Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Getting Your Poetry Published

by Michelle Wolf
Guest blogger Michele Wolf, who leads a workshop on How to Get Your Poetry Published this Saturday, November 1 at The Writer’s Center, speaks about her own publishing experiences.  

Years ago, once I had started to submit my poems to literary journals and anthologies, a classified ad in a prominent writers’ magazine caught my attention. The ad sought poems, fiction and photographs for an anthology about women and aging, and I had a poem—“For My Mother,” below—that I thought might be a good fit for it.            

         For My Mother*

I sharpen more and more to your
Likeness every year, your mirror
In height, autonomous
Flying cloud of hair,
In torso, curve of the leg,
In high-arched, prim, meticulous
Feet. I watch my aging face,
In a speeding time lapse,
Become yours. Notice the eyes,
Their heavy inherited sadness,
The inertia that sags the cheeks,
The sense of limits that sets
The grooves along the mouth.
Grip my hand.
Let me show you the way
To revolt against what
We are born to,
To bash through the walls,
To burn a warning torch
In the darkness,
To leave home.

I sent off the poem, and it made the cut. My payment was a few contributors’ copies—until the anthology, When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple, took off, winning national awards and eventually selling 1.7 million copies. For several years, thanks to an extremely generous publisher, who sent new contracts to all the contributors, I earned $2,000 to $3,000 annually in royalties. It was an amazing windfall, a real aberration in the poetry world. Of course, I can’t promise that a little miracle like this could also happen for you. But I can offer some tips to boost your odds of making the cut.

If you'd like to place your poems in literary journals and anthologies, what are the best resources for helping you discover which venues are soliciting work? What tactics are best to help you determine the specific publications that are right for you? What is a chapbook? How do you know when your manuscript is ready to submit to a book competition? Is self-publishing a direction to consider?

These are just a few of the questions I will answer in Getting Your Poetry Published. Though it’s exceptionally competitive to get your poems accepted for publication—either in print or Web literary journals or in book form—there are lots of ways to enhance your chances. I look forward to meeting you so I can share what I've learned.

Michele Wolf is the author of Immersion (selected by Denise Duhamel, Hilary Tham Capital Collection), Conversations During Sleep (Anhinga Prize for Poetry) and The Keeper of the Light (Painted Bride Quarterly Poetry Chapbook Series award). Her poems have also appeared in Poetry, The Hudson Review, North American Review, Boulevard, and numerous other literary journals and anthologies. She serves as a contributing editor for Poet Lore. Visit her website.
* “For My Mother,” by Michele Wolf. Published in Conversations During Sleep © 1998 Michele Wolf. Published by Anhinga Press and winner of the Anhinga Prize for Poetry. Originally published in When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple, edited by Sandra Martz.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Anam Cara, on Ireland’s West Coast, a Place that Nurtures Creativity

Writer retreats offer authors an opportunity to get away from daily concerns for weeks and focus on their writing. They come in many forms, some in faraway locales, others, closer to home. Long-time workshop leader Solveig Eggerz, who has led workshops as a visiting writer at the Anam Cara retreat in Ireland, shares her interview with director Sue Booth-Forbes.

Last summer I spent one week teaching a memoir class at Anam Cara Writer’s and Artist’s Retreat on the Beara Peninsula and another week doing my own writing. In this beautiful setting of  blue ocean, green meadows, and purple wild rhododendrons, my restless urban world receded and the writing I’d struggled with back home flowed. Having experienced this miracle of unleashed creativity, I was curious to learn about the origins of Anam Cara. In an interview, Anam Cara’s director, Sue Booth-Forbes, who originally hails from Utah, describes Anam Cara  as her dream realized. Back in 1997, she was working at a stressful job in Boston and ready to make some changes in her life.
What inspired you to found Anam Cara?
In August 1997, I decided to spend a month in a thatched cottage overlooking Galway Bay in Connemara, Ireland, with two longtime writer friends. We organized our days around our own writing. I hired a horse for the month and learned the skills necessary to run the beautiful cottage—building turf fires, picking and preparing our huge harvest of blackberries, using stones from the strand to cook Kansas-style barbecued ribs. 
How did that experience impact your own writing?
We all found that the rhythm of life and nature in Connemara supported our writing and our souls. Our days there became the model for Anam Cara. I discovered that if I had a place where I could slow down inside—enough to hear my own voice—I could do my best creative work. My daughter Maren and I spent the first week of December 1997 buying Anam Cara, which means “soul friend,” named in the hope that it would house many, including myself, who would become soul friends to themselves and to each other. By June 1998, I had moved in and had begun recreating for others what I had experienced.
How did you choose the house for Anam Cara?
Claudia Harris, a writer and English professor, who ten years before had introduced me to her beloved Ireland, came to West Cork. Claudia saw a "For Sale" sign on a house with a lovely view. She had visited us in Connemara and knew that she was seeing here what I had described to her as what I was seeking. That house is now this retreat and my home.
Over 400 books fill the alumni shelves and art work covers the walls at Anam Cara. Can you talk about the origin of these works?
The books are written by writers-in-residence, the art created by artists-in-residence, the end products of people pursuing their passion, honing their skills, and giving themselves permission and time to retreat from the dailiness of their lives. These include Jhumpa Lahiri, Billy Collins, Leanne O'Sullivan, Alex Barclay, and nearly 1,000 other creative people, who found that working at Anam Cara supported their producing their best work. One of the first writers to come to Anam Cara said that the peace of Anam Cara and of Beara made it possible to quiet down inside and hear her own voice.
What would you say to writers and artists planning a retreat at Anam Cara? 
Come focused on your work and replace any expectations with your good intentions for your time on retreat. The best part of being Anam Cara's director is getting to know the writers- and artists-in-residence and their work. They have taught me much about the creative process. Your genre or medium may be similar to someone else's, but your approach and creative process are always unique and inspirational. My aim is to provide a space for you, as you work with your creative gifts, that will help you recognize the "soul friend" in yourself, in your work, and in others.
To contact Sue Booth-Forbes at Anam Cara Writer’s and Artist’s Retreat, please visit

Solveig Eggerz is the author of the award-winning novel Seal Woman. Her writing has appeared in The Northern Virginia Review, Palo Alto Review, Lincoln Review, Midstream, Issues, The Journal of the Baltimore Writers’ Alliance, The Christian Century, and Open Windows: An Anthology. She holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature with a focus on medieval English, German, and Scandinavian works.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Leesburg First Friday: Inside the Mind of an Agent

by Linda Budzinski
We’ve all been there: cyberstalking—I mean, dutifully following—our favorite agents’ blogs and Twitter feeds in a seemingly endless quest to figure out what they’re looking for and how we as aspiring writers can attract their attention.

This month, the Writer’s Center–Leesburg Committee made that quest a little simpler, hosting agent Shannon O’Neill of Lippincott Massie McQuilkin at its October First Friday event at the Leesburg Town Hall. O’Neill offered an inside perspective into agents’ preferences and expectations and answered dozens of questions from audience members on topics ranging from how to find the agent who is right for your work to the elements of an effective query.

O’Neill spoke at length about attracting agents for non-fiction. Unlike fiction, where writers should complete the entire work before querying, non-fiction queries can take the form of a proposal with sample chapters. A key to a successful non-fiction query, she said, is establishing and communicating your platform. “Why are you the person to write this book, and why now?” she asked. “What’s the audience that is out there waiting for it?”

Coming Up in November

Speaking of non-fiction, the November First Friday event will feature Hilary Black, special projects editor at the National Geographic Society and author of The Secret Currency of Love (William Morrow), an anthology of original essays about how money affects and transforms personal relationships. At 7:30 PM on November 7, Hilary will share tips on how to write engaging non-fiction and how to catch  an editor’s eye, as well as her insight into the current market for nonfiction and what she is looking to acquire for National Geographic Books.  

The Writer’s Center–Leesburg Committee offers events the first Friday of every month except for December, January, July, and August. Events are held at the Leesburg Town Hall, 25 W. Market St., Leesburg, VA 20176.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Five Laws of Effective Writing and the Writing Staycation

by Zahara Heckscher

Why is it so hard to write at home? Yes, I can knock off some emails and short articles at my desk. But why is it so hard to do my best focused writing at home?

If you are like me, you have found that your best writing happens somewhere else – a hotel room on vacation, a cozy chair in the cafĂ©, or in a class with other writers. Why?

Based on extensive research and self-observation, as well as facilitating ten Writing Staycations, I am pleased to announce the discovery of the Five Laws of Effective Writing.

1.      Writing Law of Inverse Distance. The quality of your writing has an inverse proportion to your proximity to your laundry and kitchen.

2.      Writing Law of Healthy Habits. A schedule that includes regular walks, healthy food, and balanced caffeination will promote better writing than sugar-crazed temporary writing highs.

3.      Writing Law of Parallelism. Your efficiency of writing increases when someone nearby is also writing, creating a “Parallel Writing Efficiency Zone” in the region.

4.      Writing Law of Finite Time. Writers have more success when they write with deadlines and time limits than when they write with unlimited time.

5.      Writing Law of Structure. A well structured day of writing will increase productivity compared to an unstructured blob of writing time, which can easily morph into a blob of Facebook checking and irrelevant research projects.

I’ve designed the Writing Staycation to apply all these laws in a week of intensive writing. You bring your writing project—anything from an essay in your mind, to a manuscript to polish. I supply a room far from your laundry, with other dedicated writers, plenty of caffeine and health snacks, inspiring lunch speakers, and a writing schedule aimed at maximum efficiency. I also provide optional afternoon walks, one-on-one consults, and a structured day with tons of time to write.

In the past ten Staycations, I have seen amazing results—from poetry chapbooks compiled to memoirs started to manuscripts outlined to books completed.

Apply the Five Laws of Writing Efficiency with us at the next Writing Staycation, November 1-14, 2014. Hope you’ll join us. Register here.