newsletter. Thus Larry Habegger, publisher of the popular travel anthologies Travelers Tales
www.travelerstales.com and Susan Tiberghien, author of LOOKING FOR GOLD, www.susantiberghien.com were guest writers.

Q: Why do you describe it as an "almost monthly" newsletter.
A: To give my self wiggle room in case my life goes out of control.

Q: Why do you do this?
A: I started writing in a vacuum. I could have learned my craft faster had I known some simple tricks. Eventually through writing seminars, my M.A. in creative writing at the University of Glamorgan in Wales, and the support of the Geneva Writers Group (GWG), I began making progress in my writing as well as learning the business side of writing. People were extremely generous to me and this is my giving back. And it's selfish. I feel happier with myself when I share.

Q: Can I put announcements in W3?
A: I am happy to include announcements about retreats, seminars, contests as well as print letters and comments, space permitting.