Welcome to Inkygirl: Reading, Writing and Illustrating Children's Books (archive list here) which includes my Creating Picture Books series, Advice For Young Writers and IllustratorsWriter's and Illustrator's Guide To Twitter, interviews, my poetry for young readers, #BookADay, writing/publishing industry surveys, and 250, 500, 1000 Words/Day Writing Challenge. Also see my Inkygirl archives,  and comics for writers (including Keiko and Will Write For Chocolate). Also check out my Print-Ready Archives for Teachers, Librarians, Booksellers and Young Readers.

I tweet about the craft and business of writing and illustrating at @inkyelbows. If you're interested in my art or other projects, please do visit DebbieOhi.com. Thanks for visiting! -- Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Monday
Feb082010

Writers' community highlight: PublishersCafe

From time to time, I'm going to highlight some of the great online communities for writers. Today I've picked PublishersCafe, the message boards hosted by indie press PublishingWorks, Inc. From their description:

Welcome to PublishersCafe, the unique authors' and readers' on-line coffeehouse where the ups, downs, positives and negatives of writing-related topics and publishing are discussed. Here you will discover the knowledge and experience to help you grow as authors, writers, publishers and agents.
For more info as well as PublisherWorks updates, follow @corb21 on Twitter.

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Monday
Feb082010

Weekly Wordcount Challenge Check-In (250, 500, 1000 wds/day)

Do you need a wordcount challenge with some leeway? Check out the challenges below: 250 wds/day | 500 wds/day | 1000 wds/day
So how did you all do with your daily wordcount challenges since the last check-in?

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Wednesday
Feb032010

iPad bashing now compared to iPod bashing in 2001

Lots of gleeful iPad-bashing out there. Interesting to compare the comments to early reactions to the launch of Apple's iPod, which ended up selling over 220 million units by Sept/2009: From a Wired article:

The iPod is expected to hit Apple's online store and the company's retail outlets on Nov. 10. It will cost $399. For all Jobs' excitement, though, Apple users at Mac discussion sites seemed a bit crestfallen that the device wasn't as revolutionary as the company had promised last week. Indeed, many said it was over-priced and under-powered. "Apple has introduced a product that's neither revolutionary nor breakthrough, and they've priced it so high that it's reminiscent of the Cube," a post on MacSlash said. The message then offered some ideas for what "iPod" might stand for. These won't make Jobs happy: "I Pretend it's an Original Device," it suggested, or "idiots Price Our Devices."
From MacRumors comments (check out one of the original threads for more iPod-bashing):
‘I still can’t believe this! All this hype for something so ridiculous! Who cares about an MP3 player? I want something new! I want them to think differently! Why oh why would they do this?! It’s so wrong! It’s so stupid!”
“Sounds very revolutionary to me. hey – heres an idea Apple – rather than enter the world of gimmicks and toys, why dont you spend a little more time sorting out your pathetically expensive and crap server line up? or are you really aiming to become a glorified consumer gimmicks firm?”
All that hype for an MP3 player? Break-thru digital device? The Reality Distiortion Field™ is starting to warp Steve’s mind if he thinks for one second that this thing is gonna take off.
From commenters after Slashdot announced the Apple iPod:
And I was all excited they were going to release a OS X based wireless web pad. Instead we get yet another portable MP3 player .. "groundbreaking" I think was the term I heard them use to describe this new secret product the other day. How "groundbreaking" can something be when I can walk up the street and buy something with similiar (and in some cases, additional/better) features?
Keep in mind it’s $400 right now becuase the Apple Fanatics will have to have one. They’ll pay anything for the latest cool toy from Apple. In 6 months, hopefully the rest of us will be buying the 20GB version for $200.
I am very sad that Apple seems to be repeating the same mistake they made with the Cube - great, nifty product that anyone would love to own, except that it's burdened by an unbelievably poor price/performance ratio.
Unfortunately $400 is about twice as much as I'd want to pay for something the size of a pack of cards.
No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.
I don't see many sales in the future of iPod.
Me? I'm still excited, and I'm holding off doing an iPad review until I actually have had a chance to use one. Also see the comments posted in http://ipadgirl.posterous.com.

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Wednesday
Feb032010

Recommended: Darcy Pattison's Fiction Notes

One of my favourite sources of retweet material is Darcy Pattison's blog, Fiction Notes. If she was on Twitter (as far as I can tell, she's not), I'm sure she'd be one of the most retweeted writers ever. (Edit: I've switch the link for this book to Amazon at Darcy's request since she says that indie bookstores may find it hard to obtain.) Hm, and I notice she has a book on revision: NOVEL METAMORPHOSIS: UNCOMMON WAYS TO REVISE. Anyway, do visit her site for excellent tips on the craft of writing: http://www.darcypattison.com/

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Tuesday
Feb022010

How Shannon Delany's cell phone novel ended up as a St. Martin's Press book

After posting short stories to Textnovel.com, Shannon Delany (previously writing as Saoirse Redgrave) ended up with a St. Martin's Press book contract for 13 To Life, a new YA paranormal werewolf novel. Shannon kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her experience: What got you interested in cellphone novels? I was a naysayer to Textnovel.com until they changed their contract to make things fairer for authors and then I decided to test the system by posting two stories. How did you find out about Textnovel (http://textnovel.com/)? 13 to Life started as just a title and a very vague set of characters. I wrote it "by the seat of my pants" and even had readers participate in polls so I could use some of their choices to challenge my preconceived notions of where the story might go and how characters might look. I posted 2 brief serial sections daily, each with a "hook and a hang." I incorporated the internet where and when I could to build more depth and interactivity (those links are now gone, though). Could you give me a one-sentence description of what "13 To Life" is about? How long is it? How long did it take you to write? My main one-liner is : A tale of teenage love, loss and--oh, yeah--werewolves. I went with this because although the werewolf presence is significant in the books, I'm dealing even more heavily with plain old humanity and our many mistakes and struggles. 13 to Life is not what many traditionally consider a standard werewolf (or monster) novel. I've had a number of authors who are generally not fans of werewolf stories say they loved mine because it wasn't the norm. The Textnovel version of 13 to Life took me five weeks to write (posting two short sections most days, morning and early evening). Then it was an additional month to flesh it out so I was generally satisfied. After copyedits I think the debut novel in the series is right around 370 pages (a far cry from the original cellphone novel which was probably around 50 pages). What was the Textnovel contest called? What were the rules? How much did you win? Geez. Hmm. In 2008 it was the only contest Textnovel ran, so I think it was simply Textnovel 2008. Rules were simple--you needed a certain number of "chapters" (I believe it was 20), you needed a decent popular vote (but didn't need to be the most popular), needed to show a strong marketable story and voice and integrate the technology available in some way (that last bit being more of a suggestion than rule). Two of my stories wound up in the top group as the contest was getting ready to close and I focused my attention on 13 to Life. I won $1,000 (which definitely helps on a farmstead during winter when hay's running tight). You mentioned that you got agency representation -- was this part of the contest winnings? Yes, I still sort of chuckle when people ask how I got my agent and I can say, "I won him." Were you nervous about being the agency's first client? What is the agency's name and what's your agent's name? Yes, I was definitely nervous about being the first client. I figured I'd be the guinea pig and that the third and fourth clients would benefit a lot more because of what my agent learned through working towards getting me published. I had a long phone conversation with him and (having heard a talented friend bemoaning the fact agents were nearly impossible to find) decided having someone in my corner was better than not having anyone. And, frankly, I'm a big believer that there's still a lot for me to learn about all this (and I hope folks have patience with me) so having patience with someone else as they start out is just sort of what I'd expect. How did your agent approach St. Martin's Press? Did he/she just send them your winning story? Propose a full-length book? etc. He actually put out a press release about the contest win and St. Martin's Press contacted us before queries were even out. Yes. I know. It all sounds crazy. Wow, exciting that a movie producer and another major publishing house contacted you as well! Did your agent approach them? If not, how did they find out about you? What made you decide on St. Martin's Press? Yeah, the sudden attention blew my socks off. And all that attention was totally unsolicited (just that press release). I remember giggling a lot during those first few months because everything was so richly surreal. My agent chatted with all of them and asked me if I didn't think 13 to Life could be a series. I had actually been chatting with my husband about that and knew I could get 4 or 5 books out of my characters and scenario with absolutely no stress, but I only really had three firmed up, so we asked about three and St. Martin's Press agreed. I think the thing that really made me say yes to St. Martin's Press was knowing how excited they were about my series and getting to talk to my editor quickly. Communication is VERY important in this business. Knowing my opinions and concerns are being listened to are big things for me. Was it difficult turning your cellphone novel into a "traditional" novel? How long did it take you? It took about a month. I knew from pretty early on what I really wanted to do with 13 to Life so it wasn't like I needed to build brand new subplots or deepen characterization--I just needed the time and space in word count to make it work. When I started 13 to Life on Textnovel.com it was November 24 and I only had until December 31 to complete it (and watch my son and run our farmstead)--there was no way I could pump out the quality and quantity I needed at that point for a full novel. Why did you decide on the pseudonym Saoirse Redgrave? I did it because I figured there'd be some backlash from people. One of my CPs told me repeatedly she didn't think my participation was a good idea and I wanted to be able to just walk away if the whole experiment was a failure. 13 to Life was what I call a "cannon fodder" story initially. I was just shooting stuff out there to see if I'd get anywhere near target. I had almost nothing invested in it initially--until I really found Jess's voice and I realized she and I have a bunch in common. The pseudonym was also partly because I know some people who have a real issue with fantasy or paranormal elements in writing and I balked at having them discover I was writing werewolves. Saoirse means "freedom." I think every author and artist should have that. But it's also miserable to spell, so now I'm being listed under Shannon Delany (Delany means "dark" or "defiant"). Eh. "What's in a name, right?" ;-) How are you publicizing the book before its June 2010 release? I joined 2k10 (a great group of YA authors making their debut in 2010), I'm lining up a blog tour thanks to some great authors who want to host me, I've reserved a spot at Free Book Friday Teens, I'm speaking at RT Booklovers' Convention in Ohio and I'm making it clear that I'll happily chat with nearly anyone who wants to talk to me or have me as a guest blogger. I was a teacher and I firmly believe that creative writing--and the arts overall--are necessary to encouraging the development of more creative personalities instead of destructive ones. Know a book club or creative writing group that wants a speaker? I'm game. We'll have at least one more book trailer for book 1, and I'm also being mentioned in a couple magazines between now and then. Once book 1's out and book 2's on its way we'll make an even bigger push (signings, a couple events to help service groups and charities I support--all that tie into the books) and the website will become much deeper and much more interactive for folks who want a more involved experience in the town of Junction. You can find out more about Shannon and her book on the Class of 2K10 site .

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Tuesday
Feb022010

iPhone app for writers: Write Chain

Writers with iPhone should check out Write Chain, an app which provides motivation by storing word counts for each writing session and tracks the total words written across all sessions. The "chain" part of the whole strategy is to try to write for as many days in the row as possible. If you miss a day, you break the chain...unless you change the settings to allow yourself some leeway. Cost of the app: FREE, at least right now. Check out the rest of the How Now Not To Write site for helpful tips for writers from Jamie Grove. Found out more about this app at the Write Chain site. Related: List of other iPhone apps for writers.

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Monday
Feb012010

Weekly Wordcount Challenge (250, 500, 1000 wds/day) Check-In

Do you need a wordcount challenge with some leeway? Check out the challenges below: 250 wds/day | 500 wds/day | 1000 wds/day
So how did you all do with your daily wordcount challenges since the last check-in?

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Friday
Jan292010

iPad: No "ragged text" or hyphenation option in iBooks e-reader?

From Fox News: Clayton Morris and fellow reporters use the Apple iPad, examining the e-book functionality. Rumor has it that the iBooks e-reader currently does not let readers choose an "unjustified text" format. I hate reading justified text but am assuming that future version of iBooks will fix this. From a post by John Gruber:

iBooks uses full-justified layout for books, with no apparent option to switch to ragged right. It doesn’t do hyphenation, so you wind up with very unsightly word-spacing gaps. No e-reader I’m aware of does justice to proper book typography, but I was hoping for better from Apple. It’s decent web-caliber typography, not print-caliber typography.

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Thursday
Jan282010

Why I'm excited about the Apple iPad

I was excited about the idea of an Apple tablet long before the hype began. I remained excited despite the build-up hype. And yes, I'm STILL excited now that the announcement's been made and people are scrambling over each other to dissect, critique and mock. I'm not a tech guru, so can't defend the iPad against some of the criticisms about what the iPad should have had. I also don't claim to be an e-reader device expert, so won't attempt to do a detailed comparison of the iPad with other e-readers at this point. No, I'm not crazy about the name but heck...it's just a name. My focus will be on how well the iPad is going to work for me. I'm mainly excited about the Apple iPad because of its e-reading possibilities. Yes, it's backlit. But so is the iPhone, and I've been reading e-books on my iPhone for a while now, with dozens of e-books on my virtual bookshelf. I'm looking forward to having a sleek, portable device with more screen space that's easy to carry around. I will always love the sensual joy of holding a print book, but I also love the idea of being able to carry around a library of books without the back strain and arm strain that comes with it. As someone with occasional tendinitis issues, this is a major boon. I'm disappointed that the iBooks store isn't available in Canada yet, but I figure that since iPhone apps will work on the iPad, I'll just keep reading e-books the way I do now...but on a larger screen. Plus as with the Kindle, I figure Canadians will get access once Apple sorts through the red tape. The Stanza and e-Reader people probably started revamping their products for the iPad as soon as the specs came out. The iPad's built-in reader supports the ePub standard, a standard adopted by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) as an open-standards-based format for digital books. I'm curious to see how Apple handles copy protection, especially if they'll allow iPad users to import unprotected ePub documents. I'm also excited by the glimpse of some of the other features we saw in the Apple presentation, especially the calendar. I use iCal right now, and that's a pain to use on a small iPhone screen. (Update, after talking to Alice Ching-Chew: The iPad would be GREAT for sheet music! Much easier than carrying around my binders of printed out music.) But most of all, I'm excited about the idea behind the iPad. The science fiction nerd inside me loves the idea of holding so much information and functionality in something the size of a thin book (about 9.5" x 7.5", 1/2 inch deep). I'm excited to see future versions as Apple continues to tweak and improve, and can't wait to see what comes next. Jeff pointed out that the iPad delivery date roughly coincides with my birthday at the end of March. Yay! I'm going to be pouring most of my fangirl ravings pre- and post-iPad arrival into @ipadgirl and ipadgirl.posterous.com. Warning: my posts will not always be objective and may occasionally devolve into way too many exclamation marks. If you don't mind that, feel free to follow.

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Wednesday
Jan272010

New Apple iPad starts at $499 | iPad info roundup

For those who missed the liveblogging from the Apple announcement, here are some good summaries: AppleInsider's overview of iPad specs and info about AT&T's no-contract iPad data plans, which run $15/mo. 250MB, $30 unlimited. Apple iPad Just Tried To Assassinate Laptops:

It's the 'internet device' vision of a decade ago all over again, except now Apple can offer what is arguably the best user experience for internet and media consumption combined with a very reasonable (for a brand new gadget) price.
BNN blog transcript: Steve Jobs presents the Apple tablet Mashable: Apple Introduces iPad Tablet Device Boy Genius Report: Apple iPad recap Need more iPad goodness? The iPad video is now on the Apple site. Am I getting one? Oh, yes. I've also started a new Twitter feed called iPadGirl. :-)

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Wednesday
Jan272010

Where to get live coverage of the Apple tablet announcement today

CARTOON EMBED CODE: (Before embedding, see my cartoon licensing info.)

 

As some of you may already know, I have been obsessed (yes, I said OBSESSED) with the possibility of an Apple tablet for ages. I even launched a separate Twitter account (@tabletgal) just for posting any info I found. I can't believe the announcement's going to be made TODAY. Finally. But now there's the morning to get through...eek. I think my brain's going to explode if the announcement isn't made soon. Here are some sites doing live coverage of the event at 10 a.m. PST / 1 pm EST: Engadget Gizmodo MacRumors.com PC World Wired Technologizer If you know of others, please post below. I'd like to ask a special favour of Inkygirl readers and ask that Apple naysayers NOT post below, just for today. For the rest of you: are you going to be tuning in for live coverage, or waiting until after the event to read the news?

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Monday
Jan252010

Making More Time To Write: E-mail Follow-up

E-mail pile Thanks for all the feedback to my post, Making More Time To Write: Cleaning Up Your Inbox and Improving Your E-mail System. Thanks especially to Travis for pointing me to Mailplane, a desktop Mac app for Gmail users: From Travis:

When I used the Gmail interface for my email (via a nice little Mac app named Mailplane), I organized it with the Multiple Mailboxes plugin which is available from the “labs” link. From there, I created various Getting Things Done type boxes where I would file email as it came in. This made the inbox really an inbox, not where things lived indefinitely.
LOVE this program! I have a public Gmail account as well as a private account, and Mailplane makes it much easier to switch between them. Mailplane has a ton of other useful features as well. I'm also using the Multiple Mailboxes plugin Travis mentioned. Thank you, Travis! How are the rest of you doing with your e-mail box clean-up? Because of the changes I've made in my e-mail system and flow, my inboxes are STILL under control, yay! Here are a few other tips and comments from readers: From Nathan Carriker:
Personally, I scan email often and reply to actual personal communications IMMEDIATELY, before they get lost in the haze. Everything else I know I can scan for later, and will be deleted automatically at some far flung future date after it’s faded to utter, total irrelevance anyway so I just ignore them.
From Meryl K Evans:
Here’s a good habit to have: when an email newsletter comes in and you find yourself deleting it without a thought… stop. That’s the time to unsubscribe to it. Being the organized freak I am, I tend to keep inbox clean on a daily basis. I prefer to do that than risk a pile up of new messages. I address every message as it comes in — just like regular mail: 1. File / archive / delete. 2. Address if only takes a couple of minutes. 3. Leave if requires more time — but I don’t leave it long. 4. Unsubscribe.
From Larissa:
I use yahoo email, and I have folders for just about everything. So, if I’m not sure I want to delete something, I move it to the appropriate folder. That way, it is out of my inbox, but still available if I need to refer to it later.
From dogboi:
I’m a huge fan of Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero. I get really obsessive if my inbox has stuff in it, lol. I have a system of folders for keeping things I need, and a series of filters for moving stuff out of my inbox that doesn’t need my immediate attention (like twitter notifications, for example). That way, it’s not in my inbox (and not triggering things like my phones notification system), but I can still see its new by looking at Gmail and seeing that a particular folder has as unread count. Since I own the domain my mail is on, I set my email address up as a catchall, so anything @ my domain will reach me. What this means for me is that I can use different email addresses for different things. So for social networks, my email address is social@mydomain and for news sites my email address is news@mydomain. It all gets to my inbox, but it is easily filtered based on the to: field in the header. If you own your own domain and use Google Apps to host your mail, this is easy to set up.
From Daisy Whitney:
I too want to reduce the amount of times I check email but I have also moved to web only access via gmail and I don’t use client software which reduces the decision making time on whether to keep an email in a folder or delete. I keep all non salesy emails such as those from clients, friends, editors, agent, etc with the arhive feature so I can move quickly out of inbox but find in a search in seconds.
From PaulaO:
Message filters. Make them your friend. Multiple mailboxes (addresses) for the different personas. And/or folders where messages are shuttled to. My geek email address has a folder for my ham radio stuff and another for my webhost. My author email address has a folder for my publisher and another for the publisher’s marketing/promotion list. Thunderbird email client. Not sure I understand nor like the latest release but I’m still learning how to use it. The “junk” button is great in that it learns from me what to consider junk then starts shuttling the junk ones before I even see them. And speaking of spam, make sure you are truly a subscriber to that newsletter before you hit the “unsubscribe me” link at the bottom. The vast majority of email spam/trojans/viruses are geared toward M$Outlook. I’m not into FB (although I have an account) and certainly not Twitter (no interest whatsoever) and rely heavily on email for communication. I also am slowly getting out from the Yahoo!Groups and finding forums instead. More organized, less crap, less Yahoo! privacy concerns.
To see the rest of the tips and comments, see the messages posted at the end of my original post on e-mail clean-up.. Thanks for your feedback, everyone!

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Monday
Jan252010

Ruth Ann Nordin: tips to help self-published authors increase sales

Ruth Ann Nordin has offered advice on how authors can increase their book sales, based on her own experience in selling her self-published book. As she points out, her sales are still modest, but her post is a good source of ideas on how to build an author platform in a year. Thanks for sharing, Ruth Ann!

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Monday
Jan252010

Weekly Wordcount Challenge Check-in (250, 500, 1000 wds/day)

250 wds/day | 500 wds/day | 1000 wds/day
So how did you all do with your daily wordcount challenges since the last check-in? To find out more about daily wordcount challenges, click any of the links above.

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Friday
Jan222010

Mary Kole on growing a thicker skin

One of my favourite blog for children's writers is Mary Kole's Kidlit.com. Mary Kole is an associate agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Quote from her post today:

It’s in your best interest to develop a thick skin, learn how to take criticism and rejection, separate yourself from what you’ve put on a page, learn everything you can about the industry, get realistic, and keep writing every day. The one-in-a-million publication stories are the ones you hear because they’re glamorous. Most people get published through the tears, snot, spilled coffee, midnight breakdowns and rare moments of joy that comprise a long time spent chasing a dream. It’s not terribly sexy, nor is it quick. But that’s how people make it and that’s the truth.
I strongly recommend writers to read the entire post (not just for kids' writers!) and browse her blog for valuable writing advice. You can also follow her on Twitter at @Kid_Lit.

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Friday
Jan222010

Countdown to January 27th: Anyone else hyped?

Anyone else hyped?

CARTOON EMBED CODE: (Before embedding, see my cartoon licensing info.)

 

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Friday
Jan222010

Before entering writing contests, ALWAYS read the fine print

WorkLifeGroup is running a writing contest that's meant to help them find contributing writers but in my opinion, they're going about it the wrong way. "We're aiming to identify writers all from over the globe to write for us on an ongoing basis; to join WorkLifeGroup as contributing writers (paying gigs, naturally!)." No entry fee, prize is $500. Deadline: Jan 31st, 2010. Before you enter, however, be sure to read all the terms and conditions. Not only does the story have to be original and written specifically for the contest, but the company says they may use your writing in their site even if you don't win:

WorkLifeGroup reserves the right to publish any and all entries submitted, but publication may not indicate the entry has won a prize.
Also, although they assure you that you retain the copyright to your writing:
The Author grants WorkLifeGroup a perpetual license to display online and use the authored content contributed by the Author.
I'm sure that WorkLifeGroup is sincere when it says that it's looking for writers it can hire in the future but as the contest guidelines are currently written, it certainly sounds like an easy way for them to get free content. Check out #13 below:
Copyright 10. The Author retains copyright to the story created and contributed to the web site. 11. The Author grants WorkLifeGroup a perpetual license to display online and use the authored content contributed by the Author. 12. For the story judged the winner, in consideration for the prize money awarded the Author grants an exclusive perpetual license to display online and use the authored content contributed by the Author, and will not allow the story to be displayed online on any other web site. 13. The perpetual license for WorkLifeGroup to use the authored content includes possible use for product commercialisation, promotion, and education, and may include use in whole or in part, including extracts and quotations.
Some hopeful writers may be fine with these conditions but I suspect experienced freelancers will shy away. Whatever your level of experience, always remember to READ THE FINE PRINT.

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Friday
Jan222010

Helping Haiti Heal: fundraising podcast Sat 2 pm

Writers and fans are joining forces in a live fundraising podcast this Saturday at 2 pm. You can find more info here. Prizes include props from the Harry Potter movies, 30 pages of original fiction critiqued by Rosemary Clement-Moore, 20 pages of fiction edited by Cheryl Klein of Arthur A Levine Books, and TONS more.

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Wednesday
Jan202010

Scribophile: New Beginnings writing contest

Scribophile has launched the New Beginnings writing contest. They're accepting short stories (up to 3000 words) featuring the theme "new beginnings." First prize is a $100 gift card to Amazon.com plus credit for 3000 words of professional editing service from Elite Editing. 2nd place is a $50 Amazon.com gift card. No entry fee, but it looks as if you need to become part of the Scribophile critique community AND post some critiques first before you're allowed to enter. Deadline is March 31, 2010. For more info, see the contest info page.

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Wednesday
Jan202010

Interview with Chuck Ingwersen, greeting card writer/designer

Chuck Ingwersen is a freelance writer and cartoonist who posts his "cartoons, short stories and bad poetry" on his humor blog, Words And Toons. You can find Chuck's greeting cards at http://www.zazzle.com/chuckink. How did you get into greeting card design? I've created funny greeting cards for family members for as long as I can remember, and it's been my goal for years to become a published greeting card writer and artist. After more than 20 years as a newspaper writer, editor and page designer, I made the leap into the freelance world in 2007, and I'm happy to say I've have had some success in the greeting card field. In 2007, Gallant Greetings started a new line of humor cards, and I submitted dozens of my creations. Gallant bought 16 of my cards from those submissions. Since then, I've sold a good number of my cards to Shoebox (Hallmark's humor line), Oatmeal Studios and It Takes Two. How do you come up with your ideas? Do you sit down and have brainstorming sessions? Do you carry and notebook and write down ideas as they come? I'm constantly brainstorming throughout the day, and if I get what I think is a good idea I'll grab the notebook and jot it down. A notebook next to my bed is a must, since many ideas come just before I fall asleep. I also set aside blocks of time a couple days each week in which I'll write in a stream-of-consciousness mode, letting ideas flow without much editing. I love going back later to polish those scribblings into fully formed ideas. What made you decide to sell your own cards? I was intrigued by the Print On Demand model and where online sales might be headed, so I decided to test the waters. It's great to have cards online not only for the opportunity to sell them, but to get feedback and to be part of an artists community. How many cards do you sell a month? The number of sales varies wildly by month and by season. I had terrific sales from my Zazzle store in November, selling roughly 2,000 cards (plus a good number of other products featuring my artwork). Of course, most of the cards I sold were Christmas cards, and many of those sales were bulk sales. The largest bulk sale was 800. Obviously, Christmas purchases make November the best month for sales, by a wide margin. By comparison, I sold just over 200 cards from my Zazzle store in October. How much do you make selling cards a month? Or if you'd rather not share that specific info, approx. what percentage of your total income per month comes from the cards that you sell on sites like Zazzle and Greeting Card Universe? Percentage of total income is fairly small, but the arrow is going up for online sales as I continue to add new designs. Which site do you prefer: Zazzle or GCU? (and why) What are the pros and cons of using each? Zazzle has become a clear favorite for me. It offers a wide variety of products to work with, good store customization and promotion tools, the ability to set your commission percentage and a very active community. For creators who focus strictly on cards, GCU is a good option and provides a fair commission structure. I have to say that both Zazzle and GCU do a tremendous job with their printing. The quality of the printed cards is first-rate. Why don't you also sell on Cafepress? I felt like I got lost in the enormity of Cafepress, and didn't have much success there. I found it less inviting a community than Zazzle. After CP changed its commission structure (to the detriment of artists) not too long ago, I closed my CP store. How much marketing do you do? The short answer: Not enough. I do some promotion on my cartoon and humor writing blog (wordsandtoons.com) and my webcomic ( http://captainscratchy.com ), as well as Facebook. Twitter is still on my to-do list. What advice do you have for beginning card designers? Besides "do better marketing than me," here are a few tips: 1) It all starts with creating high-quality content, and that starts with having a passion for the art/writing. Without the passion for the work itself, it can get discouraging when online sales are slow or when the card companies reject your submissions. 2) You'll really have an edge if you find a niche that isn't being filled — something that makes you stand out in a crowd. But make sure it's something you love to do. Don't try to "play to the market." Do work that pleases and inspires you, and the joy you put into it will be evident. 3) Hone multiple skills. In my case, my writing skills often give me an edge over people who are better artists than me. Some people are excellent marketers, which might give them an edge over a great designer who is marketing-challenged. Some people get the edge by having superior tech skills. My point is that even if you're a great designer, learning other skill sets can make a huge difference. 4) Be able to take rejection in stride, and be persistent. I've had some success in a relatively short time as a freelancer, but I've also had plenty of my submissions rejected by various card companies. That's a given for a freelancer. The competition is fierce and budgets have gotten tighter. Rejection doesn't mean your work isn't good. Rejection just means you have to dust yourself off and prepare to send out the next batch of submissions.

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