Sunday, September 30, 2012

Can you sum up your life in 91 words?

In honor of author Keith Hoerner and Nancy Baumann of Stonebrook Publishing, I want to share this 91-word memoir contest from Gotham Writers Workshop. Keith and Nancy spoke yesterday at Saturday Writers, and offered dozens of tips on writing memoir.
All entries must be original, unpublished and 91 words in length, not including the title. It’s free to enter, but only one entry per person is allowed. The deadline is Oct. 15. Follow this link for more information and an entry form. 
If you missed the meeting, don't worry. I’ll write more about Keith and Nancy later!
Write soon,

Friday, September 21, 2012

Not Your Mother's Book

I have an essay in the first Not Your Mother’s Book series “On Being a Woman,” which is scheduled for release Oct. 9! 

Write Soon,


Monday, September 17, 2012

Three minute fiction

It’s Three Minute Fiction time again at NPR. I’m including a link that has all the details.

Don’t forget to read the previous winning entry titled Rainy Wedding. It will break your heart.

Good luck,

Write soon,

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

More on titles

After my recent (Aug. 24) post about book titles, I’ve heard from a few friends who shared some of their favorites on the writing craft. Pat Wahler, who blogs at , told our critique group about Naked, Drunk and Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay, by Adair Lara. She called it a great book on writing memoir.

Lara is a writing instructor and the author of more than ten books. She won the AP Award for Best Columnist in California for her weekly column in the San Francisco Chronicle. You can read an excerpt on

Another one of my favorite books on writing with a great title is Too Lazy to Work, Too Nervous to Steal – How to Have a Great Life as a Freelance Writer, by John Clausen. I discovered this book many years ago at my local library when my son attended a preschool program there. It’s one of those books written in a style that is comfortable and familiar, like a friend talking to you, but a smart friend who has lots of good information that is immediately pertinent and applicable.

So if you want some inspiration, check out these great books. Then tell me what you think, or add some others to the list!  

Write soon,

Monday, September 3, 2012

Don't take a chance on plagiarism

Have you ever heard the theory that in fiction, there are only 36 plots? If that is true, how could we not steal from each other? Everybody does it, so it must be OK. Or, it’s an obscure source, no one will ever know, I’m pretty sure.

Sound familiar? Have you used the words or ideas of others and claimed them as your own, and then justified it with the phrases above? As a writer, you should carefully review any work you publish, double-checking every piece of information you get from other sources.  

A former student who plagiarized a paper told me that she inadvertently turned in the wrong document. She had collected information from the Internet in a document. Then she wrote a paper in another document, but accidentally printed out the first document (not the one she wrote) to turn in.  

Could that happen? Yes. I have pasted information from other sources into documents. The difference is, I cite them or credit them even if I rewrite them. That’s right. It’s plagiarism when we use the words of others and don’t credit the source. It’s also plagiarism when we use the ideas of others and don’t credit the source.

According to, “the expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property, and is protected by copyright laws, just like original inventions. Almost all forms of expression fall under copyright protection as long as they are recorded in some way (such as a book or a computer file).”

One trick I use to prevent inadvertent plagiarism is to italicize any information I use from another source. My original work is not italicized, so within a document, I can easily see what is mine and what isn’t. Before I came up with this system, I had to cut some paragraphs from an article because I couldn’t identify the writing. I thought it was mine, but hadn’t identified it, so I erred on the side of caution and didn’t use it. Why take a chance on plagiarism?

Write soon,