A publisher’s market, not a writer’s market

Writers Market

So I ordered the 2013 edition of “The Writer’s Market” on amazon.com, at a third of the price of this year’s.  I’d wanted to get the e-edition (since I’m always on my computer when I’m editing), but I’d heard it was hard to navigate, so I settled for the print edition.

I go through phases with my writing–for awhile, I was tailoring all my work for submission to Harlequin romance (working on my Great American novel all the while, whatever that means), then I got into personal essays/creative nonfiction, and now I’m on a poetry kick, mainly because it works my brain in a different way, and I can dash it off and submit it pretty fast.

I just finished editing my collection of children’s nursery rhymes, which include fractured fairy tales (blended with Biblical allegories), fractured nursery rhymes, and my original “Just-So” stories (in the spirit of Rudyard Kipling), to name a few.  I’ve even included a “Shaggy God” story (“Allison’s Mirror:  A Twisted Retelling”) that combines the story of “Alice in Wonderland” with a Sci-Fi (or Scientology) point-of-view explaining how Adam and Eve hooked up.

I have taken a hiatus from entering fee-based contests for awhile.  Though I never lived them, I miss the days when publishers paid to print your work, rather than writers having to pay publishers just to read it.  Some of them are a racket, but others, I believe, just don’t make anything off subscriptions (I know plenty of people who write poetry, but read it?).  That’s why magazines like “Ladies Home Journal” and “Real Simple” can offer free contests with a big prize attached.  “The Writer’s Digest” offers several contests, but you have to pay (and pay big) to win.  However, there is hope in getting published with them and not having to pay (but neither do you get paid):   http://www.writersdigest.com/submission-guidelines.  You can also submit to “The Huffington Post” here:  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScrz0kcSTcl6MrGJF-13l2MMSZJ3BBZtt6_znfxb4FwMLQiSQ/viewform, where you will get exposure, but again, no cash.  If you don’t mind writing for free for awhile (what is most blogging, after all?), then these will simply serve as publication credits to add to your “clip file”.

Though I realize it’s important to invest in ourselves (sometimes that means moneywise), and that when we buy a lottery ticket, it’s a gamble, I am still leery of shelling out too much money at one time for an entry/reading fee.  I’m going to exhaust all other options first, which is why I bought “The Writer’s Market”.

One exception I made was paying ten dollars to enter the Saturday Evening Post’s “Great American Short Story Contest”.  See:  https://sarahleastories.com/2015/12/06/more-good-news/.  Receiving an honorable mention (to me) in a magazine like that was like winning first place in a magazine no one has ever heard of.  The only disappointment was that my story was not in print, but rather in an online anthology.  (Print is just far more prestigious.)

That said, the absolute best, up-to-date source I’ve found for finding submission opportunities that don’t charge is http://writingcareer.com/.

Moreover, it can pay to be a college student, as there is a plethora of scholarships which require a written essay.  Scholarships are great because the pool of possible winners is much smaller (at least half of them require you to be a full-time student), so you have a better chance of winning.  Beware, however, as some are based on how many “votes” you get, but if you’re a social media butterfly, those might be the ones for you:

http://www.varsitytutors.com/college-scholarship
https://www.coursehero.com/scholarships/1000012/tier-3k-aug/
http://www.fastweb.com/
https://www.scholarships.com/
https://www.chegg.com/
https://www.cappex.com/
https://www.unigo.com/
http://myscholly.com/#scholly
(this costs $2.99, but it’s worth it)
https://scholarshipowl.com/my-account
(just get the list, but don’t pay; rather google the name of the scholarship)

So there are still a multitude of ways to make money at writing without breaking the bank.  Hope this helps!

Sarah Lea, a fellow undernourished blogger

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Nutritional Standard of Living

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So, I’ve decided to go back over my New Year’s resolutions.  I am excelling with the writing business, but not so much with the weight.  Everything else, I’m doing fair to middling (as the saying goes) on.  I realize this is okay, because I am going to reevaluate myself at the end of every month.

I could just focus on one resolution per month, but no.  I’m ready to make the weight thing happen.  Now that I’ll be working at a natural food co-op (several years ago, when I did the bulk of my shopping there, I was seventy pounds lighter), I’ll be surrounded by healthier (or less bad) options.  The free membership and employee discount will make it all that much easier.  I am very much looking forward to starting this lifestyle.

I believe our surroundings play a huge role in many of the choices we make, though I am not using that as an excuse.  When I worked at the drugstore, I was always tantalized by all the new junk food products that would come out (stay away from Girl Scout Samoa candy bars).  The generous employee discount combined with the sale prices made the sweet temptations all that much greater to resist.  Half the battle is not bringing it home; the other half is not working at a place where we were rewarded for pushing candy on people (where “Thank you and be well” had to be said to every customer, even if they were buying a pack of smokes; that would just come across as sarcastic to me).

My job at the drugstore made me sick, not well.  I worked the overnight shift for over a year.  Eighty hours in eight days, then six days off.  I did that right up to my third trimester, until I couldn’t anymore.  I had only refrained from requesting days because I knew once I changed over, I would have to deal with the brass and I’d be more pressured to say “Welcome to Walgreens” to every customer that came in the door and ask every customer we checked out to buy a suggestive sale item or donate one to the USO (even if they came in everyday and everyday, they said no).  Here is a cute little story I wrote about my time there:  http://writeonpensacola.wordpress.com/category/sarah-hannan/

The stress of it wasn’t worth what I was getting paid, and “I can do better” became my new mantra.  I knew if I just applied myself, I could bust out of retail jail.  I haven’t yet, but I do see an end to my tenure in this line of work.  I’ll feel more assured once I get back in school, but at least I’ll be working in an environment in which I have a strong interest in the product and/or service, and where the bosses seem easygoing and fair.

I believe I’ll actually learn something worthwhile.  I haven’t learned anything worthwhile in a job so long, if ever.  I want to acquire mad skills.  I want a job in which the description requires me to use my mind and talents, not just be a yes person.  My new boss told me he didn’t like yes people–he said it might get you ahead in the short-term, but not the long term.  He also said he knew we were there because we needed money.  I won’t have to suck up or pretend with him that I want to make a career in the company.  When I start working there, if I stay for more than the money, fine, but right now, I’m there to do a job.  That’s all they expect.  Such a refreshing change from working for a corporation.  I just want to be able to be myself.

I look forward to this new chapter of my life.  I look forward to elevating my nutritional standard of living.  I no longer see this culinary journey I am about to embark on as limiting myself, but rather opening myself up to new things.  I want to be strong and healthy and energetic for me, first and foremost (everything we want, we have to want it for ourselves first), but also for my daughter.  I want to be able to run and jump and play with her in the park.  I want to have the energy to put verve into our other time together, as well.  I want to be able to teach her how to prepare wholesome foods from scratch.  I want to make the stories I read to her come alive.  I want to be all I can be for her.

I went swimming tonight, and got winded quicker.  I’ve been trying outrun (or outswim) my fork (it’s not how much I eat, but what) for months, and one can only swim so much.  It’s like you can only cut back (budget) so much before you realize you just have to make more money.

When I was seventy pounds lighter, I never exercised, but was strict with my diet.  I drank only water, for one thing.  I’m still working my way up on those eight glasses a day.  I’ve realized if you drink other things, it just takes the place of some of the water you drink.  A Mexican Coca Cola and a chocolate something (be it a baked good or candy bar) has been my beer and cigarette for a long time.  I’m not ready to go cold turkey, but I am ready to cut back so much, I get detox headaches.

Oh, well, that’s what coffee is for.

The Lost Arts of Homemaking

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Brian Breadwinner, Sarah Homemaker–a natural falling into place, some would say.  As a stay-at-home mom (the only reason being I was laid off), I struggle with feelings of inadequacy.  I am a good cook (I keep fresh baked goods made for my husband, who loves his sweet treats), I keep a clean (but not sterile) and tidy home (I put myself on a cleaning schedule about a month ago to help me remember what needs to be done and how often to do it), and take care of my daughter’s needs.  This is quite an accomplishment, coming from a mother who had a career as a postal clerk/letter carrier (I don’t know what they call them these days) in the Navy, who cleaned house maybe once a year and whose only claim to cooking was goulash (which I’d always thought odd, considering we aren’t Hungarian).  I’m also good with coupons, but what I save, I end up spending on something else.  One of my biggest accomplishments was having a year’s supply of laundry detergent to last us our first year of marriage.

When I married my husband, I was over 30, I had everything we needed to fill a house, with the exception of a dinette set, which we got for free at our church rummage sale.  I had been purchasing and putting linens and dishes and such away for years, and those items, combined with furniture I’d inherited from my grandparents, we didn’t have to buy anything for our house save for a few trash cans.  I try to keep this in mind whenever I feel I’m not contributing monetarily to the household.

I was LDS (Mormon) for several years, and being a stay-at-home wife and mother is highly regarded.  However, to me, that means not just taking care of your children, but teaching them, not just cooking, but preparing meals with fresh ingredients (I’ll be making all my own baby food), and keeping the household running smooth.

To take it a step further, it’s good to know what are becoming (in my opinion) the lost arts of homemaking:  sewing, quilting, and canning, for examples.  I’ll admit, I’ll probably never know how to do at least two of those things.  However, I have become quite good in the art department.  Pinterest has piqued my interest in learning how become more crafty (in a different way than I already am).  I’ve gotten into photography and framing projects, and have considered taking a sketching class at the local community college.  I realize those arts aren’t as domestic, but I’m seeking to broaden my horizons.

I want to work outside the home because I’m not this amazing homemaker; I feel this need to make up for my lack of domestic deity status by bringing home a portion of the bacon.  Even if my husband made more than enough for me to stay-at-home, I’d still want to bring in an income.  I just need to be not only good, but successful at something besides being a wife and mom, even though I know that is still the most important job in the world.  If I didn’t do my job at home, then any success outside the home wouldn’t matter; but because I do strive to be a good wife and mother, then whatever success that comes outside the home will be icing on the cake.

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(The quilt pictures are courtesy of my friend, Gina Maddox, who makes them.
More of her work can be found on http://gulfcoastquilting.wordpress.com/)

Flowers in the Attic: A Young Girl’s Inspiration

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I don’t picture myself blogging too many movie reviews, but since I grew up with “Flowers in the Attic” (the book and the movie), I just felt compelled to put in my few cents about the most recent celluloid adaptation, which was much truer to the book, but lacked all the creepiness of its lackluster predecessor.

Lifetime’s production had a cheap look to it, and though the children were hidden away in the attic for three years, it looked and felt more like three months.  I wouldn’t recommend watching it for any reason other than curiosity.

V.C. Andrews was one of the greatest inspirations for my own writing.  My book, Because of Mindy Wiley, is V. C. Andrews meets Mormonism meets Peyton Place.  I’d written a sequel to My Sweet Audrina many years ago as a fan fiction piece, and I don’t know what ever happened to it.  Many of my early writings have been lost, though I am considering redoing the project, which I would simply post on my blog as “fan fiction.”  But then, why work on that when I can post original content?

I know with certainty Audrina Revisited would be better than the novels Andrew Neiderman has written under V.C.’s name.  The Logan series was the last that still felt like it had been written by Ms. Andrews.  However, with the exception of the prequel, they had a rushed feel to them.

My advice:  Don’t waste your time after the Logan series.

 

Balancing Acts

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Beginning in March, my life will be a stay-at-home mom by day, student by night, and employee by/on(?) weekends.  I just got hired at a food co-op, an industry I actually care about (natural and organic foods).  I’m one of those people who always has about seven different projects going on at once, just as my mind is like having seven tabs on the computer open at the same time.  I won’t have as much time for writing as I do now; l miss that extra time already.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve been burning the two a.m. oil every night this week, trying to make up for time I haven’t spent yet.

I have a novel (“The Rise and Fall of Alfred Bomber”) that, after eleven years in the can, I’m going to finish editing and submit to Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Contest; the book is about a Mormon missionary who returns to his hometown of Sidney, Montana (where I was a live-in nanny for nine months about a decade ago) to find that his brother has come out of the closet.  There is also the subplot of the mysterious and elusive “Summertime Rapist” who haunts the tween girls of the town, as he only attacks after the final thaw.

Then there are the three novelettes (see the Sarah Lea Sales page) I am editing for submission to Amazon for digital publication, as there isn’t much of a market for novelettes.

I am also querying and entering as many contests as I can.  My goal, once I start this full-plated schedule, it to submit at least one piece a week, while producing at least one piece or chapter of a longer work in that same time frame.

Since becoming a wife and mother, no longer living solely for myself, I’ve learned to manage my time better.  I think that [time management] is the key to prosperity (see Dave Ramsey’s list, “20 Things the Rich Do Every Day”).  I simply don’t have the time to accomplish all I want to if I spend too much of it watching TV.  I’ve since learned to be choosier with what programs I spend time watching.

I discussed the list with my parents, who interpreted it in an entirely different way than I did.  They saw the list as effects breeds the cause, whereas I saw it as the opposite.  The reason the poor watch so much reality TV, they said, is because that’s all they can afford to do.  They can’t afford to go to plays and to the opera and such.

I saw it as if you don’t spend too much time watching reality TV, but doing (not watching) something more productive, you’re more likely to be successful.  I’m not saying everyone who watches reality TV is a cretin (Megyn Kelly watches “The Bachelor”), but I know television watching has taken the place of book reading for many as the preferred form of entertainment.  When one watches a television program, they don’t have to use their imaginations, but when one reads a book, their imaginations have to fill in the blanks.  One of the preschool teachers at my and my husband’s church said that it wasn’t unheard of for one of her students to inform her that there weren’t any books in their house.  Some didn’t even know how to use a crayon!

What many people don’t understand is that kids don’t have to be entertained all the time.  They may whine at first about wanting to watch TV, and parents let them because it assuages their guilt (that’s my armchair diagnosis), but they’ll get over it and find something else to do.  I think all kids have imaginations–they just need to be given the opportunity to use them.  Maybe kids just don’t have enough work to do anymore to keep them busy.  I told my husband if Hannah ever says she’s bored, she’ll be given something to do that won’t be fun.  That is one sentence I am not going to put up with hearing in my house.

It seemed to bother one of my friends quite a bit when her young daughter said their house was boring.  A few of us told her to give the girl some chores.  What kids need to realize is that life isn’t going to be exciting all the time.  Sometimes it’s routine and mundane, and that’s okay.  There is a time for everything.

I’m no fan of Dr. Phil, but I did agree with him when he said bored people were boring.  I have to say, though I find some things boring, I, myself, am never bored.  I’m not a workaholic (I’m a big believer in having a work-life balance), but I do believe staying busy keeps us happy, as long as we make time for our family and friends.

If we have too much on our plate, we put too much stress on our body, but if we have too little, it leaves us feeling unsatisfied.  As long as we’re always working to achieve that balance, we can live full, happy lives.

Something to blog about

photograph used with permission from Tammy and Johnny Salaza, admins. of the Facebook page: Pensacola LIFE--The Page

Photograph used with permission from Tammy and Johnny Salaza, admins. of the Facebook page: Pensacola LIFE–The Page

 

So many years, I’ve avoided college because I didn’t think I was smart enough.  I took an assessment test today at the facility and the recruiter told me I had to score at least a 13.  I scored a 31, and she told me a score over 30 was almost unheard of.  I needed that boost of confidence.  Math (the kind that mixes letters and numbers) has always been the bane of my educational existence.  That’s why I didn’t stick with college, because I knew to get my degree, I would have to pass it, and I was so convinced I wouldn’t be able to.  I know it won’t be easy, but I also know if I try hard (and focus) enough, I can at least pass it.  If only I had known at twenty-two what I know at thirty-two…

I was one of those lazy people who only wanted to do what came easy, assuming that all those who got Master’s degrees didn’t have to work as hard as I did to get an A.  I look at this new chapter of my life as a challenge–a challenge to work my brain in a different way, perhaps even help me hone my creativity even more.  I am a big believer in simplifying our lives in any ways we can (for example, I have a housecleaning schedule I stick to, which helps, because I am forgetful, and I don’t have any more bath towels or dinner plates than I need), but that doesn’t mean we need to be simple-minded.  We should all be lifelong learners.

The biggest catalyst/inspiration in making this decision was my daughter.  Of course, I am doing this for myself, too (she was just the final push), but I want to be an example to her that you’re never too old and it’s never too late to learn a new skill, to better ourselves, to work towards financial peace.  For so long, I’ve worked low-wage restaurant and retail jobs, where most bosses, especially if you do a good job, would prefer to hold you back so they can keep you where they want you.  In getting an education, proving my worth, I will be bypassing all that.  I like to shop and eat, but I don’t want to work in those kinds of settings.  Those jobs are fine, as long as they’re temporary, and you’re working towards something.  I think one can actually have more enthusiasm for a job like that if they know it’s only temporary, that better things are coming.

Having this program of study under my belt will also give me the confidence I need to look for that job, be proud of my resume, not be nervous at an interview, etc.

I can finally see what is at the light of the end of the tunnel, a path which has shortened considerably, now that I know what I want to do.

Query letter to “Missouri Life” magazine

Paul and Eleanor

(Above:  My grandparents, Paul and Eleanor Booker.)
(Below:  The query letter for the 5000+ word personal essay on the town of my birth.)

Dear Editors,

“Poplar Bluff” is a memoir of the fondest kinds of memories–those from childhood.  It is a juicy slice of small town American life, which includes a history of P.B., peppered with anecdotes and salted with sweet remembrances.

For several years, I spent all my summers with my grandparents in P.B., my aunt, uncle and cousins right next door.  I didn’t have that kind of luxury or history in Pensacola, Florida—the luxury of having family close by, and of a shared history in the place where I lived.

“Poplar Bluff” is also coming-of-age essay, where the memories are as golden as the tones in a vintage photograph, and the present is as stark as Technicolor.  It is also a love story of loss and moving on from loss.  Poplar Bluff, as I remember it, is representative of a simpler time, before Facebook and cell phones and other devices monopolized our hours, when kids played outside and entertained themselves.

It is a story of the wonders of summer through the eyes of a child.

 

My parents were into genealogy during those seasons of my life, and so I have them to thank for some of the more factual content, but the parts I believe that will resonate most is the story only I can tell.

I believe anyone who has ever called Missouri home, and those who have chosen it as their home, will find something worth remembering in what is simply titled, “Poplar Bluff:  A Memoir”.

 

A little about me:  I am married and the mother of a five-month old baby girl.  In addition to being a full-time, stay-at-home mom, I am the unofficial family storyteller.  I regularly blog on issues of freelance writing, marriage and motherhood.  My current project is a collection of children’s nursery rhymes, unofficially titled, “The Treasury of the Sara Madre.”  I am also a member of the local writer’s group, WriteOn! Pensacola.

 

Thank you for your generous time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Warmest regards,
Sarah Lea Richards

Grandma and Jacques

(Above:  My grandmother, as I remember her, and their dog, Jacques.)