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                      W R I T I N G   W O R L D

A World of Writing Information - For Writers Around the World


Issue 8:04          5,766 subscribers    April 3rd, 2008

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The Editor's Desk
Win A Book Contest
THE INQUIRING WRITER: Four Niggles, by Dawn Copeman
NEWS from the World of Writing
FEATURE: Writing the World: Ten Tips to Breaking into the Guidebook
Market, by Sean McLachlan 
The Write Sites -- Online Resources for Writers
FEATURE:  Writing and the Cosmic Shopping Mall, by Emily Hanlon
WRITING CONTESTS with no entry fees
The Author's Bookshelf

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CHILDRENS WRITERS. Read by most children's book and magazine
editors in North America, this monthly newsletter can be your own
personal source of editors' wants and needs, market tips, and
professional insights to help you sell more manuscripts to
publishers in this growing market segment.  Get a Free Issue.
You can work when you want, choose your boss, and make a 
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                                  FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK

Writing online: the good, the bad and the ugly

Whilst economists and politicians might argue for hours as to
whether or not we are about to enter a recession, the truth, on
both sides of the pond, is that we are suffering the effects of the
credit crunch and could all do with a little extra cash. 

It's not surprising, therefore, that I've received a few queries
recently on how to search for and get the online writing jobs we so
often see advertised or read about in writing newsletters. 

Writing online content can be a good, well-paying job or the job
from hell - it all depends on where you look for the jobs, what
jobs you do and who employs you.
Contrary to what many people would have you believe, some online
jobs are highly specialised and cannot be done by everyone, not
without some training first anyway.  I'm referring to jobs writing
SEO (Search Engine Optimized) content or key word content.  Many
sites will tell you that there is a high-demand for this type of
work (there is) and that anyone can do it, (they can, after
spending considerable time training) and that it pays well (that
depends on how much work you're willing to do for the money). Some
SEO jobs want something like five to ten, 250 - 400 word
SEO/keyword articles a day for between $5 and 10 the lot (not
each).  Others will offer $2 - $3 an article, but remember although
these articles are short; you still have to research and write
them.  Some people who are highly skilled at SEO writing can write
5 articles an hour and do so for 8 - 10 hours a day to make a
living.  So yes, you can make a living with this type of work, but
would you want to?
SEO aside, there are lots of jobs for writers online, some good,
some bad.  Many online jobs boards post requests for writers and
I've gained a few jobs myself this way.  Always check to see if the
job is genuine, check for web addresses to see if the website/ezine
exists and if it isn't yet up and running, check to see what other
sites the editor has run.
Many posts are genuine, but there are also a lot of cowboys out
there who are looking for writing without ever having any intention
of paying the writers. Some people will ask all respondents to
submit a 300 word article on say, Father Christmas, to judge their
writing style.  What's more they send each respondent a different
slant - history, clothes, history in other countries, films, books,
etc.  Never fall for this kind of writing test, the poster will get
all the work he/she needs for his/her website book etc and you
won't hear or earn a thing!   
A list of a few good sites to start to look for online work can be
found at http://www.newbie-writers.com/jobsforwriters.htm
Apart from writing for ezines, or SEO content, you could also
consider the world of commercial online writing - writing site
content, sales emails, writing catalog descriptions or editing
corporate newsletters. If you do accept a commercial online job;
such as one I had writing and editing an ezine for an online gift
store, ensure you draw up a letter of agreement stating your terms
and what you will do for the money, and always, but always ask for
half the money before you write a single word.  
So yes, there are pitfalls in online writing, but it is how I write
and sell most of my work - so it works for me and with a bit of
careful forethought it can work for you too. And in these uncertain
times, every dollar helps.
If you want to find out more about this huge writing market, we
will be running an article on how to find jobs online in the May
edition of Writing-World. 
In this issue we look at getting into the travel guide market, we
have an intriguing fiction exercise and two contests to win free

Until next time, 

                       -- Dawn Copeman, Newsletter Editor

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Two Win A Book Contests


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 by Dawn Copeman (editorial"at"writing-world.com)

Last month Karen Snyder wrote in with not one, but four questions
that, as she said: "niggle me no end."

She asked: "How do you find the focus that lurks in an idea for an
article?  I write short articles - 1000 to 1500 words - and have
plenty of big, fat story ideas and plenty of trouble narrowing
those general ideas into angles.

"How do you organise a slew of notes (papers, papers everywhere)
into a framework so you can write an article?

"How do you come up with good leads?

"Solving those three will help this one, but I need all the tips
you can give me on how to write faster.  I stall a lot and can't
even start until I have a lead I like. So what are your suggestions
for speeding the production process?"

Lisa Malhoney fully understood Karen's niggles. She wrote: "Maybe
this will help - when I struggle to find a good lead, I let myself
write several paragraphs to get the story rolling. This way I can
'think on paper', laying out the words that lead up to the punch
line - a more powerful paragraph - once I finally get to the point.
Then I can usually delete everything that came before that powerful
paragraph and use it for a great lead."

Tony Bennett was more concerned with Karen's article ideas.  He
emailed: "I don't write articles but it strikes me that the 'big
fat ideas' may be too big and fat.
"Breaking them into smaller pieces might help a lot.
"Give your readers' needs a higher priority. See things from the
reader's POV. Do it for the reader rather than yourself."
Finally, Caroline Mufford has some very comprehensive advice for
Karen.  She wrote: "Coming up with ledes (or leads) can be a
nightmare. For a magazine article, if the idea doesn't grab you,
you can work backwards to it several ways. One I have used is to
write the 'fat graf' or fat paragraph first, the one with all the 5
W's that summarizes the essence and direction of the story. 
"The fat graf is actually short. But although it might seem
deceptive, because you are summarizing more than facts but laying
out the bones and direction of your piece, this paragraph takes
time. There is no point in writing more until you get it.
"I might write: 'Behind its rose gardens and Brit-styled afternoon
tea shops, B.C.'s small, island capital city of Victoria hides an
edgy food scene. It has the second highest number of restaurants
per capita in North America, initiators of the 'slow food'
movement, and a cuisine that draws from nearby Asian and First
Nations traditions. The mild climate of Vancouver Island also has
led to production of organic goat cheese and wine and multiple
farmers' markets.'
"Now this is kind of dull, but you see what I mean; it is a summary
of sorts. It lays out the major subject areas to follow, and also
sets out a subtext, the contrast between the city's rep for
sleepiness and its food scene.
"The fat graf is rarely the best lede. Next, I would look at the
material and start drafting it according to the pattern in the fat
graf. Somewhere I hope to come across that telling anecdote, that
brilliant quotation from an interviewee, a captivating scene or
some other element that I plug in above the fat graf.
"Books and other sources on magazine writing can give you 10 or
more of those ways to find a lede. It helps to memorize them and
put them deep in the structure of your brain.
"To summarize, for magazine-style pieces, if I am not inspired
immediately with a lede, I just plunge into working out the fat
graf and the story. The lede often comes last.
"It's a fun but fulfilling process."

That's good advice.

Now, onto this month's question.  What is your most useful writing
tool? (Other than your imagination!)
What piece of writing equipment could you not write without? I
don't mean word processors, but any other type of software or
equipment that makes your writing easier. It could be voice
activated software for people with difficulties typing, or a
mind-mapping software, or novelist software? It could be your
mini-tape recorder or post-it notes! I would really like to know
what piece of writing software or equipment you couldn't write
without - even if it is your pencil!

Email me with the subject line: Inquiring Writer, at 

We will be building on this over the next few issues to share your
experiences and reviews of writing software and gizmos with your
fellow writers.  

And, as always, you can also use this address if you have a
question or problem of your own to put to our writing community. 

Until next time, 

HIRE EX-MACMILLAN EDITOR http://www.AnitaMcClellan.com.
Fiction,nonfiction for all ages: Get the big picture from in-depth
editing, evaluations, synopsis & proposal critiques. Email
adm"at"AnitaMcClellan.com  Subject "DeptWWorld".


Los Angeles Times launches collaborative novel
Starting on March 30, the LA Times published the first chapter of
"Birds of Paradise: A Novel Collaboration" in award-winning
journalist Steve Lopez's column. He wrote this first chapter, but
it will be up to readers to write the rest in a daily contest. Over
the following 26 days, the paper and Web site will publish
consecutive chapters, chosen from entries it receives from readers.
Lopez will pen the final installment on April 25th and the
completed "Birds" tome will appear in its entirety on latimes.com.
For more information visit: http://tinyurl.com/2t49wj

Writers and games designers unite for Penguin
Penguin has launched a unique collaboration between several British
short story writers and games designers to create a new form of
short story.  The We Tell Stories project will create six stories
incorporating Google Maps and Google Earth as well as games and
blogs. The clues unearthed in the first six stories will lead the
reader to a hidden seventh story and the chance to win a Penguin
Classics library worth 13,000. For more information visit:

Young girl with cerebral palsy wins London writing award
A ten year old girl from Houston who suffers from cerebral palsy
has beaten 1,600 other young writers to win the 16 and under
section of the London based "Write Up Your Street" competition.
Jemma Leech used to live in London until a year ago and her
description of a wintry scene wowed the judges. Jemma who also
writes poetry has won $800 worth of books from a London bookstore.
For more information visit: http://tinyurl.com/389yhp 

Hugo Nominees announced
The nominees for the 2008 Hugo Prize, otherwise known as the
Science Fiction Achievement Awards have been announced. The awards,
which are named in honor of Hugo Gernsback, are awarded annually to
books and other forms of science fiction, including screenplays
that have been published or screened in the previous calendar year.
 Unlike many other awards, such as the Nebula award for science
fiction, the winners are determined by voting from the panel
members of the World Science Fiction Society.  Voters have until
July 1 cast their votes and the winners will be announced on August
9 at Denvention 3, the 66th World Science Fiction Convention. To
see a complete list of nominees, which includes the first season of
Heroes, visit: http://tinyurl.com/3y9486

Another 'memoir' revealed to be fake
It seems that the world of publishing has yet to learn from the
publicity disaster that was James Frey's widely reported false
memoir "A million little pieces" and is still not checking whether
the memoirs it chooses to publish are actually that. "Love and
Consequences" by Margaret B Jones has been recalled by its
publisher Riverhead after it was revealed that the poignant tale of
being raised in a black foster home in South Carolina is a fake. To
be fair to Riverhead, they did seek photos and documentary proof
from Ms Jones which she duly provided, but haven't they heard of
Photoshop? However, they couldn't have been expected to check out
whether her 'foster siblings' were in fact hired to play the part -
as they were. All 19,000 copies of her book have now been recalled
to the publisher. For more information visit:
http://tinyurl.com/32h3dp and 
Writing shown to help cancer patients
As writers we all know we feel better when we write things down and
a new study seems to give scientific credence to our feelings. A
study carried out at a cancer center in Washington DC has shown the
therapeutic benefits of writing on cancer patients. Nancy Morgan
asked patients in the center to complete a twenty minute writing
exercise which asked them how the cancer had changed them and how
they felt about those changes. A few weeks later she contacted them
again and almost half of those who had taken part said that they
felt better about their cancer after taking part in the exercise. 
For more information visit:


to learn the details about numerous contract clauses vital to
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Writing the World: Ten Tips to Breaking into the Guidebook Market

                               by Sean McLachlan

A great change is taking place in how the developed world spends
its money. Travel has recently become the biggest discretionary
expenditure, and thus one of the biggest industries. Given the
combination of cheap airline tickets, price wars among resorts and
hotels, and a growing choice of destinations, this trend doesn't
show any signs of slowing down.

And what does virtually every tourist have in his or her luggage? A
guidebook! New guidebook titles appear every year, and the more
established houses are constantly updating and expanding their
lines, or adding new ones. Many writers dream of making a living
from travel writing, and while it sounds too good to be true, it's
possible to do just that. While you won't actually be on vacation
(you still have to research and write, after all) travel writing is
one of the most enjoyable types of writing.

The first thing to remember when working on a guidebook proposal is
that writing a proposal is much like writing the book itself. You
need to prove to the editor you can actually do the job. Here are
some tips for both steps along your path to guidebook publication.
Try to Get into an Update
All guidebooks need to be updated on a regular basis. This is one
of the best reasons to have guidebooks as part of your portfolio,
because it gives you the closest thing to job security any writer
can reasonably expect. While most authors hang onto their titles
like treasured children, openings to update existing guidebooks do
appear. A previous author might have moved away, or be too busy
with other projects. If a publisher says no to your proposal, ask
them if there are any updates you could work on. You won't get paid
as much, and you'll have to share a byline with the original
author, but you'll get your foot in the door.

Favor Local Businesses
Lots of tourists go to the same old chain stores when they're
abroad. While it's comforting to know what to expect when you're
far from home, it isn't really traveling. Encourage them to try
unique local businesses they won't find anywhere else. These give
local flavor and more personalized service. London, for example,
has a popular chain of "Irish" pubs that all look alike and have
very little in the way of atmosphere, Irish or otherwise. The
smaller pubs, many of which have been open for two, three, or even
four hundred years, have heaps of history and serve better beer.
You'll also be happy in the knowledge that you're helping out
independent businesses, and your readers will thank you for it.

Suspend Judgment (for the moment)
Before you start writing reviews, wait until you've seen enough
competing businesses to make a valid comparison. If you had a great
meal at a Japanese restaurant, try some others before you write
about how good it is. You might find their sushi and bentos aren't
nearly as good as the next three places. Also keep in mind that
this job can throw you some curveballs. While I was being given a
tour of one of the first hotels I ever reviewed, I was shocked when
the manager knocked on doors of occupied rooms and, finding nobody
inside at the moment, led me in and showed me around! I vowed not
to put a place with such bad management in my guidebook, only to
discover it was common practice. I hereby apologize to the woman
who left her underwear lying on the bed in that hotel in Phoenix.

Look for a Special Niche
While the market's main demand is for guidebooks giving a general
overview of the destination, a writer with specialized knowledge or
experience can land a contract with some unique lines. Are you an
avid hiker? Several companies publish outdoors series. Do you shop
until you drop? There are shopping guides as well. A history and
architecture buff? Try to break into the Blue Guides. The range of
guidebooks is almost limitless; Avalon Travel Publishing even has a
series on traveling with your dog! 

Get out and Walk!
To properly write up a city, you need to know it like the back of
your hand. The best way to achieve this is to see everything by
walking around all the major areas of interest and exploring
lesser-known places. While some cities, such as L.A., aren't
conducive for this, and you certainly can't walk everywhere if
you're writing a country guide, most cities are surprisingly
pedestrian friendly. When doing my London guide I walked literally
every street in the central part of the city. While this took ages
and ruined my shoes, I stumbled upon many hidden gems I would have
missed if I took the bus and Tube everywhere.

Be an Expert on Everything (or at least know one)
Guidebooks have to please the widest possible readership. Sports
fans want to know about the local teams. Outdoors types want to
hear about hiking trails. The fashion conscious want you to point
them to the chic boutiques. 

You'll need to develop a working knowledge of a whole range of
topics in order to inform your readers. This is the time to make
contacts! Are you writing a guide to Canada and don't know anything
about hockey? Watch the games in a sports bar where they can
explain it all to you. This sort of networking will help you meet
locals who can point the way to other attractions you might have
missed and teach you about the culture.

Don't Rely on the Internet
With so much information online these days, it's tempting to save
your advance and just write the guidebook from home. Unfortunately,
I've seen guidebooks where it is quite obvious that this is exactly
what the writer did. Don't do this! The Internet is a great tool
for finding leads, but you must go to all the places yourself to
check the information. Business people are busy, and updating their
website is often the last thing on their mind. I can't count the
number of times I've gone to a restaurant or shop and found the
hours or prices had changed, but the old information was still on
the Web. Also remember that websites are advertisements, so if a
hotel has dingy floors or a grumpy desk clerk, it's doubtful you'll
find this out by looking at their webpage.

Delve into the Past
A city or country is only the latest stage in a long development
over time. To fully understand your subject, read up on its
history. Get some good, recent books on the subject and visit the
historical society. Many historical societies have excellent
museums to explain the area's story, so you might want to add it to
your list of attractions. Most guidebooks include a history
chapter, and sprinkling historical anecdotes throughout the text
will entertain and enlighten your readers.

Know When to be a Secret Agent
There are times to tell people you're a guidebook writer and times
when you shouldn't. If, for example, you inform the staff at a
restaurant that you're writing a review, you're sure to get great
service and a carefully prepared meal, but this may not reflect the
experience your readers will get. At other times you can tell them
what you're up to. I always tell hotels, because that way I can see
a variety of rooms and ask questions about seasonal rates, the
number of rooms, etc. I also flash my business card at clubs, both
to get in for free and so I can interview the manager. The point is
that nightclubs and hotels aren't going to change because of your
presence, but service can. I tend not to give advance notice,
however, because I want to see how the staff deals with unexpected
developments. I've even had a few places be rude to me! These don't
get in the book. If they can't be polite to someone offering them
free advertising, how do they treat their customers?

Push Your Boundaries
This is related to the "be an expert" advice above. Try everything
your readers might try. Afraid of rollercoasters? How are you going
to review an amusement park without trying one? Don't like hiking?
How are you going to do the Outdoor Activities chapter? Live a
little! The greatest part about travel writing is doing new things,
and you can start right now. Find a market from those listed, and
hunt among publishers for more, and then use the advice in this
article to whip up a guidebook proposal that's sure to sell. Happy

Markets Mentioned in the Text
Avalon Travel Publishing: Publishers of Rick Steves, Moon
Handbooks, Moon Metro, Moon Outdoors, Moon Living Abroad, and The
Dog Lover's Companion. Their popular Moon Handbooks series of city
and country guides is currently expanding into Western Europe, and
most of their calls for submissions are for cities and countries
there. Moon Metro covers cities in a brief format, while Moon
Outdoors covers camping, hiking, fishing, and more. Moon Living
Abroad covers how to live in a particular country. The Dog Lover's
Companion covers dog-friendly trips in the U.S. To pitch a concept
to any of these series, send a cover letter, resume, and up to five
clips to the email given here. Full proposals should include an
introduction, author credentials, competition analysis, outline,
marketing plan, detailed manuscript description. Contact: Avalon
Publishing Group, 1400 65th St., Suite 250, Emeryville, CA 94608.
Email: acquisitions (at) avalonpub (dot) com.
http://www.travelmatters.com/acquisitions. Rick Steves is looking
for savvy writers to cover Europe for their Europe Through the Back
Door series. Send a cover letter, resume, and description of your
travel experience to Europe Through the Back Door, Dept. HR, P.O.
Box 2009, Edmonds, WA, 98020.

Globe Pequot: Publishers of the Insiders' Guide series, these books
covering U.S. regions, states, and cities are both tourist guides
and relocation guides, and so include chapters on health care,
neighborhoods, and other information useful to new residents
alongside coverage of tourist sights and restaurants. The series
includes a few titles on national parks. Proposals should be well
thought out, with a brief synopsis, clear outline, target audience,
details on the competition, author credentials, and how the book
will be unique. Some sample text or outline is also helpful.
Residents of the state or city highly preferred, and any author
must be very familiar with the place before pitching. Their
imprint, Falcon, specializes in regional guides for every kind of
outdoor activity and can be contacted at the same address. Contact:
Submissions Editor--Travel, The Globe Pequot Press, 246 Goose Lane,
P.O. Box 480, Guilford, CT, 06437. Phone: (203) 458-4500.

Lonely Planet: The most popular guide for young backpackers, Lonely
Planet covers most countries in the world. They look for a young,
savvy writing style that's not afraid to criticize where criticism
is warranted. Specific regional experience and experience with
budget travel with Lonely Planet titles a must. Make sure the title
you propose isn't already in production. Check the website for
current needs. Send a cover letter detailing your travel
experience, resume, two clips (preferably travel), and what sort of
book you are proposing to write or update. Potential candidates
will then be contacted and given a writing test. Those who pass are
added to the potential pool of authors, but may wait for some time
before getting an assignment. Contact: Publishing Administrator,
Lonely Planet Publications, Locked Bag 1, Footscray VIC, 3011,
Australia. Email: recruitingauthors (at) lonelyplanet (dot) com
(dot) au Website: http://www.lonelyplanet.com

Blue Guides: Informative guides focusing on history, art, and
architecture, with small sections on accommodation and dining.
Writers need to be thoroughly familiar with a country's artistic
and historical traditions and be able to communicate that in an
in-depth but straightforward manner. They also publish Visible
Cities, cultural guides that are more about the people, while still
including plenty about art, architecture, and history. Another
series is art/shop/eat, short guides for weekend stays in major
U.S. and European cities. Query with cover letter, clips, outline,
and details about your qualifications. Contact: Blue Guides
Limited, The Studio, 51 Causton St., London SW1P 4AT. Email:
editorial (at) blueguides (dot) com. http://www.blueguides.net

Fodor's: One of the largest travel publishers, Fodor's has fourteen
different lines covering all parts of the world. They have hundreds
of titles so make sure you aren't pitching something that's already
been published. Writers should be thoroughly familiar with their
subject and ideally live in the place they want to cover. To be put
in the pool of potential travel writers, send resume, clips, and
cover letter explaining your qualifications and areas of expertise
to "Researcher Writer Positions" at the address given here. If you
have a specific book proposal, send a detailed proposal and resume
to "Editorial Director" at the same address. Contact: Fodor's
Travel Publications, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY, 10019. Email:
contact form on website is not to be used for submissions.


Copyright (c) 2008 by Sean McLachlan

Sean McLachlan worked for ten years as an
archaeologist before becoming a full-time writer
specializing in history and travel. He is the author
of Byzantium: An Illustrated History (Hippocrene,
2004), It Happened in Missouri (TwoDot, 2007), and
Moon Handbooks London (Avalon, 2007), among others.
Visit him online at http://www.seanmclachlan.com or at his writing
blog: http://www.midlistwriter.blogspot.com.
For more information on travel writing visit

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If you want to keep up with what's happening in the world of
writing in between issues of Writing-World, then this is the site
for you. It provides book, creative writing news from around the
world. It's one of my bookmarked sites. 

A comprehensive site packed with well-written and informative
articles on all aspects of freelance writing. Check out the
editorial and the articles bank and then visit the competitions

Web Content Tutorials
This, as we say in England, does exactly what it says on the tin.
It offers articles and tutorials to teach you how online writing
differs from print writing and how to do it effectively. If you do
want to write online, or even if you're already doing it, this site
is a must for you. 

Grant Writing Tools
If you find yourself having to write a grant proposal but don't
know how, then this is the site for you. Bear in mind, this is a
way that many writers not only help their favorite local charity or
project, but also earn money too. 

A light, easy to read blog full of all sorts of snippets from the
world of writing from poetry maps, news of anthologies seeking
submissions and profiles of writing associations. Well worth a
visit. http://writerinfo.blogspot.com/

This blog written by Writing-World Contributor Sean McLachlan is
full of tips gained from over a decade of freelance writing and

five-step process for creating flawless written text. Write It
Right: The Ground Rules for Self-Editing Like The Pros shows you
how! $17.95 + s/h.


WORLDWIDE FREELANCE WRITER - You can download a free list of
writing markets if you subscribe this week. Discover almost 2,000
writing markets from USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Australasia.
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FEATURE: Writing and the Cosmic Shopping Mall - or how to access
your creative mind and silence the inner critic

                               By Emily Hanlon

This thought recently occurred to me: writing from the creative
unconscious -- whether if be fiction, poetry, journaling, memoir or
doodling -- is like walking into a cosmic shopping mall where each
shop offers a different persona for us to try on, actually a
different way of being in relationship to ourselves and the world.
The only means of exchange in this cosmic mall is exuberance,
fearlessness and a desire to share and be shared.

Oh, and there's a key to the mall, too. We all have it in our
pocket when we arrive, even if we don't know it's there. The key is
a desire to break out of the box of who we think we are and who our
families think we should be. It is a desire to fly in a place that,
as John O'Donohue says, "is full of the most melodious and
nourishing and wild freedom. And everyone should go there, to the
wild place, where there are no cages, where there are no tight
rooms without windows and without doors, everyone should go to the
free clearance places in their own hearts."

And so, with our keys, we enter the mall. There, in every window we
see amazing costumes. Here there is a multi-colored cloak of the
finest silks, feathers and gemstones. The price: a desire to shine.
Here there is a hat that reaches the clouds and is made of
glittering stars and moons floating in what seems to be space
itself. The price: a desire to expand consciousness. There are
shops with nothing but wings: dragon wings, fairy wings, butterfly
wings, lace wings, velvet wings, silk wings in all colors known and
unknown. The price: a desire to fly. The shops go on and on, for
they are as cosmic as our creative potential. And what is even more
amazing, is that just the perfect shops show themselves to you as
you walk by.

I believe each time we return to this cosmic shopping mall, we find
different shops... shops beyond persona, shops of beauty, depth and
mystery that we weren't ready to see when we first arrived. Our
eyes and our hearts were not open enough. We were not ready to
allow our spirits such freedom of expression and flight. But
amazingly, as time passes and we integrate these new parts of self
into who we are, we see that there was no shopping mall at all.
That we never had to pick or choose - all that magnificence was
inside us all along!

As creative women and men, we are at home in such mystery; we carry
those rhythms, colors and songs inside ourselves. Once this becomes
part of our consciousness, we are on a path from which there is no
looking back.

A Writing Exercise to Access Your Creative Mind

How to bypass the dictates of the mind, which is home to the Inner
Critic, and write from the heart and gut, which are the realms of
the Inner Writer, is basic to my teaching. The best way I know to
make this shift is to use the image as a bridge into the
unconscious. Why? Because the image resides in the right side of
the brain, the place of dreams and sensations. The Inner Critic is
terrified of a place where its logic, judgments, criticisms and
evaluations go unheeded. Why? Because the right side of the brain
is far too chaotic, imagistic and sensory for something as
complicated as language. Further, the Inner Critic lives to
maintain the status quo, something that is meaningless in the
cosmic potential of the creative unconscious.

What follows is an exercise that takes you through the process of
using the power of the image to unleash creativity. Then there are
three writing prompts along with suggestions on ways to move from
the free fall of the image into developing character and story born
of the imagination.

The Exercise

Close your eyes and take three deep, circular breaths. When you
breathe, imagine you are inhaling your Inner Writer. When you
breathe out, imagine you are exhaling your Inner Critic.

With eyes closed, imagine you are alone with your Inner Writer.
Follow her as she leads you into the cosmic world of the creative
unconscious. It is a world outside of time and space where nothing
is predestined and everything is possible. If what you see makes
little sense, you know you're in the right place! 

After a while, become aware that you are looking for an image to
make itself known to you. When you see the image three times - no
matter that it makes no sense -this is your image, a gift from the
Inner Writer that will start you on a new and exciting journey.
Write down the image on a piece of paper.

Now the magic of working with image as guide is going to reveal
itself. For that to happen, you have to allow your image to shape
shift. But you can't "think" or try to make it happen. You can't
control, question or try to figure out the shape shift. Are you

Write down the answer the following questions quickly. Don't think!
If one answer makes a previous answer seem untrue, remember, we are
in the realm of the imagination where nothing is as it seems.
Answer quickly. Don't second guess yourself.

Close your eyes and ask your image to shape shift into an object in
nature, i.e., a tidal wave, a black rose... whatever... What is it
Now your image is going to shape shift into an animal, what kind of
animal is? Go for a primal animal; it holds more passion and risk.
So, if a kitten comes to mind, shape shift it into a lion, tiger or

Now your image is going to explode with new color. Remember, the
color does not have to make sense. Coloring outside the lines is a

List as many adjectives as you can think of to describe your image.

List as many nouns as you can think of to describe your image.
Write fast. Don't worry if you are writing down adjectives instead
of nouns or vice versa.

List as many verbs as you can to describe how your image moves.

Name your image.

Look at your lists and underline the words that hold the most
energy, positive or negative.

Make a list of these words. Using these words as a jumping off
point, write some sentences. This is the beginning of a new story
growing out of the gift of the original image. Don't think. Let the
rich and plentiful images that rose up out of your creative
unconscious be your engine. Write even if what you write makes no
apparent sense. 

If you get stuck, see if you have enough dramatic tension. If not,
arbitrarily throw in something like a fight. Why a fight? It
creates immediate tension, which gives energy to your story. Or
throw in a stalker or a thief, a seductress or someone in flight.
Alternately, go back to your list. Pick out another word or image
and see if that gets the juices flowing. Or simple ask your image
to write for you.
Any of these suggestions will work if you shut off your mind (the
home of the Inner Critic), put pen to paper and let the writing

This exercise is not about writing the perfect story. It isn't even
about writing a story, although one may come out of it. It's about
accessing the creative unconscious differently.

Remember, your image is a gift from your Inner Writer and its many
shape shifts are the key. Write without thinking. Write fast. In
the world of the imagination, there is no right or wrong. Go for
it, have fun! 


Copyright (c) 2008 by Emily Hanlon

Emily Hanlon is a writing coach, a creativity coach and novelist. 
As a writing coach, Emily demystifies the writing process with her
two pronged approach of teaching technique and unleashing
creativity. In addition to private coaching, she offers, workshops,
retreats, TeleSeminars and TeleWorkshops. 

For more information and advice on fiction writing visit:


Julie Bloss Kelsey teaches you all you need to know about finding
writing jobs online

Shaunna Privratsky guides us through a winning format for selling

Plus your responses to the Inquiring Writer and advice from Moira
in the Writing Desk, I know I promised you a Writing Desk this
month, but the issue is just too packed!

Your next issue will appear in your inboxes on May 1st.



TheFictionWritersJourney.com is the website of writing coach and
novelist, Emily Hanlon. Emily demystifies the writing process with
her two pronged approach of teaching technique and unleashing
creativity. She offers coaching, workshops, and TeleSeminars and is
holding a weekend retreat in Litchfield, CT May 2-4. Emily also
offers two Mentoring Programs: Creativity as A Wellspring of Life
and Writing Your Story, Creating a Tapestry of Your Life: Memoir
Writing as a Healing Journey. If you are looking for help on
writing technique or unleashing your creativity, explore these
TeleSeminars from Emily Hanlon, now 50% off.



========================================================= This
section lists contests that charge no entry fees. Unless otherwise
indicated, competitions are open to all adult writers.
DEADLINE: May 1, 2008
GENRE:  Short stories
DETAILS:  1-3 stories, maximum 600 words and 4 minutes 30 seconds
performance time for each story. 
OPEN TO:  British Commonwealth citizens.
PRIZE:  2000 plus radio broadcast of story
URL:    http://tinyurl.com/2jly6e
EMAIL:  story"at"cba.org.uk

DEADLINE: May 1, 2008
GENRE: Poetry/short stories
DETAILS: Poetry: 1-5 poems; Fiction: one story, 8,000 words maximum
PRIZE: $150 in each category & publication
URL:    http://tinyurl.com/3apgqf
EMAIL:  kjames"at"barton.edu

DEADLINE: May 15, 2008
GENRE: Poetry
DETAILS:  1 poem, max 30 lines. Poems should pertain to a spiritual
theme or should relate to spiritual direction.
PRIZE: $100, 3 runner up prizes of $75 & publication.
URL:  http://tinyurl.com/3c539v
EMAIL:   poetry"at"sdiworld.org

-- -------------------------------
DEADLINE: May 15, 2008
GENRE: Short Stories
OPEN TO:  Residents of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa,
Wisconsin, and Michigan
DETAILS:  4000 words maximum short story. 
PRIZE:  $10,000 & publication and radio broadcast
URL:   http://tinyurl.com/3bttg7

DEADLINE: May 29, 2008
GENRE: nonfiction/short stories
DETAILS:  The Zip Book welcomes intelligent, motivating, thought
provoking writing which complements our mission of promoting civic
engagement and philanthropy. Types of writing may include; zines,
travel stories, personal accounts, blog excerpts, fiction,
folklore, social critiques, philosophical inquiries, short stories,
or other relevant writing. If your zip is chosen, The Zip Book will
post it on the site for viewing. Your zip will then be entered into
a competition where site users may vote on which zips shall be
published in the hardcopy book. Previously published work welcome
as long as author holds rights. Zips are generally between 500 and
5,000 words.
PRIZE:  $1000, $250, $50 & publication in The Zip Book
URL:    http://www.thezipbook.com/
EMAIL:  submit"at"thezipbook.com

DEADLINE: May 31, 2008
GENRE: Short stories/Poetry
OPEN TO: Writers aged 14+ from anywhere in the world.
DETAILS: 3 categories to enter: miniSTORIES - a narrative in prose
or verse in 50 words or less; miniVERSE - any verse form under the
sun as long as the word count is between 25 and 75 words; HAIKU -
the quintessence of short form poetry. Any form from traditional to
contemporary western forms including the 'zip'. 
PRIZE: 250 in each category.
URL:  http://tinyurl.com/37pf94  
EMAIL: miniwords2008"at"charnwood-arts.org.uk


AUTHOR'S BOOKSHELF: Books by Our Readers


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