Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Publishing Trends

A Sunset to One Region is a Sunrise in Another Part of the World:
So the Ebb and Flow of Publishing   
Change happens, whether we want it to or not. This is life. Anyone who tries to teach you the ways of publishing prior to the 1990's is giving misinformation, false hopes. A writer must "catch the wave" and ride it or be left in a backwash.

The truth? Traditional publishers are struggling, grasping at straws, mostly accepting manuscripts from already well-known authors, like James Patterson, in hopes they'll sell. Well, Patterson is falling in favor and young adult titles are taking the lead, and many of those titles selling by the millions are independently published.

As a writer, take time to explore the industry before making a decision as to your path. One resource is Publisher's Weekly at, who now reviews self-published works, even publishes a select number. Peruse a few "Select" reviews and note the quality of plot and story, the interesting characters described, which are as good as any in your local B&N. These are not slouches, lazy writers.

Sure, if you wish to go the traditional route, give it a good try, but know this: publishers buy concept, will sometimes rewrite your work, and will only buy what sells. What is selling today? Hmmm... the world of publishing would have us think every reader has gone mad and only feeds their mind with violence, vampiric fantasy. 

Now, I've gleaned an article from New York Times and pasted portions below. Though it's a few years old, still shows a tad of today's reality. Seek to stay true to the story you've created and never, ever allow your work and good name to be sold "down the river". Whatever route you take, make certain that you get professional critiques, edit and rewrite, and then hire proper editor services for your work, that is, unless you're picked up by a traditional press who will assign an editor.

Be Inspired... to excel! -G.H. Sherrer

The New York Times January 7, 2009
"Many people incorrectly assume that profit is the sole motive for self-publishing. For many writers, creating the work and then sharing it is its own reward."
Todd R. Lockwood, Burlington, VT

Self-Publishers Flourish as Writers Pay the Tab
By Motoko Rich
"The point may soon come when there are more people who want to write books than there are people who want to read them. At least, that is what the evidence suggests. Booksellers, hobbled by the economic crisis, are struggling to lure readers. Almost all of the New York publishing houses are laying off editors and pinching pennies. Small bookstores are closing. Big chains are laying people off or exploring bankruptcy.
"A recently released study by the National Endowment for the Arts found that while more people are reading literary fiction, fewer of them are reading books.
"Meanwhile, there is one segment of the industry that is actually flourishing: capitalizing on the dream of would-be authors to see their work between covers, companies that charge writers and photographers to publish are growing rapidly at a time when many mainstream publishers are losing ground.
"As traditional publishers look to prune their booklists and rely increasingly on blockbuster best sellers, self-publishing companies are ramping up their title counts and making money on books that sell as few as five copies, in part because the author, rather than the publisher, pays for things like cover design and printing costs.
"In 2008, nearly 480,000 books were published or distributed in the United States, up from close to 375,000 in 2007, according to the industry tracker Bowker. The company attributed a significant proportion of that rise to an increase in the number of print-on-demand books.
"For some authors, the appeal of self-publishing is that they can put their books on the market much faster than through traditional publishers.
"Of course, authors who take this route also give up a lot. Not only do they receive no advance payments, but they also often must pay out of their own pockets before seeing a dime. They do not have the benefit of the marketing acumen of traditional publishers, and have diminished access to the vast bookstore distribution pipeline that big publishers can provide.
"During an economic downturn, books tailored to such narrow audiences may fare better than titles from traditional publishers that depend on a more general appeal.
"Louise Burke, publisher of Pocket Books, said publishers now trawl for new material by looking at reader comments about self-published books sold online. Self-publishing, she said, is “no longer a dirty word.”
"Diamonds in the rough, though, remain the outliers. “For every thousand titles that get self-published, maybe there’s two that should have been published,” said Cathy Langer, lead buyer for the Tattered Cover bookstores in Denver, who said she had been inundated by requests from self-published authors to sell their books. “People think that just because they’ve written something, there’s a market for it. It’s not true.”"

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Writer's Resource: Your Editor

Don't Toy Around when Choosing and Editor
Yesterday, once again, a profound truth came to my attention. It is vital. A writer must have a good editor, needs one like a fish craves water. By "good", I mean the right editor for your work.

Most editors used to academic manuscripts will slash and burn the free-style artistic license typical of creative writers. Forget incomplete sentences for emphasis. Won't happen. Likewise, someone used to editing creative humor will be stifled by precisely-written scientific journaling or newspaper columning. A reader of thrillers will never get your humor, may find it trite and silly. Generally speaking, of course. There are always exceptions.

One editor I've used, and can highly recommend, is Paul Hawley. He comes with more than two decades of experience. What impressed me most is his versatility, his broad spectrum of genres. While he can spot the most minute out-of-place comma, for example, he may give suggestions of a better word or phrase to get a point across. Always, the final decision is with the writer. Hawley uses all the capabilities of Miscrosoft Word editing tools, and will teach a writer its nuances, if necessary. I've pasted below the type of editing Hawley offers and Web site.

No matter how good a writer you are, a writer has blinders on when it comes to seeing the defects, missing information, wordiness, etc., etc., of his own manuscript. Be Inspired... to excel! -G.H. Sherrer

Editing services by Editor Paul E. Hawley
"This [Hawley's introductory letter at above Web site] leads to a primary service, a preliminary step, that "clear-eyed look":  examining what you've written to help you discern what work it may still need and whether that work should be done by an editor or by you. If you need guidance, that's part of my job. Call this an evaluative edit, a term I've made up because we need it.
I'm here above all to help you discern the next step to take with what you've written, and only then to perhaps offer my services as your editor on the text. In fact, "editor" is one of those words with too many meanings. It can mean anything, including a thorough unpacking and critiquing of how a text is put together, its tone and vocabulary, the depth of its themes (nonfiction) or the dimensionality of its characters (fiction), and numberless other possible needs for reworking. I'd call that a developmental edit, and it's at one end of the spectrum. 
At the other end, your manuscript may need no more than a careful proofreading to make sure of spelling and punctuation -- and perhaps attention to the details of your typing so that it will go smoothly into typesetting. The intermediate needs can be grouped under a copy edit -- from checking for good flow and clear sentence structure, correct word choice, and the like to detailed suggestions to help the flow, adjusting the pace in spots or overall, shortening or tightening this passage or amplifying that one, and the like."

Monday, February 27, 2012

Writing a Query Letter

The query letter, whether to an agent or publisher, can be a daunting task. When selecting your agent from look carefully at each one's requirements and follow precisely. While some agents never read these, others make a decision based upon the query. So there you have it. A writer must write well... always. Below are some general guidelines taken from AQ. Be Inspired! - G.H. Sherrer 

The Basics

"A query letter is a single page cover letter, introducing you and your book. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s not a resume. It’s not rambling saga of your life as an aspiring writer. It’s not a friendly, “Hey, what’s up, buddy. I’m the next John Grisham. Got the next best selling thriller for ya,” kind of letter. NOT more than one-page.

A query letter has three concise paragraphs: the hook, the mini-synopsis, and your writer’s biography. Don’t stray from this format. You won’t catch an agent’s attention by inventing a creative new query format. You’ll just alienate your chances of being taken seriously as a professional writer. A query letter is meant to elicit an invitation to send sample chapters or even the whole manuscript to the agent. It’s not meant to show off how cute and snazzy you can be by breaking formatting rules and going against the grain. Keep it simple. Stick to three paragraphs. The goal is to get the agent to read your book, not to blow you off because you screwed up the introduction.

Paragraph One—The Hook: A hook is a concise, one-sentence tagline for your book. It’s meant to hook your reader’s interest, and wind them in.

Here's an example of hooks:

House of Sand and Fog
When Massoud Amir Behrani, a former colonel in the Iranian military, sinks his remaining funds into a house he buys at auction, he unwittingly puts himself and his family on a trajectory to disaster; the house once belonged to Kathy Nicolo, a self-destructive alcoholic, who engages in legal, then personal confrontation to get it back.

The "When" Formula: As you can see, we’re a fan of the when formula: “When such and such event happens, your main character—a descriptive adjective, age, professional occupation—must confront further conflict and triumph in his or her own special way. Sure, it’s a formula, but it’s a formula that works.

However, be warned...everyone and their grandmother who reads this site will try using our "when" formula, so we recommend simply using it as a starting point. Write your basic hook, then try spicing things up as you get more and more into the groove.

Here's a non-"formulatic" hook for a nonfiction book:

Into Thin Air
On assignment for Outside Magazine to report on the growing commercialization of the mountain, Krakauer, an accomplished climber, went to the Himalayas as a client of Rob Hall, the most respected high-altitude guide in the world, and barely made it back alive from the deadliest season in the history of Everest.

Other Great Ways to Start Your Hook:

  • Give era and location: Three Different Examples:

    1. Set in modern-day Jerusalem...
    2. During the summer of 1889 in a rural Texas town...
    3. Taking place in turn-of-the-century New York City...

  • Set up your main character: Three Different Examples:

    1. The tale of Una Spencer, wife of Melville's legendary fictional whale harpooner Captain Ahab...
    2. A chatty cozy mystery starring 50-something college professor Bell Barrett...
    3. Narrated by Cot Daley, an Irish peasant girl kidnapped from Galway and sent to Barbados...

  • Variations on the "when" formula: Three Different Examples:
    1. Following a botched circumcision...
    2. While defending a drug-addicted prostitute accused of murder....
    3. After years of abuse at the hands of her alcoholic mother and step-father...

    Paragraph Two—Mini-synopsis: This is where you get to distill your entire 300 page novel into one paragraph. Lucky you. We’d like to offer advice on how to do this, but really, it just takes practice, hard work and lots of patience. Then, like we said before, get your friends to read it and if their heads hurt afterwards, go back to the drawing board. We don’t envy you. We really don’t. Summing up your entire book in an intriguing single paragraph is worse than a root canal.

    So think of it this way. You had trouble writing the gist of your book in one sentence, right? Now, you get a whole paragraph. About 150 extra words. Here’s your chance to expand on your hook. Give a little bit more information about your main characters, their problems and conflicts, and the way in which adversity changes their lives. Read the back flaps of your favorite novels and try to copy how the conflict of the book is described in a single, juicy paragraph. You can do this. You really can. You just have to sit down, brainstorm, then vomit it all out onto the page. Afterwards, cut, paste, trim, revise, and reshape.

    Paragraph Three—Writer’s bio: This should be the easiest part of your query. After all, it’s about you, the writer. Okay, so it’s a bit daunting, especially if you’ve never been published, never won any awards, hold no degrees from MFA writing schools, and possess no credentials to write your book. No problem. The less you have to say, the more space you have for your mini-synopsis. Always a plus.

    If you do choose to construct a writer’s bio (and you should), keep it short and related to writing. Agents don’t care what your day job is unless it directly relates to your book. Got a main character who’s a firefighter, and that’s your day job? Be sure to say that. Otherwise, scrap it. Education is helpful because it sounds good, but it’s only really important if you’re offering a nonfiction book about A.D.D. children and you hold a PhD in pediatric behavioral science. If you’ve published a few stories in your local newspaper, or a short story in a few literary magazines, or won any writing awards or contests, now’s the time to list the details. Don’t go hog wild, but don’t be too modest either.

    Your Closing: Congratulations! You’ve finished your query letter. As a formal closing, be sure to do two things. First, thank the agent for her time and consideration. Second, if it’s nonfiction, tell them that you’ve included an outline, table of contents, and sample chapters for their review. If it’s fiction, alert the agent that the full manuscript is available upon request. And in case you still don’t believe us, we want to reiterate: don’t query agents until you’ve finished your full fiction manuscript. Agents will want to read the whole novel before they offer representation to you and your book."

  • Sunday, February 26, 2012

    The Dark Side of Publishing

    In Every Sunrise Shadows are Cast... Beware of the Dark!
    As a writer, you've probably already discovered that all is not coming up roses in your literary life. You send out queries, never to hear back. You query self publishers and are inundated with glowing promises you know they'll never keep. Writer friends tell of their agents never selling a single book for them, ever. Even worse off are the writers who pay thousands of dollars more than they should to be published, or contractually turn over all rights to works and get nothing but a bill when they order books. Publishing is fraught with greedy folks on every level. Today's post tells a bit about selecting an agent and comes from (AQ). You can learn more at their Web site. Be Inspired... and smart! G.H. Sherrer

    "How do I tell a reputable literary agent from a questionable one?

    Legitimate literary agents make their professional livelihoods from the commissions they earn through the sale of their clients' books to publishers. Reputable agents do not charge fees to review manuscripts, they do not refer writers to fee-charging editorial services, and they do not charge their clients up-front fees to cover the costs of doing business. Reputable agents earn their money through a 10-20% commission of the sale of book rights to domestic and foreign book publishers. Real literary agents with real book sales have real publishing contacts. They know editors. They know what editors like to read. And most importantly, literary agents know what specific editors want to buy.

    Veteran agents have solid track records of making book sales to major publishing houses. Newer agents have less sales under their belts, but often have previous experience in the publishing industry as former editors or marketing directors, or have a history of working in established literary agencies as associate agents or assistants. Regardless of their experience level, legitimate literary agents know the trade and handle a number of important business issues for their clients such as negotiating publishing contracts, tracking advances and royalties, selling foreign rights, brokering book-to-film deals, and managing all other copyright permissions. 10-15% is the standard commission fee for domestic sales. 20% is the standard for the sale of foreign rights. Good literary agents are worth every penny.

    What is AAR?

    AAR stands for The Association of Authors' Representatives. Its members are agents who abide by its membership criteria and code of ethics. AAR membership ensures that a literary agent makes real sales to major publishers, and does not charge up-front fees to its clients. However, many legitimate agents, even mega-über agents, choose not to be AAR members. Furthermore, many newer agents who are actively building client lists, do not immediately qualify for AAR membership. Agencies often operate in accordance with the provisions of AAR's Canon of Ethics, even though all their agents are not AAR members.

    Bottom line: AAR membership is always a good sign, but it’s not a 24K gold star guarantee. Don’t discount the agents listed in our database who are not AAR members. We pre-screen all the agents in our database—AAR members or not—and feel confident that 99.9% of the literary agents listed in our AQ database are the real-deal. "


    Friday, February 24, 2012

    The Best New Adult Fiction? It's Written for Teens

    Palm Springs, California
    The latest trend for adult readers is Young Adult (YA) fiction, a genre that has never been just for teens. How many of us, as adults, read Tom Sawyer, Anne of Green Gables or  Laura Ingalls Wilder's series of Little House books? I sure did. Still do. Most recently I've read several books for young people, including Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Both were truly entertaining. My own novel The Mall Street Sleuth is a story with more pathos than Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, and a winsome protagonist like Lucky in The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron... more wonderful books for young people. Carl Hiiason's Hoot is another teen fiction to look for and enjoy.

    YA fiction isn't just for teens.

    "The boundary of these [YA] books being read only by teenagers just isn't there anymore," says David Levithan, a young-adult author and editorial director of Scholastic Press. "Adults are really enjoying these books. A good book is a good book, whatever their category."

    Young adult books are also driving up revenues in these tumultous times for the publishing industry. Sales of books for children, teens and young adults rose by 12% from 2008 through 2010. Meanwhile sales for adult fiction rose only 3.5%. 

    "This [YA] is the best genre for escapism," says Becky Anderson, co-owner of Anderson Bookshops in Illinois. 

    As a writer I chose YA fiction, but not because it's the current trend. I considered the audience, young minds to be molded. I don't simply write escapism to sell, but to initiate change in a young person's life. 
    Be Inspired! -G.H.Sherrer

    Finding a Literary Agent

    Seeking a gold nugget (literary agent) in a pile of stones is difficult, but not impossible  
    Ever seen a photo of editors' slushpiles, manuscripts stacked to the ceiling in publisher offices? If you have, then you know why it may take up to a year, if ever, to hear back after carefully crafting a query. The better way is having a reputable agent's representation. Finding one who thinks they can help sell your work is an equal challenge, almost as daunting as seeking a publisher alone. Agents have slushpiles, too. No wonder writers bypass these gatekeepers. But still. Many great deals continue to be made daily. Yours could be next. If you're young and believe you have the next best seller, have patience and time to spend seeking the traditional path, this writer suggests looking at the Web site  to find one. Posted below is their article on seeking representation. Be inspired! -G.H.Sherrer

    "What exactly is a literary agent?

    A literary agent is exactly that—an agent for literary works. Literary agents represent books. They do not represent stage plays, screenplays, or television scripts. You find those agents in Hollywood, and that’s another website. Yes, it’s true that books become movies (usually bad, bad, very bad movies), but that’s because your literary agent, who sold the publishing rights to a major publishers, also successfully sold the movies rights to a major Hollywood studio. Again, whole ’nother website.

    What’s important to know is that literary agents function as the middleman between you—unknown unpublished writer of a brilliant first book—and the Major New York Publishers. Literary agents have the contacts in the New York publishing world (and beyond) to get your book sold. Literary agents negotiate publishing contracts, sell sub rights like foreign rights and media and electronic rights, and just plain manage your financial and business affairs so you can focus on your literary business of writing.

    Do I need a literary agent to get published?

    You don’t need a literary agent to get published in literary magazines or small independent presses. But it helps to have a literary agent if you want your book published by the New York Big Boys. Sure, with networking connections or nepotism, you may not need a literary agent. You may be able to weasel your manuscript onto the desk of a high-level editor, spark her interest, and garner a two-book sale. It’s been done before. We’re sure it’ll be done again.

    For everybody else, we recommend getting an agent. We wouldn’t have bothered slaving away on Agent Query if we didn’t think it was imperative. Literary agents have connections you don’t. Good literary agents are one-degree-of-separation away from the editors who decide “to buy or not to buy.” Good literary agents are tuned into the literary trends. They know which publishing imprints publish which kinds of books. They hobnob with those editors over lunch. They’re like mini-gods running the literary universe. For better or for worse, they serve as the first gatekeepers in the screening process. Okay, it’s true. The literary agent “hierarchy” adds to the bottleneck, too many writers competing for the attention of a small pool of movers and shakers. But write a fabulous timely book, and you’ll shoot right through.
    Do I have to be previously published to get a literary agent?

    No, no, no. Here, we’ll say it again in case we weren’t clear the first time: NO. Write a fantastic heart stopping novel and write it brilliantly. Then, you too my friend, will get a literary agent. Write a viable nonfiction book in a genre that you hold some verifiable credentials, and literary agents will say, “Yes, I can sell this.” Write a children’s picture book and… well, okay, it might help to be previously published if you’re trying to publish a children’s picture book. But hey, anything is possible. Gotta try. Always try.

    Do I pay a fee to be represented by a literary agent?

    Yes—but never an upfront fee. Literary agents earn their living by selling a book’s publishing rights to various domestic and foreign publishers. Then they charge a commission on the sale. Here’s a more familiar example. Ever work with a real estate agent? They charge you a commission when they sell your house to someone else, right? Literary agents work the same way. Literary agents charge a commission whenever they sell the publishing rights (and various sub rights) of a book. Standard commissions range from 10-15% for the sale of domestic rights and 15-20% for foreign rights. Major Publishers pay authors an advance against royalties. A literary agent negotiates the terms of the sale, then collects a commission for her hard work. So let’s put this in perspective… (with a little fantasy thrown in for good measure).

    You write a fabulous first novel. Everyone loves it. Ten agents want to represent you. You pick tough-talking, fast-selling Ms. Agent, and she sells your debut novel to a Major Domestic Publishers for a low-six figure advance against royalties. That means you get $100,000 up front—guaranteed cold hard cash—whether or not your book is a run-away bestseller. Of course, it is. This is fantasy, right? You sell 50,000 copies in its first week’s release. It’s a smash. You’re a star. And the money keeps rolling in. Royalties and all. Every book sold, you get a cut. And your literary agent keeps track of it all, taking her commission in the process. Don’t worry, she’s worth it. She’ll organize your 15 city author’s book tour, your bookings with Charlie Rose, and your interview with the New York Times Book Review. And that’s just the beginning. Ms. Agent will be worth a 1000% commission, and you'll only have to pay her 15-20%. Pretty sweet deal.

    I like this idea of getting an agent. How do I find one?

    Agent Query offers the largest searchable database of literary agents on the web. Unlike bible-sized print guides that require you to comb through page after endless page, cross-referencing agents and their interests, our database allows writers to refine their search by pinpointing dozens of literary agents who represent books just like yours. Each agent has a detailed profile to help you match your book with the right literary agent. And our agents’ profiles are the most accurate on the web. In fact, their AQ profiles are the most accurate around anywhere, especially considering all those “notable” print guides are only updated once a year. Our AQ database is updated every day. And the best part—it’s 100% free."

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    Digital Publishing Trends

    "Of the one hundred fifty titles on the 2011 USA Today best-seller list, a remarkable fifteen were self-published."
    This statement is taken from the article below in Poets & Writers Magazine. As with all writer's work, one must be diligent in creating quality, getting authentic professional critiques, paying for professional editing prior to putting your name on work and pushing it by digital, or any other means, onto the readers. This writer has found as many predator editors as there are predator publishers. Actually, every step of the way a writer must question the quality of the persons you pay to be involved with your work, from writing classes to agents who get you into a contract and then never try to sell your manuscript. Be Inspired... to excel! -G.H. Sherrer

    Digital Digest: New Tools Transform Self-Publishing

    by Adrian Versteegh (Adrian Versteegh is a journalist and a PhD candidate at New York University, where he runs Listen to Academia, a project that explores the relation between writing and sound. He lives in Paris and New York City.)
    "To mention the term “self-publishing” only a few years ago was to evoke an image quite likely involving predatory vanity presses, desperate writers paying to play, handfuls of shoddily produced books foisted on obliging friends and family, and stacks of remainders left to molder in attics and garages. Thanks to the accessibility of new digital tools, that picture is expanding. The e-publishing world holds new promise for writers venturing out on their own, bolstered by digitally charged success stories such as that of twenty-seven-year-old Amanda Hocking, who in less than two years earned $2.5 million from a series of novels she self-published through Amazon, ultimately scoring a multimillion-dollar contract with St. Martin’s Press.
    "Less hyperbolically, U.K. journalist Mark King, who released his novel, The Life and Death of Henry Black, through Kindle Direct Publishing last summer, emphasizes the creative over the remunerative satisfactions of self-publishing. “I’ve made little more than a few hundred pounds,” he wrote in an article about the project in the Guardian, “but I want as many people as possible to read [the book]. Most importantly, I believe in the book, and e-publishing has allowed me to see if others believe in it too.”  
    "A growing number of authors are finding that readers are believing. Of the one hundred fifty titles on the 2011 USA Today best-seller list, a remarkable fifteen were self-published. And in November, Hocking—whose work is chiefly of the vampire-fantasy variety—joined David Baldacci, Suzanne Collins, Stieg Larsson, Stephenie Meyer, Kathryn Stockett, and a handful of other writers in the so-called Kindle Million Club, a roundup of top-selling e-book authors. But before dismissing DIY e-publishing as the preserve of genre novels, business manuals, and self-help books, it’s worth remembering that George Bernard Shaw, Gertrude Stein, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf, Walt Whitman, and an impressive host of other literary lions experimented with self-publishing projects during their own careers.
    "For writers looking to enact their own experiments in the digital realm, there’s no shortage of options. The industry offers two basic pathways to digital self-publication: Writers can go through a major e-book retailer, which may back a proprietary device and format, or use an aggregator, which often offers editing, design, and marketing services, and then also distributes titles to big vendors. Among the former, the dominant player by far is Amazon, whose Kindle Direct Publishing platform offers a royalty rate of 70 percent for titles priced from $2.99 to $9.99 (so long as that figure remains 20 percent below the lowest list price for any print editions on the market) and 35 percent at other price points. But the retailer has rankled some authors and indie press supporters by requiring that Kindle Direct titles included in the Kindle Lending Library be bound by a ninety-day exclusivity agreement, effectively barring participants from taking advantage of other sales platforms.
    "Self-publishing success stories currently making headlines are, as is typical in the writing world, the exceptions. Most self-published authors count themselves lucky just to achieve a paltry side income. But the real benefits of emerging digital platforms may go beyond monetary incentives; for the optimistically minded at least, they promise a revolution in reach and control. As pressure grows for writers to master new skills—design, distribution, marketing and promotion, and the social media–driven courtship of readers—the practice of writing itself is evolving into more than mere composition, and new tools are allowing an unprecedented degree of involvement in the full scope of one’s own creative work."

    Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    A Few Writer Residencies

    Author in New Brunswick Canada
    Yesterday's post included an article explaining how a residency might benefit a writer. Below I've listed a few found in Poets & Writers Magazine to whet your appetite. Also, a writer may Google search for a residency and find many listed, local or abroad. A residency could be a jump start into serious writer mode. Be Inspired! -G.H. Sherrer 

    West Cork, Ireland
    Application Deadline:
    Rolling Admissions
    E-mail address:
    The Anam Cara Writer’s and Artist’s Retreat offers one-week to one-month residencies year-round to poets, fiction writers, creative nonfiction writers, and other artists in West Cork, Ireland, overlooking Coulagh Bay and the mountains and farmlands of the Beara Peninsula. Residents are provided with a private room and all meals. The weekly residency fee ranges from E600 to E700 (approximately $800 to $900), depending on the room. Submit a one-paragraph project description. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Upon acceptance, a 50 percent deposit is required.
    Anam Cara also offers weeklong workshop-based retreats. Writing in Ireland: A Generative Workshop for Writers in All Genres, taught by Karen Blomain, will be held from May 19 to May 26. The workshop fee, which includes lodging and meals, is E900 (approximately $1,200) if registration with a 50 percent deposit is received two months prior to the workshop, or E1,000 (approximately $1,350) thereafter. Registration is first come, first served. Send an SASE, call, e-mail, or visit the website for more information.
    Anam Cara Writer’s and Artist’s Retreat, Eyeries, Beara, West Cork, Ireland. 011 353 02 77 44 41. Sue Booth-Forbes, Director.
    Red Wing, Minnesota
    Application Deadline:
    February 1, 2012
    E-mail address:
    The Anderson Center at Tower View offers two- to four-week residencies from May through October to poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers on a 330-acre estate in Red Wing, Minnesota. Residents are provided with lodging, meals, and studio space. Submit five copies of 10 pages of poetry or prose, a resumé, and a project proposal by February 1 for residencies during May, June, and July or by March 1 for residencies during August, September, and October. The month of August is re-served for emerging writers who are residents of New York City or Minnesota. There is no application fee. Call, e-mail, or visit the website for the required application and complete guidelines.
    Anderson Center Residency Program, P.O. Box 406, Red Wing, MN 55066. (651) 388-2009.
    Marquette, Nebraska
    Application Deadline:
    March 1, 2011
    E-mail address:
    Art Farm offers residencies of two weeks to five months from June 1 to November 1 to poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers on a working farm in Marquette, Nebraska, approximately 80 miles west of Lincoln. Residents are each provided with a private room, work space, and access to an organic vegetable garden. Each resident must contribute at least 12 hours per week to work on the farm. Submit 10 poems, a short story, a novel chapter, or three essays, a curriculum vitae, and contact information for three references with a $15 application fee by March 1. Call, e-mail, or visit the Web site for complete guidelines.
    Art Farm Writers Residency Program, 1306 West 21 Road, Marquette, NE 68854-2112. (402) 854-3120.
    New Smyrna Beach, Florida
    Application Deadline:
    March 23, 2012
    Financial Aid Deadline:
    March 23, 2012
    E-mail address:
    The Atlantic Center for the Arts offers residencies three times a year to poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers on a 69-acre ecological preserve of pine forests and palmettos in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Residents are provided with studio space and technical support to write without interruption, aside from two-hour daily meetings with a Master Artist. The June 25 to July 15 residency with Marie Howe is intended for poets . The fee is $850, which includes lodging and meals. Financial aid is available. Submit five poems, a letter of intent, and a resumé with a $25 application fee by March 23. Visit the website for the required application and complete guidelines.
    Atlantic Center for the Arts, 1414 Art Center Avenue, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32168. (386) 427-6975. Jim Frost, Program Manager.
    Montauk, New York
    Application Deadline:
    March 1, 2011
    The Edward F. Albee Foundation provides four- and six-week residencies from mid-May to mid-October to poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers at the William Flanagan Memorial Creative Persons Center in Montauk, New York. Writers are given individual rooms but are responsible for their food, travel, and other expenses. The center can accommodate up to three writers at a time. Submit up to 12 poems, one short story, two chapters of a novel or memoir, or three essays, a personal statement, two letters of recommendation, and a resumé between January 1 and March 1, 2011. There is no application fee. Send an SASE, call, or visit the Web site for an application and complete guidelines.
    Edward F. Albee Foundation, 14 Harrison Street, New York, NY 10013. (212) 226-2020. Jakob Holder, Secretary.

    Monday, February 20, 2012

    Writer's Residencies: Finding a Quiet Place to Work

     Writers typically have so many other tasks tugging at coat tails they are unable to focus for long stretches of time needed to finish a novel, get a group of short stories or poems ready for publication. While the world waits for the next great literary work, the writer answers calls and does mundane, though necessary tasks. A change of scenery, an escape is needed. Just a short time away from distractions and the humdrum of life. The solution? Writer's residencies. Below is a great article explaining the selection process. Okay. Stop mail and newspaper deliveries. Pay your bills in advance, provide for lawn service in your absence and pack your bags.  Be Inspired! -G.H. Sherrer 

    Applying to a Writers Residency: An Expert Breakdown of the Requirements
    by Grant Faulkner
    (Grant Faulkner is the executive director of the Office of Letters and Light, which organizes National Novel Writing Month and other creative writing events.)
    Every writer I know craves one thing: a peaceful period of uninterrupted time dedicated to writing. A room of one’s own, in other words, with maybe some meals thrown in and a little pocket money. Or even just the room.
    Such a thing exists, of course, in the form of a writers residency. While some residencies charge money, many are located in idyllic, pastoral places and actually give you a room in a mansion or a cottage, a stipend, and most important, time to let your thoughts and pen wander with unfettered glee.
    I’ve been working on a novel for an embarrassing number of years. I’ve finished two and a half drafts of the book, but with kids and work and work and kids (did I mention kids?) I’m writing during stray fragments of time desperately squeezed into an increasingly frenetic life. Lately I’ve felt as if I’ve lost the necessary writing momentum, not to mention the stimulating percolations of imaginative thought, to push the novel into a publishable state, and while I briefly considered buying a van and abandoning my family and my work, I decided the more morally acceptable thing to do is apply to writers residencies.
    When I began doing the research, however, several parts of the application process flummoxed me. What were residency directors looking for in a résumé? How detailed did they want the work plan to be? Did letters of recommendation have to be from an applicant’s former writing instructors? What were they looking for in a writing sample?
    I decided I needed to know more about how to apply if I was going to wager approximately thirty dollars a crack for a chance to experience these otherworldly idylls.
    The Work Plan
    Many residencies ask you to present a work plan. Usually no more than a page or so is required, but even that seemed long for the plan I had in mind. “I want to write, take the occasional walk, read, and then write some more. I want to forget my life, to immerse myself in my novel as if my novel is the world, to dream my novel throughout each night’s sleep.”
    And that’s the long version. So what are residencies looking for in a work plan—beyond the obvious?
    “We used to get hundreds of proposals that amounted to ‘I need time and space to work on this book,’ so we made the statement optional and changed it to ‘a brief sketch of your life as a writer,’ and we still don’t look at it carefully, if at all,” says Salvatore Scibona, author of The End (Graywolf Press, 2008) and writing coordinator at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He adds that some applicants have even interpreted “sketch” as an invitation to draw amusing little pictures or diagrams of their lives.
    Likewise, the Jentel Artist Residency Program, located on a working cattle ranch twenty miles southeast of Sheridan, Wyoming, views the work plan loosely. It’s an overview, not a contract. “Once candidates are in a drop-dead gorgeous, mountain-view landscape with glorious light and amazing blue skies and pastures dotted with black angus and mule deer, sharing their time and space with five other creative spirits, candidates…are welcome to make changes to their proposals,” says Jentel executive director Mary Jane Edwards.
    The point of a residency, after all, is for a writer to have time that isn’t stifling or regimented. “The residency program is designed as a retreat experience to pursue personal creative growth,” says Judy Freeland, residency coordinator of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, California. Writers’ project proposals aren’t even rated by Djerassi jurors, and the proposal doesn’t affect an applicant’s ranking order.
    But then why is a work plan required?
    “We are most interested in people who have a clear vision of what they will do with the time, such as revise a manuscript in progress or finish a book of poems,” says Bob Kealing, who oversees the Kerouac Project, one of the more unique residencies available: a three-month stay in the Orlando, Florida, cottage where Jack Kerouac wrote his novel Dharma Bums.
    The real purpose of a work plan might be to simply prove that you have one. Show that you’re planning to get some serious writing done. And keep in mind that some residencies expect more than an amusing drawing—the work plan might just tip the scales on a final decision.
    Kara Corthron, a jurist in playwriting at the Millay Colony in Austerlitz, New York, says, “In our decision making, because there were so many strong playwrights who applied, we went back and really discussed the goals outlined by each candidate, and these were instrumental in the final outcome. So, the essay is definitely not a formality. Give it as much care and attention as you give your work sample.”
    The Résumé
    I was surprised to see that several residencies asked for a résumé, a word that has made me shiver ever since I decided to become a writer. I’m not a writing teacher, I haven’t published any books, and, until recently, I had never had a job at a literary organization. Although I’ve worked as a journalist and an editor, I wondered how an accountant or a bartender or a masseuse might fare against those employed by MFA programs or publishing houses. For better or worse, I sent in my professional résumé and hoped that the jargon of various jobs wouldn’t bias jurors against me.
    “There is value in a monthlong residency no matter what type of job or career one has,” says Djerassi’s Freeland. “The fact that an applicant has a day job and a résumé that reflects this does not hinder his chances in any way.”
    It seems that residencies generally ask for résumés not to evaluate your place in the writing world or reward professional accomplishments, but simply to get a better idea of who you are and how you might fit with other groups of candidates. “Jentel staff look at the résumé for insight into experience, expertise, and skills that may be helpful in scheduling groups of candidates for each session,” says Edwards.
    Who you are can be especially important in some cases. Take the artist-in-residence program at Denali National Park, which offers a cabin in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness—peaceful to some, but nervous making to others. “We need to feel comfortable that the writer will be comfortable and competent living in the relatively rustic conditions of the East Fork cabin for ten days, can deal with potential encounters with grizzly bears and other large mammals in their natural habitat, and that she will respect the environment and the animals,” says Timothy Raines, park ranger and media specialist at Denali.
    While it’s obvious that a writer must have the right temperament to be successful at Denali, other residencies don’t search for artistic personalities that are a good match. “With a few remarkable exceptions, it is very difficult to predict, based on an artist’s work and profile, what would make a good fit and what wouldn’t,” says Caroline Crumpacker, executive director at Millay. “Our aim is to fit ourselves, as much as possible, to the artists who come here rather than to ask them to accommodate us or adhere to a specific idea of what makes a ‘good’ resident artist.”
    The Letter of Recommendation
    Most of the residencies I researched don’t require letters of recommendation, but some do, such as the Anderson Center, an artist retreat in Red Wing, Minnesota, and Jentel. I graduated from my creative writing program at San Francisco State University fifteen years ago and haven’t been on campus since, and even though I’m Facebook friends with a few of my former professors, I wondered how well they’d remember me after teaching hundreds of students in the intervening years. Would it be better to ask my boss for a recommendation? Friends who are published authors?
    The directors I spoke with say they prefer recommendations that focus on a writer’s work ethic and creative spirit rather than the quality of work, and therefore it doesn’t matter who writes the letter as long as those points are addressed. “Since the opportunity for unfettered time and space to create and community are key factors in the experience at Jentel, testimony of a writer’s work ethic and congenial spirit rank highly compared to a third-party endorsement of the writer’s ability,” says Edwards.
    In short, recommendations need to offer a window into who you are—and perhaps offer assurance that you’re not dangerous or disruptive. “Staff just want to avoid ax murderers, drug dealers, and bandits, who might put undue pressure on the dynamics of the group in residence,” Edwards says.
    “Because letters of reference tend to sound the same, all with the expected glowing comments,” says Anderson’s director, Robert Hedin, “they rarely play a significant role in the process.”
    The Manuscript
    There’s no way around it. In the end, your writing is what matters most. “The writing sample is the most important piece in the application. We look for quality and originality,” says Djerassi’s Freeland.
    But what are quality and originality? Isn’t this the age-old question about literature? One person thinks Kerouac is a genius while another considers him little more than a typist. All the residencies I researched said they don’t look for a specific aesthetic, but each has a rigorous and specific approach to evaluating manuscripts.
    Millay’s process, which includes a jury for each genre or art form—fiction, nonfiction, poetry, visual art, composing, and playwriting—aims to ensure that the colony will host a broad range of artists at any given time. “Each jury is deliberately composed of artists and critics with different approaches to and ideas about contemporary art-making,” says Millay’s Crumpacker. “We ask that jurors not judge applications solely on an affinity with their own ideas, but take each application on its own terms. That said, if jurists feel the terms an applicant chooses are objectively outmoded, limited, or banal, they should judge the application accordingly.”
    Most residencies have a rotating panel of jurors, but they tend not to announce the names of the jurors until after they’ve made their selections, so you’re unlikely to be able to choose residencies based on jurors who might prefer your writing style over others. Perhaps that doesn’t matter so much, though. Scibona emphasizes jurors’ “rigorous thoroughness” and stresses that their selections are informed by their love of the work.
    “The juror who comes to the table and says, ‘this work is wonderful,’ knows something more than the equally sincere and deliberate juror who says, ‘this work is no good.’ The whole jury procedure is organized to exploit the special genius inherent in admiration,” he says.
    As with most residencies, manuscripts are sent to Jentel jurors with no information about the writers. Jentel jurors use a ten-point rating system to level the playing field based on the following categories: Originality/Creativity, Significance/Importance of Work, Developed Personal Voice/Vision, and Technique/Craft.
    “Applicants should send in what they believe to be their best work. It does not need to be published. They may also send in more than one sample and include some work-in-progress. It does not always have to relate to the project proposal,” says Djerassi’s Freeland. It’s worth noting, however, that a published story doesn’t necessarily give one writer an edge over another, whose piece might be unpublished. “Neither publishing nor degrees matter to us, except by way of giving the jurors a little context for the work itself,” says Scibona. “I can’t think of a case in which we liked the writing more or less once we learned where the writer went to school or where she had published.”
    That said, for the Fine Arts Work Center the notion of “emerging” is important. “Because the fellowship is expressly for emerging writers, a publishing record does matter,” Scibona says. “For our purposes, once an applicant has published a full-length book of creative work, he is no longer eligible.”
    Other residencies, however, do privilege writers’ successes. “Though emerging artists and writers are accepted into the residency program each year, an established track record of accomplishments is most preferable,” says Anderson’s Hedin. “For poets and writers, work samples published in a book or a reputable national journal tend to trump unpublished work.”
    Millay is interested in new and established authors. “We ask jurors to look at both accomplishment and promise—some work samples will be more polished than others, but polish should not be the only criterion,” Crumpacker says. “We hope that jurors will also consider the ambition and relevance of an artist’s work and proposed project.”
    A residency such as the Atlantic Center for the Arts, in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, offers a different method for evaluating applications—a rotating artist-in-residence who sets up her selection criteria and chooses residents. “We schedule a master artist-in-residence to lead a three-week residency—to be an instructor, mentor, colleague to those wishing to attend. We ask each master artist to make a ‘residency statement’—suggesting the type of format, topic of the residency, as well as the type of applicant they are interested in working with,” says co-director Jim Frost.
    As with all things a writer seeks, the competition for a residency is steep. Consider that the Fine Arts Work Center received six hundred fifty applications for eight first-year fellowship slots in 2011, and Djerassi receives approximately two hundred fifty applicants each year for twenty residencies.
    Getting the proverbial room of one’s own is never easy, but it could easily be a turning point in a writer’s life, providing crucial time to finish an important piece of work. Carefully research each residency that interests you and be sure you understand what each requires in terms of application materials and guidelines by visiting the website and calling or sending an e-mail to clarify if necessary.