Archive for February, 2011

Three New Contests

February 26, 2011 2 comments

Three contests coming up. No fees needed to enter.

The prestigious The Commonwealth Short Story Competition is open to entrants. Hurry up, because the deadline is looming: March 1. Top prize 2000 pounds.

The World Bank International Essay Competition 2011 invites essays from people between the ages 18-25 on various challenges related to youth migration.Substantial prize money. First prize is $3000. No entry fee.

The Fountainhead Essay Contest is open to contestants around the world. First prize a staggering $10,000. To enter, you have to have read Ayn Rand’s work. Click link above for details.

Categories: Contests

GUEST BLOG: Catherine Robinson

February 25, 2011 3 comments

Blog It

Almost six years ago, I stood in front of a classroom and talked to my students about the importance of community involvement. I focused on recycling efforts, boycotts, and letter-writing campaigns in the news that needed young volunteers. My kids seemed eager to get out in the world, apply what they’ve learned, and make a difference.

One of my favorite students wanted to know what I was doing to help.

Stumped for a moment, I then referred to my own stories from the late 1980s and early 1990s, regaling the class with tales of anti-apartheid, animal-rights, and other progressive campaigns. They rolled their eyes and a few yawned.

“What have you done lately?” they asked.

I mentioned my five year-old twin sons, explaining that motherhood is a full-time job. I spoke about my dedication as a high school social studies teacher and devoted wife. Then I mentioned a good book I was reading. What was I supposed to do, I wondered, spend precious free time chained to a nuclear power plant in order to impress my students?

But they were right. If I was asking them to make the world a better place, shouldn’t I practice what I was preaching?

Then it hit me. I could write. I’d had some success writing op-eds for local papers and my letters were routinely published in magazines that raised my ire. Writing was a way of contributing to my community and could be accomplished later in the evening after everyone went to bed. After discussing this idea with the hippest group of seventeen and eighteen year-olds ever assembled, I decided to start a blog and call it Out in Left Field. I envisioned the site as a humorous place, where progressive parenting and politics would meet, and fellow moms could laugh about all is fun and frustrating about our lives.

Before long, local editors and publishers took an interest. My opinions were featured in Tampa Bay newspaper articles about everything from the struggle to find acceptable food during Passover for vegetarian Jews to advice for Britney Spears when she had her second baby. I didn’t let blogging take over my life, or teaching career, but it was a great way to improve as a writer, focus my arguments to make better sense, advocate for what I believed in, and vent about the frustrations of dealing with opinionated children.

These past six years have been terrific, painful, educational, and exciting. I now have two regular humor columns that appear in The Tampa Tribune and Creative Loafing as well as magazines and sites all over the country. I have two self-published e-books, Olivia’s Kiss and Learning Curves, garnering positive reviews and a growing audience. I’ve also acquired an agent who is actively trying to sell my parenting guide: Too Bad About You – How to Raise Kids Worth a Damn.

Not bad for a part-time writer. And all because a couple of teenagers challenged me to get out there and do something.

Categories: Guest Blogs

Film maker Looking for Story

February 22, 2011 2 comments

Film maker Pan Nalin is looking for a story (doesn’t have to be screen play) that is to be the launch pad for a French-Asian actress. Should be a woman centric thriller. If you have a completed manuscript that can do the job, let me know in a private email and I will send you the contact information.

Categories: Getting Published

Contest for Writers of Novels and Poetry

February 21, 2011 Leave a comment

The Fairleigh Dickinson University MFA Program and Serving House Books (SHB) are looking for collection of poetry as well as a fiction manuscript between 40,000 to 75,000 words. Your prize is publication by SHB. Click here for more details.

Categories: Contests

For Writers of Children’s Fiction

February 18, 2011 Leave a comment

A couple resources I found that might be of interest to writers of children’s fiction:

The Greenhouse Literary Agency represents exclusively writers of children’s books.

If you write or illustrate children’s books, you might want to check out SCBWI, or The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators . To access their British arm, click here.

Categories: Getting Published

Publisher Accepting Manuscritpts

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

If you’re finding it hard to attract the attention of major publishers, small presses are an option (note: these are different from vanity publishers. Vanity publishers charge you for publishing. With mainstream publishers, you get paid by them).

I have no personal knowledge of these presses. Please investigate before you decide to go with them.

Categories: Getting Published

Romance Junkies 2011 Writing Contest

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Carina Press, Harlequin’s digital-first imprint, is sponsoring the event. They are looking for books in all genres – romance, erotica, science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, women’s fiction, and more.

As always, investigate every contest before you take the leap.

Categories: Contests

GUEST BLOG: Lala Corriere

February 14, 2011 Leave a comment

My thanks to Rasana for inviting me to chat with you today about my experience in producing my first video book trailer for my new release, Widow’s Row.

That should act as your first caveat. My experience is limited to one production. But I had a good team of advisors. Brandon Croy is a professional filmmaker in Denver, Colorado and Cameron Bruns is Vice President of an international marketing company. Like I said, I kept good company.

Let’s face it. Even with a big publishing house behind you, today’s authors are carrying the burden of their own promotion. The video book trailer has become an explosive tool in marketing books.

There is a maze of tutorials on the Web specific to Windows Movie Maker and this little guest blog is in no way an attempt at trying to replace their technical instructions. Most of these tips you read here should transcend well to any other movie-making program you use. These tips should make your experience with movie making grow ripe without aggravation.

Through my trial and error, here’s what you can learn from my mistakes:

Do invest the time to look at the tutorials. You’ll quickly learn how to incorporate the elements that will turn your book trailer into a professional piece of film, such as transitions and special effects.

Do make a study of the scores of book trailers already out there. Watch the ‘homemade’ trailers as well as those with big blockbuster budgets, including any new Big Screen teasers. Just as in the book business, trailers are subjective. Tune into your genre and your own voice and make your work a reflection of both. Evaluate your feedback, but tune out the naysayers!

I didn’t lay down my soundtrack first and this was a huge mistake. I wanted the images to be in sync with the varying beats of the music. Boom. Boom. Boom. Image. Image. Image. You get the idea. It’s far easier to lay down the audio and then drag the images into your storyboard and timeline once you have the soundtrack in place.

Music clips are available through various sites. Search under Royalty Free Music, but remember it probably isn’t going to be exactly free. There are usually membership fees involved, and maybe even small stipends per track.  There are also plenty of talented musicians out there that would love to help you with your own recordings. Buddy up with your local bands.

Most of these sources for short sound clips are designed so that you can make your video exactly the length you want, but just like the commercials that grab your attention on TV, remember less is best. You can choose from several coordinated timed segments. Some will be 60 seconds, 30 seconds, and even less than ten seconds. Rhythm. Pacing. All key elements to your ‘commercial’.

Do get permissions for everything you use! There are sources for images on the web that are royalty free. Many of the photographers will request credit for use of their images. Double check. When seeking permissions I recommend doing it via email so that you have a permanent record of correspondence.

If you’re currently writing a manuscript, always wear your producer’s hat. What scenes are you developing that lend themselves to an image? Is it the rolling hills of Ireland? A chase scene? Fava beans and a nice glass of Chianti? Keep a journal of anything that might make for a good still or short video. It’s no time to place yourself in the critic’s corner. Jot down every possibility. I like a good mix of the mundane and the ordinary, paired with the outrageous and unexpected, but I write suspense. I want my final film product to be arcane in nature. If you write in other genres such as historical, literary, or romance, I would still suggest the idea of blending the familiar with the not so familiar. Keep your viewers engaged and guessing.

If you plan to use speaking actors or a voice-over narrator, the Window’s Movie Maker is designed to allow you to lay that audio directly over your music.

If you are the photographer, make sure your camera is set with the date stamp turned off. Sighing, here.

Now this part is no secret. You will read it elsewhere on the web. Unfortunately some of us have to learn the hard way. Save everything. Save every still and every video and every audio, separately. And while engaged with your program open, save your work and save it often.

So, friends, here’s my first video trailer, Widow’s Row.


Widow’s Row The Trailer 0001


What did you see? I’m a perfectionist and I’m crazy mad about my boo-boos. The most obvious is the red lettering in the church video clip. Having a little trouble reading it? That’s because I manipulated the video after inserting it and deleted the original file.  Because I was stuck without the original, I was able to use the program to warp the imagery. Something to distract from the words you can’t read. Between you and me, I handle my film critics by claiming there is subliminal messaging in those words. LOL.

Did you notice the date stamp on the church still? Oops. And again, because I’d deleted the original and turned my movie into one single file, I was unable to remove the nasty yellow date stamp.

Give yourself time. And plenty of forgiveness. Remember this tool is a reflection of your book. Your name is on it. You’ve written and rewritten your book until it’s perfect. If you aren’t satisfied with your trailer, help is all around you.

And I leave you with my favorite tip of all. Have fun! Make mistakes. Start over. Start with a family movie or vacation memories.

Lala Corriere

A writer’s life @

Strong Query Letters: Why They Are Important

February 12, 2011 Leave a comment

You get only one shot at any particular publisher or a literary agent. That makes it vitally important that you get it right the first time around. You’ve slaved over your manuscript, pouring over each word, perfecting each little segment. Then comes query time. You no longer have the patience or the interest to devote to the query letter. Big mistake.

A query letter is really a showcase of your writing skills. If the agent doesn’t like the first couple lines of your email (I say email because a huge number of agents now work solely by email), that delete button is a mouse click away.

So what are agents looking for in a query letter?

* Professionalism

* Typo free, attention grabbing queries. Information should be very focused. If you say things like “this book is very gripping, with lot of passion and drama …”, it’ll come across as filler information. Besides, a lot of books fit this description. How is YOUR book different? Show, don’t tell; i.e. a couple lines about the circumstances the characters find themselves in will do a better job of showing this drama, as opposed to telling us there is drama in their lives.

To get an idea of what kind of queries grab attention, check out:

The Guide to Literary Agents

James Russell Publishing

On a more personal note, Literary Agent Jane Gelfman sponsored a query writing contest. I made it to the semi finals, so she offered a personal critique of the query, which was highly appreciated (but no offer of representation, darn it!).

Since the plot of my novel is very involved and I was trying to keep my query tightly focused (which is the right thing to do), I didn’t give too many details (which is still okay, but there needs to be a balance). So Ms. Gelfman felt my query sounded a little disjointed because she felt I was veering away to an entirely different plot.

For me, this information is extremely valuable, because I now know what to fix.

What grabbed her attention, she said, was my first line: All Pullamma wants in life is a husband and a municipal water connection, not necessarily in that order.

Which proves my point – the first line of your query has to be a killer.

Categories: Literary Agents

No Fee Contest

February 11, 2011 Leave a comment

I love contests, especially ones that charge no reading fee. Check out The Bevel Summers Prize for the Short Short Story. Click here for the link. Though they call it the short, short story, word count is up to 1000 words. The only hitch seems to be that you need to snail mail your entry (i.e. physically post/mail to them). March 31 deadline.

Categories: Contests