Publisher’s Jargon Every Writer Should Understand

Dress for success by understanind publishing terms.

Dress for success by understanding publishing terms.

On our writing journey there’s always new things to learn. Writing jargon, one of them, can be confusing. Mastering this terminology makes us a professional. Yes, a professional. You know, the self-help gurus always say: “Dress for the job you want not for the job you have.” So let’s all put on our professional writing garment by learning and using writer’s terms.

How about starting with a few terms you might find in a Market Guide or on the submission page of a website.

Assignment: A description of an article a publisher would like to run. Study the publication to get a feel for what they like, and then make your article shine. Your article could still get a thumbs down after you submit it.

On Spec: An editor likes an idea presented in a query letter and asks for the complete manuscript on spec. This means, after all your work, they may not publish it. Be sure to follow the editor’s instruction in creating your article so it meets their needs. Be prepared to rewrite before it is accepted. And even after all that, it may still be rejected.

Byline: Your name under the title or at the top of a page. What we all love to see.

Clean Copy: a manuscript free of typos, grammatical and formatting errors. This is so much easier to achieve with our PCs compared to typewriters years ago. I love not having to deal with whiteout, carbon paper and retyping. Don’t be lazy and assume the spellcheck has you covered. Get another set of eyes on it. You might want to print it off and read it out loud to be certain you have caught all errors.

Cover Letter: A letter sent with a submitted article. It contains your writing credentials and a little bit about your article. Be sure to include information the editor requests.

Electronic Submission: A manuscript submitted electronically. That seems like a no brainer, but it is important to do this correctly. Most editors want your submission as an attachment. Some however want it in the body of your email. Check the submission guidelines. Be sure your name is on the attachment, i.e. Cindy Huff- My Article Title. They may even request your name in the subject line of your email. If a full manuscript of your book is requested, send as a zip drive. Otherwise your email will be too large and pretty much impossible to open.

Fair use: The amount of material that can be quoted without securing permission. This can be tricky. Check the permission page at the front of a book. Websites often have the permission information at the bottom. Some authors allow zero quotes without permission. Some require you to credit them with a specific tag line. While others allow you to shamelessly quote the whole book. When in doubt ask permission. The old adage it’s-easier-to-ask-forgiveness-than-permission does not apply here. Your article or book may never see the light of day if permission has not been secured. No publication wants a lawsuit. Click for further information.

Fillers: This is exactly what it sounds like. A small piece to fill a space. In Reader’s Digest this might be a quote or a joke. Some periodicals are looking for quizzes or puzzles. They might be a small news item. Check submission guidelines for specifics. A nice chunk of change can be made from fillers.

First person articles: A true personal story written from the viewpoint of the one who experienced it. The pronouns I, me, my, our, etc. are used.

Kill fee: Small fee paid to the author for an article that wasn’t used. Submission guidelines state whether they offer a kill fee.

Payment on acceptance and Payment on publication: I mention these together because if you see the word payment, you will cause yourself frustration.

Publication payments vary from magazine to magazine.

Publication payments vary from magazine to magazine.

Payment on acceptance: Check is sent with letter of acceptance or just before your article is published.

Payment on publication: Check is sent after it is published, which could be months even years later. The editor may save your piece for just the right magazine theme which is schedule for a future date. Seasonal articles fall in this category. Keep a record of when you sent the article and when you received your confirmation letter of payment on publication. You may want to send a follow-up inquiry if you feel the time-line is getting too long.

Platform: A writer’s sphere of influence. This can be FB friends, church and club affiliations, twitter, blog, website or speaking engagements. Anything that lets the publisher know you are able to help market your book.

Published clips: Originals or copies of articles an author has written to present to an editor. It might be included in a query letter or shared at a writer’s conference. Some publishers will visit your links, but most prefer to see these clips. It lets them see your style and quality of writing. Scan some into a file so they can be sent electronically if an editor requests them.

Query letter: A letter to an editor sharing or pitching an article or book idea. You would include the idea, your qualifications for writing the article or book. Then add when you will have it completed. If you met the editor in the past, mention this as well.

SASE: A self-addressed stamped envelope. This is a rare bird in our electronic age. But some publishers still prefer the manuscript mailed rather than an electronic submission. This is where the SASE comes into play. Their address is in the return address corner, your address is on the front and correct postage to return your manuscript is affixed. That is also the envelope they will probably use to mail a check so don’t think not enclosing one with your article shows you have confidence they will accept it. It only shows you don’t follow directions.

Sidebar: A short piece to accompany your article. It will appear on the side of your article usually in a shaded box. It contains, graphs, bullet points, pointers. Things that add additional information but are not needed in the original article. Editors usually pay extra for sidebars.

 Research submission guidelines thoroughly. free stock photo.

Research submission guidelines thoroughly. free stock photo.

Slush pile: Where all unsolicited manuscripts go to die. To keep your work out of the slush pile read submission guidelines and follow them to the letter. Many publications don’t take unsolicited manuscripts. Some only deal with agents. While others will take unsolicited manuscripts, but if you violate even one point in their writer’s submission guidelines your manuscript is toast. A requested manuscript can end up in the slush pile if any part of the guidelines is missing. There is a tiny (more like minuscule) possibility that it could get rescued from the slush pile and published, but don’t hold your breath. Do your homework to avoid the slush pile. Be sure nothing is missing from your submission before your push the send button.

Unsolicited ms: A manuscript sent to an editor cold. No one asked for it. Again read the guidelines, and if they will accept unsolicited ms, add a query letter explaining why you sent your manuscript. If the guidelines say no unsolicited ms, do not send one. It will be deleted, placed in the circular file or if you are lucky, it will die a slow death in the slush pile.

Submission guidelines: Lest I forget the obvious and in case you have figured out the definition by my constant reference, writer’s guidelines or submission guidelines are the specific instructions from the publisher regarding sending your work to them. It mentions word count, themes, formatting, types of submissions, and dates of submission. (Some publishers only take manuscripts during a small window of time.) The publishers often times break it down to very specific items. Some have a page for new writers with examples of how to submit to them. Read, read and reread the guidelines.

Next Monday I’ll explain the terms rights and royalties.

Feel free to comment on any of these terms and add a few I haven’t mentioned. A few of you have sent me messages on Facebook saying they can’t find the place to comment. For those who are on my main page click the word comment in the list below or click on the title to take you to the post page where you will see an area to comment on the bottom. Hope that helps.

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An Interview with New YA Author Debra Coleman Jeter


Today I want to welcome Debra Coleman Jeter to my blog. Debra’s debut novel The Ticket has been tagged as a # 1 release by Amazon. Its release date was June 9th and it continues to receive 5 star reviews. Not bad for a newbie, Debra. Take a seat on my slightly lumpy couch and help yourself to some chai tea. While you get settled let me share the book blurb on your book.

Cover-The TicketTray Dunaway longs to be part of the popular set at school, but she’s growing too fast and her clothes no longer fit. The only person who understands Tray’s need for acceptance is her grandmother, but when Tray wears Gram’s hand-sewn clothes to school, the kids make fun of her tall, boney appearance. Tray’s luck improves when Pee Wee Johnson, a down-and-out friend of her father’s, buys two lottery tickets and gives one to Mr. Dunaway as a thank-you for driving him to Hazard, Illinois. When her father’s ticket turns out to be the winner, Johnson demands his cut of the proceeds, but Tray’s dad refuses. What seems like a stroke of good fortune suddenly becomes a disturbing turn of events as Johnson threatens to cause problems for the family and Tray.

Check out the book trailer for The Ticket at:

Debbie, what prompted you to write this novel?

That tea’s delicious! Cindy, first, I want to thank you for having me on your blog. As a newbie, I’ve just started one of my own, but I’m not sure anyone has found it yet.

I think the idea for this novel came to me in stages. First, I wanted to write something to show how little importance wealth really is, though we often spend way too much time thinking about money. Once I decided to write about a family with financial troubles winning the lottery, then I thought it might be interesting if someone else bought the ticket and gave it to them … which leads to a lot of the twists in my plot.

I’m admitting my age here but I was a teen in the early 70s. The setting resonated with me. Why the 1970s? Why not present day?

I wanted to pick a time when a fourteen year old was more naïve than today’s teens typically are. Also, I wanted a time before cell phones and social media. Finally, I chose a period when the states of Kentucky and Tennessee (the states where I’ve spent most of my life) did not yet have a lottery, and so the idea of winning a lottery was particularly novel. You had to cross into another state just to buy a ticket.

There are some edgy scenes in The Ticket. One in particular caught some flak from some readers. As a YA book many parents may read it before their teens. Tell me why you felt the scenes needed to be there.

First, it provides an opportunity to round out the character of Pee Wee, the man who buys the ticket. Up to this point in the novel, his behavior makes him seem ominous. This scene shows that he isn’t evil or beyond redemption. But, more importantly, The Ticket deals with some tough, realistic issues. The situation referred to in the controversial scene is one that arises all too often, and I think it’s important for young women or boys who might face something like this in their lives to know that it’s not their fault. They are not alone. They should not feel ashamed. Ideally, I’d like for my book to open a dialogue within families about how to handle such a situation should it arise.

How do you hope Tray’s story will impact your YA readers?

I hope they will be moved to cheer for Tray, to be alternately glad or sad with her, depending on what is going on. I hope they see the good that can come out of difficult or trying circumstances. No matter how bleak things get, there is always hope in the morrow. I want them to see a girl who, like so many of us, struggles with self-confidence and to see they too can emerge stronger and more confident in the end. Also, I hope they will figure out that Tray is making some mistakes and resolve not to make those same kinds of mistakes in their own lives.

Debbie, what’s next on your agenda? A sequel for Tray or a different direction?

A different direction. I have two adult novels almost ready to go; they are set in a small Southern beach town. I am also currently writing an ambitious saga about my grandmother’s life, which is based on the facts that I know, but fictionalized. I start when she is twelve and cover fifty years of her life.

Tell us a little about Debra Jeter. What are you up to when you are not writing?

I love to spend time with my family. My daughter has a three year old and a new baby, just a month and a half, and they are incredibly precious. I also teach and do academic research at Vanderbilt University. I find my way to water every chance I get—to the ocean or to Kentucky Lake, especially in these hot, humid days of summer. I start to dry out like a fish if I am away from water too long. There is nothing quite like the ocean to show us God’s power and to teach us we cannot rely on our own. I also love to collaborate with my son on film projects (when he will let me)!

One last question. The one I love to ask every writer I interview. What words of wisdom would you give new writers?

I have a colleague at Vanderbilt whose signature on his emails reads “Never, never, never give up.” I think this is what I would tell writers. That, and write what you care deeply about, rather than what you think the market is ripe for.

Before you go let’s do a give-away. Commenter’s names will be put in a drawing. The winner will receive a copy of The Ticket. I’ll give everyone until the end of the week to comment. The winner will be announced in the comment section on Saturday. If you have any questions about Debra’s book or her writing journey Debra would love to answer them. As an extra incentive each commenter will be sent a link for a chance to win a Kindle Fire. Include your email to receive the link.

 Click here to order The Ticket

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A Father’s Day Memory for my Father and Military Families

My dad, Harry Ervin early in his career.

My dad, Harry Ervin early in his career.

Today, in honor of Father’s Day I am posting early rather than Monday. This is a reflection I wrote a few years back about my own dad. I share this to not only honor him but all military dads who are spending Father’s Day away from their families. And for all military families who feel the loss of their parent (dad or mom) during holidays. Thank you dad for your service and for being my dad.


My daddy and me in 1956.

My daddy and me in 1956.

As the radio announcer took calls from listeners relating their one special Christmas gift, my mind went back to Christmas 1964. The memory started in November 1963 when my father picked my sister Linda and I up from elementary school. A rare treat, we always rode the bus, his presence brought a smile of anticipation to our face awaiting some special surprise. Dad’s face was somber as he told us President Kennedy had been assassinated. I remember having no reaction: I was only eight. We stared at our father in confusion. That historic event paled in comparison to what was to follow in just a few short weeks.

Our Thanksgiving holiday was blurred with sadness that went beyond watching the President’s funeral on TV. Dad served in the Air Force, and was scheduled to deploy to Vietnam December 15th. The previous summer we had moved back to Illinois. Daddy wanted us near family while he was deployed. Moving was part of the military life; my sisters and I took it in stride. By the time Christmas break came, he was gone. No one had heard of Vietnam, yet. The media wasn’t focusing on it and the US troops were there as observers. We girls were too young to understand the risk involved. This was the first time Dad was stationed somewhere his family could not go. We came home from school that day, and he was already gone. I don’t recall whether he had said goodbye to us that morning. But I felt his absence somewhere deep inside that I refused to acknowledge. Instead I put our new Mitch Miller Children’s Christmas sing-along record on the stereo. My sister pulled out the song book; our bell-adorned shoe laces keeping rhythm to the music. Dad had been gone before so we settled into enjoying our time off from school, awaiting Santa’s visit with the usual anticipation.

Dad in Vietnam

For me, I came to understand he was really gone on Christmas morning. Linda while playing with her new Barbie Dream House noticed one of the cardboard legs on the bed was bent at an odd angle. My sister complained when she broke the leg trying to straighten it. To our surprise Momma cried.

That moment marked the beginning of the loneliest year of my young life. Having aunts and uncles living nearby wasn’t the real comfort we needed. Dad would not be walking in the door after we returned from school. Each morning the place at the table across from my mother was vacant. No more whispered tones gently awakening me from slumber as my parent’s drank their morning coffee. No more card games with him. I even missed his scolding us for still being awake after bedtime. My father was not a huggy, kissy kind of man. His presence was silent, yet dependable. When he scolded us about our bedtime and helped us with our homework, he was loving us. Watching Wide World of Sports on Sunday afternoon was our loving him. Saturday morning Road Runner cartoon was our together time.

Like most women of her generation, Mom had defined tasks that were hers as the wife and mother. Now she had to deal with maintaining the car and any repairs on the house. Her attempt at mowing stands out in my mind as another defining moment. I remember there were tears as the task nearly overwhelmed her. The grass caused her breathing difficulties. I stepped forward and offered to mow, giving her a break. Mom allowed me to mow a row or two before the anxiety of watching her eight-year-old daughter mow forced her to finish the job herself. Even with all extended family stepping up, taking on mowing and other tasks my father’s absence was never overshadowed. Rather it was magnified by the letters and gifts he sent us. My transistor radio became my constant nighttime companion. I hid the radio under my pillow so Mom could not hear it. Music kept the darkness away until sleep took me.

Every night we girls would climb into Momma’s bed and she would read to us. We all felt a sense of security as we snuggled together. Those fairy tales and fables remain with me today. This was our ritual for that whole year until Dad returned.

Exactly one year to the day, December 15, 1964, my father returned safely to us. He arrived in a taxi, and Mom ran out to meet him. I recall my sisters and I stayed inside holding back, shyness overtaking us. It seemed surreal that he was finally home. When Dad came in the front door, he did the unthinkable—he gave each of us a big hug. Feeling his arms and that familiar Old Spice cologne surrounding us broke the spell, and joy took hold. Later that day my youngest sister, Carol, took her friend into the bedroom where my father slept from his long exhausting plane trip. The past year her playmate had doubted his existence. My four-year-old sister pointed at his sleeping form and declared.

“See, I do, too, have a daddy. There he is.”

Her words seemed to echo how we all felt.

Those two Christmases took me full circle through the feelings of loss and loneliness to comfort and joy. I cannot tell you what we received as gifts that year for Christmas. My father’s presence will forever be a treasure in my heart. His safe return was the best gift of all.

My father is 85 and still with me in his quiet, steady way. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

If you have memories of your own father that still resonate with you today leave me a comment. I’d love to hear it.

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Tips for Writing Crime Scenes Tailored to Your Audience

Writing a Crime Scene for your genre has many components. photo from

Writing a Crime Scene for your genre has many components.
photo from

I don’t write crime thrillers but love reading a good crime novel. I’m intrigued when I read a well-crafted crime scene. Even a romance (which is my genre) can have a crime scene. But after reading my friend and fellow-author’s book Whiskey Sunrise. I knew he was the guy to explain as the title suggests how to tailor your scene to your audience.

Author John Turney

Author John Turney

John: Thanks for the plug for my latest novel.

My pleasure. Take a seat on my not so white couch and I’ll pull out my notebook. John, I don’t know where to begin to write a believable crime scene. So I yield to your expertise. How does one set up a realistic crime scene?

John: A scene is a scene is a scene. If you’ve never been to a beach, how would you describe a beach scene in your writing project? You could go look at pictures of beaches. You could use Google Earth and look at the locale of your beach scene. You could talk to people who have been to the beach. You could read books that use a beach scene. And finally, you could actually go to the beach yourself. Anyone up for a field trip?

That’s great advice…if I wanted to do a beach scene. But, how does that relate to a crime scene?

John: I’ve never been a cop, nor have I played one on TV. Yet, as a writer, I need to put the reader at the crime scene. First off, know your genre and your audience. Are you writing a police procedural? A thriller? A noir? A cozy? And what audience are you targeting? YA? New Adult? Young mothers? Christian men?

The particular type of mystery will dictate the kind of details. If it’s a cozy for teenage girls, the grisly minutiae will be completely off stage. However, if it’s a thriller aimed at a male audience, I might give a shot by shot, cut by cut detail.


Interesting. Why is knowing your genre and audience before writing the scene important?

John: It sets the parameters of what can be included. The boundaries of what can or cannot be included. If you’re doing a cozy, you wouldn’t need to know about gunshot residue or blood splatter or lividity or decomp. If you are doing a police procedural, you better know that stuff.

In other words, you know what ingredients to add or leave out.

John: Exactly. Second, learn to write good scenes. There is a balance between not enough detail and too much. Give the reader some room so their mind can create the experience. But don’t leave them high and dry. There’s plenty of good writing books and videos on developing scenes.

Can you define what constitutes a crime scene?

Well, there is a crime scene and the scene of the crime. It sounds like a minor point, but it is major in knowing how to set up the scene. The crime scene is anyplace connected to the crime. If a criminal flees the crime and tosses away his weapon, that becomes a crime scene. The crime did not happen there, but that locale is now connected to the crime. The scene of the crime is where the actual crime took place. And this is where the writer enters the world of criminal investigation.

Fingerprints  may be part of your characters discovery in the crime scene. Photo from

Fingerprints may be part of your characters discovery in the crime scene. Photo from

Then let’s enter…

John: Forget CSI. Forget Criminal Minds. Forget NCIS. Fun shows. Enjoy watching them. But they will not help you lay out your scene. There’s an old saying, “Wherever you go, you leave some trace of you behind and take some trace of the location with you.” You go to a public restroom, the person before you has left trace elements of themselves on the toilet seat.

Now you’re just grossing me out.

John: Sorry about that. But that is key to criminal investigation, to your scenes and your plot. It will help add clues and red herrings. Things to remember, the first responder (usually a beat cop) takes control of the scene. He must determine if the victim needs medical assistance or a trip to the morgue. If the suspect is there, he must try and apprehend that individual. And he must preserve the scene. Going back to the toilet seat example people enter the area leaving and taking from the crime scene.

As more cops join the scene, some kind of management has to take place. Someone is assigned to a logbook to record those who enter the scene. Detectives are assigned to the case. Crime Scene people go over the area with a fine tooth comb looking for fingerprints, hair samples, dirt particles, insect or insect parts and any blood splatter. If it’s a shooting, bullet casing are located. The scene is drawn out on paper or software, documenting which things were found where. With digital cameras, you can’t ever get enough photos.

An important detail to remember and NCIS gets this right. Cops control the scene, the coroner controls the body.

Let’s pause here. This is good information. But where does a writer who has no experience in law enforcement learn this stuff?

John: Research

That’s kinda obvious. Can you give us some leads? (See how I connected my question our subject? J)

John: Very clever.

I thought so. So, where do I begin?

John: There are many, many places to get your information right. A good place to start is Lee Lofland’s Police Procedure and Investigation, his blog the Graveyard Shift, and his Writer’s Police Academy Conference. All great places to delve into the mindset of an investigation.

Then there are blogs and web sites. D. P. Lyle, MD has a great web site——covers all kinds of details on Forensics from a doctor’s POV. His nonfiction books include Forensics: a Guide for Writers, Forensics for Dummies, Murder and Mayhem, Forensics and Fiction, and More Forensics and Fiction. There are tons more resources than just these two.

Other areas of interest would be managing a crime scene investigation, forensics, guns, searches, interrogation techniques, and driving techniques.

I’ve brought my laptop so let’s do a quick search.

Wow! That’s quite a few.

John: This is only the Barnes and Noble site.

  • US Marshalls: Inside America’s Most Storied Law Enforcement Agency by Mike Earp,
  • 400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman by Adam Plantinga,
  • Under Alone by William Queen (going undercover in a motorcycle gang),
  • Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas,
  • Effective Police Supervision by Harry W. More,
  • Death’s Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm by William Bass,
  • True Crime books, especially those by Ann Rule.

Do you have a favorite book?

John: Hallie Ephron’s Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel takes you from a blank page all the way through to a finished mystery. I highly recommend it.

 I see you’ve stopped at an interesting website. What is it?


Let’s click on their Alphabetical Listing of Law Enforcement Agencies. Under the letter C I find a link to my hometown police department, the Cincinnati Police Department. It gives me a three paragraph summation of the department. In those three paragraphs, I have information to use as a background and a springboard to go deeper.

How would you go about going deeper?

Many police departments have a public relations department. Often, they are willing to talk to authors. Only one way to find out is to call them. Be courteous and you might end up with invaluable resources.

I am a member of a Sisters in Crime chapter. (Guys can join the chapters too.) We often have guest speakers from some aspect of law enforcement, including a facial reconstructionist, a prison warden, highway patrolmen, lawyers, judges, and true crime journalists. We visited the Columbus Crime Lab, and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

What if you’re not a member of the Sisters of Crime?

John: A great resource are cops themselves. I know…go figure. But just listening to them talk will help you refine your character’s cop-speak. For example, cops will often refer to residents as citizens, to cars/SUVs/etc. as vehicles. They can not only provide accurate details, but they can infuse your muse with more stories. Then there is the ride along. You have to check local departments to see if they allow this activity.

My mind is spinning from all this information.

JT: And that’s just skimming the surface. Here’s the advantage a writer has over the police. The police have to investigate a crime set up by someone else. The writer gets to set up the crime for her investigator. So go forth, and detail dastardly deeds done by dudes and dames doing-in dumb delinquents.

John, you are too funny. Thanks for joining me today. Readers can order your copy of Whiskey Sunrise here. If you are interested in reading my interview with John on this novel click here.


Do any dastardly deed writers out there have any tips or resources to share with others of like minds? Leave a comment below.

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Guest Blog: Is Writing Part of Your Life Purpose?

Today I have my new friend, accountability partner and professional life coach Darlene Lund as my guest. Darlene has been a wonderful catalysis to help me reach my weekly writing goals. She writes from her desire to help women fulfill all God has for them.

Darlene Lund Life Coach shares a challenge as my guest today.

Darlene Lund, Life Coach shares a challenge as my guest today.

A Bit about Darlene

Darlene Lund, founder of Hearts with a Purpose, , coaches and inspires women to live out their life purpose. A Professional Certified Life Coach, Life Purpose Coach®, Recovery Coach, Grief-loss Coach, and a strategic 2-Day Lifeplan coach; Darlene offers customized coaching for women right where they are. She is passionate that women become fully alive to all that God has created them for.

HP logo

From her heart to yours

As a little girl I often saw my mother pick up her blue fountain pen. My siblings and I were warned it was not ours to touch. The tip of the pen point was quite delicate. The pen held an ink cartridge that was a little cylinder. It contained liquid blue ink and had to be replaced often.

When my mom pressed the pen to the paper the words appeared to trickle and tumble. Like magic the skinny pen delivered a flow of blue words.

My Mother was no author or blogger. Yet, she touched countless lives by dropping a handwritten card or note in the mail to communicate to others that they were cared for, thought of, and loved. Recipients often complimented and thanked her and added, “Donna, you have such beautiful hand writing.”

In the evenings, only for her families’ eyes and ears, she would pull out her diary and quickly pen the day’s highlights, plus share news with us that occurred the previous year.

So why did my mother write when she had such little free time? Was writing a part of my mother’s life purpose?

I believe so. She loved communicating to others through the written word. Plus she cast a vision to me that writing was a positive craft.

How about you, is writing a part of your life purpose?

As a coach for women and a Life Purpose Coach ® I hear women’s burning heart desires. Sometimes the writing passion is in their heart’s cry. Sometimes it is not. If there is an all-consuming message to share, usually I hear that. I challenge these women to take inventory on what God would have them to do with the message.

I have been a reluctant writer. I never dreamed of having my name on a book jacket. However, I did grow up with the dream of becoming a teacher. I achieved that dream.

In my early 20’s I taught children. Later in my 40s’ I sensed a shift. God transitioned my focus to women. I was to coach, teach, speak and write on behalf of women’s needs.

Writing is not easy for me. But, the message of who God is, what he has done and been in my life, far out-weighs my past fears and frustration of writing. I know it is a part of my life purpose. If I were not to write, what he has vested in me would be sealed off from others. I would be robbing the Lord of the glory he deserves.

For some individuals writing can be fun. Therapeutic. Creative. And others find it painful, difficult, and challenging. Writing, blogging, getting published takes work, effort, re-writing, do overs along with days, months, and years pitching to get published.

I believe if the message in the writer is to be reproduced to touch others’ lives, it will come to be. Writing on purpose takes persistent, perseverance, and push through.

For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. Colossians 1:29” (NASB)

Darlene’s challenge

What is your heart’s burning desire?

Do you have a message that must be shared?

What is stopping or blocking you?

Will you deny others the privilege of learning, because you did not write?

Subscribe to  Hearts with a Purpose Newsletter

Thank you so much, Darlene, for this challenge.

So readers, what burning desire has God put on your heart? We’d love to hear about it? Leave a comment below.


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It’s a Struggle to Keep My Writing Torch Lit

Don't let your writing torch dim. Image compliments of

Don’t let your writing torch dim. Image compliments of

Like most conference attendees, my heart and mind are on fire with all I’ve learned and the encouragement I received. My I AM A WRITER torch shines so brightly in my soul that it overwhelms every other thought. My world is changed. Sigh!!! Then I drop my things inside my front door—reality hit hard. My mother has called several times. My grandchildren are needy, and there’s a pile of laundry that needs to be done.

Realty shows its ugly face in the form of laundry and other tasks.  Image compliments of

Realty shows its ugly face in the form of laundry and other tasks.
Image compliments of

I want time to decompress. But I spend my first day back with my elderly parents. Calming anxieties, attending to needs and cheering them up. Back home I am hugging grandbabies and cuddling granddaughters while their parents attended to things they need to do. I have a few days to organize myself before I go back to work.

If I let it, my day can return to business as usual. Well, I choose not to. I have projects to complete and new ones to start and this blog to get out on time. I will lock myself in my room and work. I’ll ignore the phone and the knocks on my door by family members. (Well, most of the time.)

I spent a lot of time and hard earned money to make connections toward publication at that conference. I’ve learned valuable things I need to start implementing right away. And I’ve discovered more friends who get my writer’s mind. Yet, it is easy to let my other life, the one full of housecleaning, job responsibilities and grandbabies squash the zeal, bury the plans and deconstruct my conviction that I am a writer.

Schedule it and follow through to keep your  I AM A WRITER flame burning bright. Image from free microsoft clipart.

Schedule it and follow through to keep your I AM A WRITER flame burning bright.
Image from free microsoft clipart.

Over the years I’ve started with baby steps. Scheduling time, even if it’s only a few hours a week to write. Taking reading material with me when I am waiting, pulling out a notebook to write. Even taking my laptop on long trips. I have my email connected to my phone. I can delete unimportant emails during break time at work. I rise extra early to write. Sometimes if my brain is functioning I write at night. Whatever it takes, I will not let life extinguish my writing flame.

The funny thing is—perhaps funny is not the right word—I always had excuses over the years as to why I couldn’t write. I’d lay it aside when life changes came. I’ve slowed my steps toward publication on many occasions. It was simply easier than pressing on. Now, however, I am now busier than I have ever been, yet I am writing more than I ever have. And truly experiencing what it feels like to be a writer.

I will do what it takes to feed my writing flame. How about you?


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Home from the Conference Now What?

Clip board do list

Now that you’re home from your writer’s conference, it’s time to get organized. While you are decompressing that first day back, take time to send thank you notes. Yes, thank-you notes are still in vogue even though they may be electronic ones.

Thank you notes

Send them to all the people you had appointments with, thanking them for their time. You could send a note to the conference organizer and the instructors whose classes you attended. Gratefulness is an attribute every writer should practice. We all know how good it makes us feel to be thanked and appreciated. Go forth and do likewise.

Send stuff

If anyone requested information you mentioned you had (not proposals), send it now. It is easy to get busy and forget, and when you see them next at a conference, it will be awkward and embarrassing.

Request stuff

Some teachers will say, “If you email me, I will send you my notes.” Or they might have a special email for submission not available at the conference. Be sure to email your request for those things right away. It may take them a little while depending on their schedule to get back to you.

Sort, friend and follow

Sort through the pile of business cards you collected, and if they are not a friend on FB, add them. Follow them on tweeter, and if you use Linkedin, make the connection. Add them to your email list. All those connections are golden.

Post comments and photos on social media. Tag you new friends in pics or mentioned them in your comments.

Organize and rewrite

Organize all your notes. Don’t just place the notebooks on a shelf without perusing pages. You may find you wrote a vital piece of contact information in the midst of your workshop notes. Search for web addresses and books mentioned by teachers, and transfer the info to another sheet. I had written proposal request information from an editor who didn’t have a handout on a page of my notebook. Good thing I found it.

Calendars and time

Time Management is mentioned many times and in many ways at conferences. Plan how you are going to conquer it. Write down your commitment. Get out your calendar (whether on paper or PC) and plot your writing projects. Set goals for completion and days, hours, minutes you plan to write to reach those goals. You don’t want to let a whole year pass and conference time rolls around and you still haven’t submitted to all those who requested your work. Be sure to plan time to edit the things editors and critique groups suggested.

Read and Listen

Go through the books and CDs you purchase and plan when you will read and listen. If you commute to work, you can make that a classroom time with your CDs. Most writers are avid readers so I’m sure you know when your primo reading time is.

Do it now to gain success

The sooner you do these things the more like a writer you are going to feel. The discipline of reaching your conference goals builds confidence. Confidence is just another step toward the success you desired when you attended the conference in the first place.

What’s the first task you do when you come home from a conference?


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Conference Tips: Double Checking and Final Thoughts

Double checking to be sure I haven't forgot anything before I leave for the conference.

Double checking to be sure I haven’t forgot anything before I leave for the conference.

Today is the first day of the Write-To-Publish Conference. I have spent the last few days making sure I have done everything I encouraged you all to do in my ten tips. I feel I’m as ready to as I can be to get full value out of this week’s conference.

I’m looking forward to reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. My tote bag contains all the tools I’ll need. Wait! I need to do a double check. Help me look through my bag to be sure I haven’t forgotten anything.

I’ve removed everything and we can repack it again following my previous conference tip posts.

  1. I have my special business card holder. Let’s look inside. I didn’t forget to put the business cards in there. (Hey, it’s happened before.)
  2. Multiple copies of my sell-sheets for my two novels. Check.
  3. Chapters and summaries (I opted to leave my proposals at home based on my research and experience at previous conferences.) Check.
  4. I have marked the workshops and classes I want to attend.
  5. I’ve done my research and know who I want an appointment with to pitch my stuff.
  6. I have printed copies of my writing clips from magazines, blog posts and e-zines.
  7. I’ve print off a variety of samples. Some I want to pitch and others just because you never know what you wish you’d brought along.
  8. I reviewed the dress code and made sure my wardrobe is appropriate. I’ve broken in my new shoes ahead of time, (Don’t want blisters.)
  9. My notepad and several pens are now safely tucked in my tote as well.
  10. I’ve practiced my pitches (well, you all know I hate doing them.) to try and make them sound smooth and natural.

So, looks like I’m ready. Wait I need to add an umbrella or rain parka; the weather is so unpredictable in Northern Illinois this time of year. I’ve made sure any bills due while I’m away are paid. All instructions for family left behind clearly defined. My phone charger added to my tote. If I were not commuting, I would be double checking my luggage and adding my laptop and its adapter to my pile to haul to the conference. I might opt to take it later in the week anyway.

Eyeballing everything one last time. Looks like I’m ready to go. I’m stoked and nervous even though this is my seventh year attending a conference. Next week I’ll post some highlights and new things I’ve learned.

If you are attending the Write to Publish Conference be sure to look me up. I love to connect with my readers.

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Conference Tip #10 Notes, Books and CDs, OH NO!

Shopping at the conference and having enough paper for note taking are two subjects dear to a conferencees heart. Photo By Charles Huff

Shopping at the conference and having enough paper for note taking are two subjects dear to a conferencees heart. Photo By Charles Huff

Here is my last piece of advice for a successful conference. This answers the biggest quandary writers have at conferences.

Note Taking Needs

I had a friend email asking me how many notebooks she should take to the writer’s conference. My response—one. Think back to high school. It took a few weeks or longer to fill up a spiral notebook with notes from any given class. Most conferences run from two to four days. Often handouts are given with many of these classes. I’ve been given a three ring binder at conferences with outlines to fill in. One notebook or some loose leaf paper to slide in the binder under the classes you are taking is usually enough. If you’re still afraid you won’t have enough paper, then buy a larger notebook. Some people prefer legal pads or steno pads. Whatever you’re most comfortable with.

I’m seeing more people bring laptops and tablets. I find myself editing my notes as I type so I haven’t taken the leap to technology for note taking. But those who have lightening fingers on the keyboard do well with it. This is especially nice if a website is recommended. Once typed in your notes, it usually creates a direct link.

Paper or tablet is up to you. What you do with those notes after the conference is the key. Do you review them throughout the year? Rewrite them to help you remember. Or shove them in a file folder or on a shelf marked 2015 conference and never look at them again? Hold that thought. Determine to take more thorough notes on the things you really find helpful and fewer notes on things you’ve heard before. Hit the highlights and new revelations. Why? You are more likely to review those notes again.

Buy CDS????

Buying the CDs of the conference are a great way to review your notes. A wonderful thing to listen to in the car and if you get MP3 format you can download them to other devices. But as I said in a previous post, don’t buy them if you know you will never listen to them. I have a few of those on my shelf gathering dust. Although you can get a great deal by buying the whole conference, it’s of no value if you never listen to all of them. Buy the ones you really feel you will benefit from.

Some conferences offer CDs from previous conferences. That’s a great way to get information on subjects not covered in this year’s agenda. And the cost is considerably less. Some speakers offer sets of CDs on the subject covered in their class. Often it covers more than the time they were allotted at the conference. Great chance to really grasp the topic.

Books, Books and more Books

There is always a bookstore at conferences. They contain books on every aspect of writing and marketing. Books by the speakers, teachers and other authors attending the conference. I have acquired a large number of books on writing craft as well as autographed copies of novels, devotionals and other fun books. Writers are readers. Successful writers are avid readers. This is a great place to stock up.

Now that you are salivating over the prospect of purchasing books I’ll add—rein it in. Choose carefully the books you buy. Take time to examine the table of content, read the back cover blurb, and check out examples in chapters. Otherwise you may be spending money on duplicate stuff. There are lots of how to books out there. Many contain the same information just presented differently. If you have a book on writing proposals you love, you probably don’t need a second one unless your first one is outdated, you really enjoyed an instructor and he mentioned a book on a related subject that you feel must be great because he said so. Still check it out. Is his writing style as engaging as his speaking style? Do you think the subject would be helpful to you?

If you are on a budget, decide which books you really want to purchase at the conference. Put others on a list to buy later from the author’s website, online or your local bookstore. Sometimes those books on your list never get purchased. Which might prove you really didn’t need all those books after all. And some may come on sale later. Who doesn’t love a bargain?

Newbie list

Rather than sweat bullets as a novice attendee, here is a short list of must haves. Some are general because there are lots of books on the same subject by wonderful authors. But the first few are must-have titles.

2015-2016 Christian Writer’s Market Guide by Jerry B Jenkins (Tyndale)

Writer’s Market (Writer’s Digest)

(These books list lots and lots of markets to submit to.)

The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style edited by Robert Hudson (Zondervan) Similar to the AP and Chicago books of style. A great reference regarding grammar, sentence structure and punctuation and other details in professional writing which change with time and cause confusion. Clarity is at your fingertips.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. & E.B. White (Allyn & Bacon) Some feel this book is outdated, but this small volume still has a lot of useful information about grammar and sentence structure.

The rest of my list has no recommendations. Talk with others at the conference and get their suggestions on which books in the following categories they prefer and why.

  1. A book on how to write proposals and query letters. Preferably one with examples and step by step instructions. (I showed pictures of two books I recommend in a previous conference tip post.)
  2. Fiction writers should have books on POV, character development, plot structure, and other techniques for writing fiction. You may have a favorite author who has published this sort of book.
  3. Non-fiction writers should have at least one book on the nuts and bolts of putting together a well-written book.
  4. A book about self-editing and rewriting.
  5. Marketing book that covers lots of different avenues for selling your work. This area is in constant flux and not everything works for everybody. You might decide on more than one if they come at marketing from different angles.
  6. If you write poetry, screen plays, greeting cards or are looking for help on your speaker’s platform then add a book on those subjects to your list.
  7. Fiction writes should buy at least one novel. Studying the style of another writer always helps improve your own. I never buy only one. (grin)
  8. Non-fiction writers should also buy at least one book for the same reason. Choose a book in a similar topic to the one you are pitching -devotional, Bible Study, parenting for example.
  9. A book on how to research.
  10. Pick up a magazine or two either on craft or ones you would like to submit to in the future to study the content.

Final thoughts

Let me mention to fill your tote with anything offered free. Usually its publisher’s catalogs and writing guidelines, bookmarks and backlog magazines. Take one of each and sort through it later. Sometimes it is autographed copies of books.

Don’t feel obligated to buy a book because the author is standing there when you look through it. Same goes for CDS. Enjoy the sale table and keep your notebook handy to create your buy later list.

What do you like to buy at writer’s conferences?

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