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A Writer's Edge

English words, writing, and books--with a tech touch

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Name: Georganna Hancock
Location: San Diego, California, United States

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Online Spelling Improves

I see improvement online in grammar and spelling. One of my earliest posts was a rant on bloggers bringing their illiteracy into the Web:

It's my contention that blogs are a form of writing. (It's my intention to exploit this form of writing for fun and profit, if possible.) What I don't ascribe to is the apparent notion by many other bloggers that spelling and punctuation are unimportant in this format. Admittedly, I know of no other blogger who is as antique as I, however, that's no excuse for not even using a spell checking program or feature on entries. I feel certain it would catch "ever" spelled "evar" and the confabulation of "purpose" and "proposing" into "purposing". Why do these people expect to be taken seriously? How do they expect to find employment? Am I seriously out of touch with the real world? (July 15, 2004)
As the flood of blogs gained volume, the quality of writing in them has gradually improved. Even beginners are now cognizant of a necessity to write English more correctly. Twitter may degrade us a bit, forcing compression and tempting us to abbreviate and drop articles (an, a, the), but I feel that the cliché-ridden tide has turned.
Blogging itself has matured into an accepted form of journalism (and advertising, marketing propaganda, disinformation and public relations tools). Last night, participants in a Twitter chat learned that in some Middle East countries, bloggers are more respected sources of information than traditional media. Also, the founder of, Esra'a Al Shafei, explained that Western bloggers' opinions influence some ME governments who only care about their images, not necessarily about their citizens' welfare.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Writing for the Future

If you could have a positive impact on hundreds of thousands of people in the future, would you do it? I'm not setting up a sci-fi plot or harping on global warming (though it applies).

I refer to the opportunity for TV writers, producers, sponsors and supporters to help change factors underlying the most prevalent public health dangers: obesity, heart disease, diabetes, addictions and mental illnesses. According to the ground-breaking Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, these health issues are highly associated with childhood trauma like:

# Recurrent physical abuse
# Recurrent emotional abuse
# Contact sexual abuse
# An alcohol and/or drug abuser in the household
# An incarcerated household member
# Someone who is chronically depressed, mentally ill, institutionalized, or suicidal
# Mother is treated violently
# One or no parents
# Emotional or physical neglect

I saw the valid and shocking statistical results from this well-designed research. The more traumas a person experiences before the age of 18, the greater the probability that he or she will develop one or more of the health problems listed above. Not just "twice as likely", but in the hundreds, even thousands of times greater chances.

After presenting this compelling material, I asked Dr. Vincent J. Felitti, author of the work, about solutions for the resulting health issues beyond psychotherapy and psychoactive drugs. He shrugged and said, "I don't have any." What he does have is a vision for a preventative scenario: soap operas.

"When you go into the homes of these [damaged] people, what do you find? Always, a television. And what do they all watch? Not CNN, but soap operas." He explained that many people need positive modeling to become better parents. We must start this change where it would be most effective. People at risk do engage with television, and watch programs like the soaps, looking to the characters for clues as to how to act, Felitti said.

I've seen this idea play out in the 40 years I've been hooked on "Days of Our Lives", my surrogate family. Last spring, the series featured characters "greening" their homes and businesses (global warming), and everyone carried water bottles and worked out at the gym. Writers could weave in mentoring on the ACE Study factors through the intricate plot lines. I'm thinking that for all her heaving and weeping about being such a good mother, Sami hardly ever has her children around. She neglects them. Maybe Sami could actually learn to be a good mother.

Other TV programs people watch in droves are the so-called reality ones, which suggest another opportunity to begin a parenting revolution. If people are going to suckle at the teat of the great boob tube, let's give them nourishment for the future. It is a challenge that taxes writers' creativity and program investors' far-sightedness and dedication to values easily mouthed and more difficult to actualize.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Shakespeare Gum

For soothe-ing parch'd tungs & hurling ripe posts.
From the inimitable Archie McPhee


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Friday, August 28, 2009

Twitter Writers Directories

More reasons to join Twitter: A Directory of Authors on Twitter. If you write, you'll want your name in this directory. To be added, a book author must supply three pieces of information: Twitter ID, name, and genre or category. Please see this post for more details on being added to the directory.

If you're looking for a writer for a certain project, you can review the directory by categories, some of which are linked directly to the grouping. It is divided into Nonfiction, Fiction, Children and Poetry.

Also of interest might be Highspot's Directory of Book Trade People on Twitter. Those categories includes:

Book Publishers - Company Accounts | Book Publishers - Individual Accounts | Literary Agents | Bookstores & Booksellers - United States | Bookstores & Booksellers - Canada | Bookstores & Booksellers - Europe & Australia | Bookstores & Booksellers - Online | Libraries | Book Industry Publications | Book Industry Groups & Associations | Book Festivals & Conferences | Book Prizes | Publishing Education Programs | Book Industry Suppliers & Tools | Author & Publisher Services | Book Publicity & Marketing Services | Book Printers & Paper Suppliers | Subsidy Publishers | Book Reviewers | Bloggers on Books & Publishing | Book Discussion 2.0

I see I'll be busy soon signing up in several areas. The lists appear to be frequently updated, but I cannot vouch for validity or comprehensiveness. Twitter users probably come and go like bloggers. Why is knowing someone's Twitter account important? I've found tweeting is the quickest way to make contact, both with individuals and companies. The listings can also lead you to websites and also provide contact through hidden email addresses.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Editing Out Errors

It's horrifying to spot typos and grammar errors in new works. I don't even try! They just glare at me from a web or book page. They leap up and assault my eyes with their wrongness. One book was so painful, I refused to review it. A new website I investigated yesterday will not be recommended because of spelling gaffes (not gafs). How can you help writers if you won't proofread your own material, can't recognize ungrammatical constructions, sin with syntax?

I don't mind Shakespeare's "ravel'd sleeve of care", but I won't abide "sleave", or "illude", or "lead" when the word needed is the past tense "led" (my most frequent mistake that will go to press shortly. Sob!) When I'm a writer, I am my worst client as an editor. A writer knows exactly what is meant, and that is what is heard inside the head as the writing is reviewed. I need another editor to look over my writing.

Editing or Elysia?A worse type of mistake I spotted recently is in a listing of classes offered by a writing group. The class title is, "Self Editing Techniques". The presenter is a fiction writer. The description is about using spellbinding and "spellbreakers to hasten the progress of your final draft." One wonders, is this about facts or fantasy? Yes, even a little advertisement needs review by a second set of eyes for whom the material is fresh.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Value of Newspapers

Buy a newspaper--first impulse when Ted Kennedy's death hit my brain. I watched the coverage on TV for about an hour, but it wasn't good enough. I need a sturdy obit that I can reread, hold in my hands, cut out and save if I want to. Sound bites don't cover enough, and I can't recall what I hear.

What I wanted was top left on the San Diego Union-Tribune front page, jumped to page A10. It is surprisingly even-handed for a conservative enterprise covering the patriarch of liberals. Some of our need to know can only be satisfied by media with staff enough to investigate, collate, analyze and synthesize comprehensive reports. Grassroots journalism online will never be able to perform those functions any time soon. Who could read that much regularly on a monitor, anyway?

The UT's recent purchase by a business specializing in turnarounds begins to show. A couple of weeks ago the Sunday edition featured the return of a TV listings insert. I mentioned on Twitter that I was about to tell the paper I would resubscribe if that happened. Sadly, before I did, the insert disappeared and ads ran offering the listings at an extra cost with a subscription. Maybe I missed the fine print that first week, but I see a bait and switch.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Book Trailer Promotion

Here's one of the best book trailers I've seen. I wouldn't highlight it if I didn't think the book is fine, too. Complex subplots masterfully woven into a tale that is not spooky like I had imagined, but well worth reading.

The almost flawless execution of the trailer mirrors the book's writing. Dorraine Darden is OTW (One to Watch)! Also, watch this space for an interview with the up and coming author.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Writers Social Networking

Unless you're promiscuous, virtual networking is a confusing mine field. Being an "early adopter" of technology is easy: you jump in and if it doesn't work well enough, drop it. Not so easy with people, especially if all the nonverbal cues (facial expression, body language, voice) are missing.

I'm still working out my "linking policy" with LinkedIn, the online business networking service. A spate of "invitations" to join networks of people I don't know from Eve or Adam arrived, along with one from Meryl K. Evans, whom I recalled as an I.T. guru and now run into in writing groups.

I was still operating as a LAMB, rather than a LION (whose network is open to anyone). With people, I'm usually quite conservative and followed LinkedIn's advice. It seems to say, "Really know in life those you network with." I had pretty much limited mine to people I have worked with or for. Meryl pointed out that we know each other from Twitter chats, and that led her to invite me on LinkedIn.

It was time for more guidance, and I found How do you use your social networks? | Linkedin to Business. Viveka von Rosen's article describes a networking style closer to what I think I am trying for: strategic. I don't need to be a LION, yet my initial plan is too limiting, because I know I do want to connect with Meryl, and it is short-sighted of me to rebuff anyone like her who reaches out to me in this way. Also, it is the time to be turning around and holding out my hand to others.

Back to the original dilemma: why to follow whom in Twitter.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Another Writer Blog Contest

Contests for writers' blogs run rampant across the 'net. Now Maria Schneider has decided to hold one. Nominations due by September 1 at: Editor Unleashed ( Rules read:

Please include the following with your nomination:

• The blog hyperlink (
• Why it should be included
• Category

The five categories are:

Fiction Writing
Freelance Writing
Marketing & Social Media
Publishing Trends
When Maria chose A Writer's Edge for her Project 20/20 (populating her blogroll) she said:

Georganna is perhaps even more obsessive/compulsive than I am in keeping up on publishing industry trends and news, and she shares freely, along with her own writing tips for success.
I guess that would put this blog in the running for the Publishing Trends category, but I like to think it covers all bases, so feel free to choose any of them.

Now, I'm going to pop over and ensure that Lori Widmer's Words on the Page, and Paula Berinstein's The Writing Show get nominated... Later: I did, but the comment did not show up. I hope it is being held for ransom review.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Writer Chats Time Converter

Missing Twitter writing chats because of time differences? Bookmark The World Clock – Time Zone Converter. Sunday chats converted to PDT: noon-3 #writechat, 6-7 #blogchat. See you there?

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Writers Salad Days


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Friday, August 21, 2009

Week of Contest Nominations

Georganna's BooksWhat a week this has been for A Writer's Edge! First, nominated to the 4th Annual Top 10 Blogs for Writers Contest -- more noms (votes) needed. Don't forget to include the URL: and a reason--thanksabunch!

Now comes a message from Michelle at The BBAW Awards Committee of the Book Blogger Appreciation Week competition:

Dear Writer's Edge,

I am so thrilled to inform you that you have been nominated for a Book Blogger Appreciation Week Award in the category Best General Review Blog.
This year it takes place September 14-18. If you haven't heard about this contest, that may be because it is fairly new. The site explains:

Book Blogger Appreciation was started by Amy Riley of My Friend Amy in an effort to recognize the hard work and contribution of book bloggers to the promotion and preservation of a literate culture actively engaged in discussing books, authors, and a lifestyle of reading.

The first Book Blogger Appreciation was observed in the fall of 2008 and occurs every September. The week spotlights and celebrates the work of active book bloggers through guest posts, awards, giveaways, and community activities. Book Bloggers are encouraged to register their participation for inclusion in a database of book bloggers.
If anyone practices promotion and preservation of a literate culture actively engaged in discussing books, authors, and a lifestyle of reading that would be me with this blog, reviewing books, and wrangling the Tierrasanta Book Club in real life. Next step: hook it all up with a literacy program encouraging book reading by upcoming generations.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Magazine Freelancing

Every once in a while I visit to check out the Helpful Links list. This time I puzzled over the first set of resources. What are these, scandal sheets? I'd only heard of Gawker:

It was the magazine list I wanted to review. Just for fun, I looked at ones for which I'd written: Bon Appetit, Family Circle, Harper's, Redbook -- yes, still in business if having a website counts. Many others weren't even listed. It was when I reached YM that a jolt came. The link redirects to a site for Teen Vogue with this notice:

If you're on this page, you most likely came from one of our sister sites, or Unfortunately, both YM and Flip are no longer being published. In their place, we invite you to explore Teen Vogue magazine and
Magazines have always come and gone like fashion fads, but it's sad to see some old standards MIA (or DOA). Of course, I have Reader's Digest and it's recent bankruptcy filing in mind. Yes, I sold a piece to them, too, in the late 1960s.

Magazine freelancing is a fast-paced kind of work. You must pay attention to all sorts of details, as well as the [cliché alert!] big picture. I recommend following sites/feeds/pubs like Publishers Weekly and Mediabistro to help keep up. Or better yet, set up Google and Yahoo alerts for news about changes in the magazine publishing world. Even Ed's on Twitter (and seems to have abandoned his blog). See for the latest, and beware, he tweets a lot!

Twitter, a news source?

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Summer Reading Report

I took Wendy Doniger's 780 page opus The Hindus: An Alternative History with me to the hospital. I had time to fill between an appointment to rearrange the rocks in my head and another for making muzzy photos of my boobs. When I signed in early at Radiology, I plunked the book down on the reception area.

"My that's a big book," the girl exclaimed, "but you're halfway through." She'd spotted my mother's tasseled bookmark sticking out from page 287. Halfway, indeed!

"Yes, and I've been reading it all summer." She just made big eyes at that, probably thinking I'm a really slow reader. What I didn't explain is that I get interrupted by surprise deliveries of little treats that divert me for a day or two. One such was Nicholson Baker's The Anthologist, which at first I mistook for one of those little Hallmark gift books. It's not that small in size, but does provoke the phrase "slim volume", pretty apt because it is a novel about a poet. Poets are always producing slim volumes. The only big books of poetry I've ever seen are, well, anthologies. More aptness.

The cover graphic is a ripe plum, and once I'd bit into the juicy treat that is The Anthologist, another cliché came to mind: I couldn't put it down. Fortunately the Baker book is just like a fresh, ripe plum--delicious but gone in a few bites. Leaves you wanting another. Doniger's book is more an Indian curry dinner with a table full of savories to sample. In the case of The Hindus, however, the extras are the meal, and it takes a long time to enjoy and finish the dish.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Top 10 Blogs for Writers Contest

Michael Stelzner has opened nominations for his 4th annual Top 10 Blogs for Writers Contest over at his Writing White Papers blog. When I just looked to see how many people had commented (191), my eye caught on this one from a "Paula B":

Eeek, how can I choose between Michelle Rafter and Georganna Hancock? Okay, this year I'll nominate Georganna's A Writer's Edge at Next year it will be Michelle.

I never get tired of reading Georganna. She always seems to come up with new angles on issues of interest to writers, and she's a hoot besides. Full of personality, but not that awful snarkiness you find so often these days. A truly original thinker.

*screams like a girl* TY, Paula. I know who you are! I've been waiting four years just to be nominated! Now I must run over to see Michelle's obviously excellent production.

Nominating is apparently the same as voting. Stelzner's instructions:

How to Nominate Your Favorite Writing Blog:
  1. Reply to this message with your nomination (bottom of list)
  2. You have only one vote (only your first will be counted)
  3. Please include the web address of the blog (
  4. Explain why you think the blog is worthy of winning this year’s award?

To make the cut, a blog must be nominated more than once.

Nominations must be received by September 11, 2009.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Writers' Google Shortcuts

Google is better than sliced bread, especially if you know shortcuts to get to the results you want as quickly as possible. Here are some especially useful for writers:

Looking for a synonym? Add the tilde "~" in front of your keyword like this:

To find the definition of a word or phrase place the "define" command first in the search phrase, like this:

define computer router
When you search, Google includes all the listed terms specified. If you are looking for any of one or more terms, you can use the OR operator like this:

router OR wireless
If you will accept results that contain words or synonyms to the word you are searching for, use the tilde symbol "~" like this:

"computer routing" ~wireless networking (note a space precedes the dash)
And if you want to search for content about routers, but you want to exclude any results that contain the term Balkin, put a minus symbol "-" in front of the word you want eliminated from consideration:

router -Balkin (note a space precedes the dash)
You can make the exclusion multiple by listing more terms separated by commas like this:

router -Balkin,Sanyo,Lurzura

You can also search a website for content even if the site does not have its own search by using Google's "site:namesite.ext" command like this:

"computer router"
Did you know that Google has an automatic spelling check feature? Just put in the word you're trying to spell, and the service will suggest correct spellings. Find more useful Google shortcuts and more search help at Google Guide or Google Search Features.


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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Power Graphics for Writers

Flow charts meet social media at Applicant. Being a sucker for models, I appreciate some of this site's offerings, like the LinkedIn: The Ultimate Tool for Job Hunters and A Visual Guide to Twitter, a road map to using the Web 2.0 service for business.

Another fascinating graphic I found is a Amazon Acquisitions and Investments at showing a twisted path you could puzzle over forever. I'll bet you had no notion that Amazon owns, absorbed or controls so many other companies, did you?

Now, if we could mash up these three powerful information sources, we could probably chart our ways to fame and fortune by using Twitter to promote our services and our materials that are on Amazon for employment opportunities through LinkedIn. Something to think about.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Take Over Teh Wurld

funny pictures of cats

I Can Has Cheezburger’s new lolbook, How To Take Over Teh Wurld: A LOLcat Guide 2 Winning, will be coming out on September 1! You can pre-order ur copy today at:


» Borders

» B&N

Added Bonus: When you pre-order How To Take Over Teh Wurld, email your receipt to, to receive a limited edition I Can Has Cheezburger desktop iconz (win and mac) for free!

It is on my Personal Wish List at Amazon. Hint: October is a big month for me!


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Friday, August 14, 2009

Spell Checker Misses

Where must spelling be perfect--other than a dictionary, of course! How about on your resume and job application? On Wednesday, I discussed the importance of good grammar and spelling in your online profiles as aids to job searches. Today we buzz direct employment tools.

Consider these frequently confused words, courtesy the Pongo Resume site, which asks, Are You Smarter Than a Spell Checker? No spell checker is going to help when you're used the wrong word, which is akin to a spelling error. Do you know when to use:

manger vs. manager
precede vs. proceed
lead vs. led
diffuse vs. defuse
stationery vs. stationary
prospective vs. perspective

The Pongo blog post is actually a quiz you can take (no peeking, peaking or piquing at the answers first). Pongo warns:

Any error is a strike against you, and the hiring manager may have a one-strike-and-you're-out policy. Spell checkers are good at spotting real spelling errors, but they're no help if your typo happens to be a real word.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

F + W Violating Copyrights?

Is F+W Publications violating copyrights of contributors to the Writer's Digest forum?

When I checked out a Twitter notice about, I found a new way F+W Publishing displays contributions to the Writer's Digest forum. The search returned an image, "Printer friendly copy of thread," not the interactive forum page itself.

See:, an image of a conversation about freelance contracts. The posts are not editable by the contributors. Even if we deleted our comments within the forum, this file would still be available (as in search engine caches which are occasionally purged or updated).

Discovery process: --> "Bing Tweets n. a nifty way to track Twitter trends and Bing updates," --> "Georganna Simmons" (pretty cool results at --> WD static page. The returns are also cached.

The WD Forum explicitly states on its home page:

Writer's Digest also reserves the right to reproduce material from the Forum in Writer's Digest magazine, in the Writer's Digest e-mail newsletter and on for promotional purposes.

Once an item is posted, it is considered published and public information. Use caution when deciding to post personal information.
To that writers must agree, before being allowed to post, but the contributed content is editable--at that point. Something about copyright is nags at me, ownership of one's writing. More digital fuzziness. Undoubtedly attorney Ivan Hoffman has an article on his website covering the situation. Published does not mean "Public information" or that anyone can reprint an entire piece of writing just because it is published online. That would seem to override copyright law if true. Mr. Hoffman? Did we agree to commit our words to be used as linkbait forever?

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Manage Yourself Online

Let's say you're looking for work, a new job. You have a resume, LinkedIn Profile, Twitter account, maybe even a Facebook entry that you keep businesslike. Still, no bites. What could you be doing wrong? Plenty, according to Mashable [emphasis mine]:

Your LinkedIn profile needs to be absolutely flawless, since you’ll be judged harshly by recruiters who are analyzing you to see if you fit their corporate needs. That means no spelling or grammatical errors and it should be completely filled out, leaving no experience or details out. Think of your profile as an asset and as a portrait of you as a professional who someone would want to possibly hire for a newly available job.
And if you're trying to sell yourself as a writer or editor--buns beware! This is not the place for text-speak or Twitter talk. Twitter, however, provides opportunity to display your facility with succinct, tight writing that provides information or cogent commentary (not just a field of links to other people).

If you're going to incorporate social media or Web 2.0 to find a new job or freelance gigs, then use each service to its fullest extent, deeply and regularly. Common sense suggests you can't keep up with all of them, so limit your participation to the number you can manage in an amount of time you carefully control.

Finally, interlink the services you use, but take care to always keep in mind where your updates or "status" messages will appear. Don't load one message into a single service that blats out the same clipped quip to all your web 2.0 outlets. While consistency is a benefit, so is expressing a well-rounded grasp of your field.

You might want to use one channel to reveal a depth of expertise or specialization knowledge and another for displaying creativity. Some professionals even have multiple Twitter accounts for different purposes. Debbie Ohi, for example, uses one mostly for personal replies and another for passing along general information to her followers. Some have one for personal friends and another for advertising purposes.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

NYTimes Blog Gems

Notes from the newsroom on grammar, usage and style. Great editing posts to help writers from the NYTimes After Hours blog:

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Finding Free Photos

How do you find out if a picture is in the public domain and therefore publishable without paying a fee? Someone needed photographs of historical figures. The long, complicated explanation involves a definition of "public domain" (you can head a podcast on the topic), paying the U.S. Copyright office or specialists to run a search for you, or confining yourself to material published before 1923. Some works that were copyrighted between 1923 and 1963 may be available, due to a lapse in copyright, but you'd need to be sure.

A much simpler solution is to begin at the other end of the process. Instead of starting with a photo or other image, search for material available under a Creative Commons license. Or pony up the minimal fee to use a stock photo from a site like or the Getty Archives. Searches of those sites can usually yield what you need. Also anything produced by governmental entities are owned by "we the People". Try the national archives, Library of Congress, state historical societies for starters.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Contact Etiquette Part 2

When you're contacting someone for the first time by snail mail regarding your writing (any form), use a standard layout for a business letter. The first formatting guide is to single space the blocks and paragraphs. That is, the return and sending address information elements are in blocks with the date included either under your return address or centered at the top of the page. The return address block comes first, either flush left or right-justified.

Space at least two lines before beginning the recipient's name and address, left-justified or flush left. If your letter is short, use 1.5" margins all around. For a longer missive, one-inch margins are fine, but no smaller. Under the sender's information block, leave a blank line and then include the salutation which begins "Dear M...:" If you know only a last name and not the gender of the person to whom you are writing, use "Dear M. Lastname:" Notice that the salutation is followed by a colon. A comma is also acceptable for a business letter, although less formal.

Do I sound like Miss Manners?

Insert another blank line after the salutation and begin the first paragraph either flush left, aligned with the recipient block and the salutation, or indented 2-5 spaces. Similarly, insert a blank line between paragraphs, of which three or four should cover your reason for writing. Very short messages can be completely centered on the paper. Indent each new paragraph. After the last one, leave a blank line and start the closing flush left. For business, appropriate closings are "Yours truly," and "Sincerely," or perhaps, "Sincerely yours,". Leave four blank lines to accommodate your signature and type your full name. You can follow it with email/phone/fax/website information, if you wish.

Something I left out of Part 1, electronic contacts: use a black, 12-14 pt., sans serif font (like Arial or Verdana). For print, be sure to use a serif font no smaller than 12 pt. Times New Roman is fine. I use Georgia for my own silly purpose, including the fact that it is slightly larger than Times. Your printer should be functioning well with no variations in the ink coverage. Must I say only use black print on white or cream-colored paper for business letters?

Just in case you're wondering how to word all the information that might go into a recipient's address block, here's an example:

Miss Nora Zane, Acquisitions Editor
Big Six Publishing, Co., Imprint Books
1225 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10025

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Cat Naps Books

Courtesy Layla Morgan Wilde


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Friday, August 07, 2009

Action Buttons

Twitter in action: chat > improvement + follower > resource. In a Twitter chat about marketing with blogs, Amy Africa suggested my site needs a "contact button", a.k.a. "Call to Action" clickable image that triggers a form or email. The same evening, Jay Eskenazi signed up to follow my Twittering, and I reciprocated because I liked the cut of his tweets. The next day that move rewarded me with a link to Strong Call to Action Button at XDXY eMarketing Tips. These free button images fill just about any site need. You can improve your site's appearance, usability and utility in furthering your writing career. Look them over and think how you could use one in a new way to build community with your site's visitors, potential clients, fans.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Contact Etiquette Part 1

A recent post on contact etiquette created lots of hoopla. When I added it to the Writer's Digest forum, responses included a request for a tutorial or class.

A rerun of the original post is the feature today at Lori Widmer's Words on the Page. This provides a good opportunity for a more positive take on the subject, now that I have the rant out of my system.

More contact events probably involve email than snail mail, so I'll focus my tutorial efforts on electronic elocution. It is different only in format from printed letters. These suggestions apply to the first time you contact someone you don't already know and who probably doesn't know you. Only the bulleted list below also applies to queries. Unless the contact information indicates otherwise:

* always use text formatting (not HTML)
* never attach anything to the message
* don't try to indent anything
* never include material without a covering message
* always write to a specific person
* always begin with a salutation: "Dear Ms. Lastname:"
* use blank lines to make it readable
* write in whole sentences and paragraphs
* use a business closing like "Yours truly,"
* end with all your contact info in a block

No doubt I've left out others' pet peeves. Please feel free to add them in a comment.

Now to the content, which incenses me more than the format. When you first contact an editor, an agent, a P.R. representative, a publisher--you're usually asking a favor. Would you take a look at my material? Can you tell me ...? Will you provide an estimate, a free sample, an editorial calendar, information on ...?

Your first hurdle is establishing who you are if someone mutually-known referred you or you have some sort of relationship in common with the person you are contacting. At the very least, introduce yourself by your REAL given and surname. If you have nothing else to say about a relationship, then say nothing else about yourself. We don't care if you are a single mom fighting breast cancer living in a shack out in the bayou. Well, we might care, but it isn't relevant to the message, and if you're seeking a service, it won't make us lower our rates out of pity.

Get to the point quickly and clearly. Don't just dash off your message, edit it until it is as coherent and spare as you can make it. It is perfectly fine if the message is only, "Please direct me to your writer's guidelines." Short and to the point messages will get you a response more surely and faster than an unnecessary explanation that goes round Robin's barn.

The point here is that this is a business communication, not an informal chat between friends. I am becoming more tolerant of the "Hi" salutation and use of my first name only, realizing that people feel they know me from a forum or from reading my blog. My screen name on most websites is "Georganna". When contacting someone you don't know, however, you can't go wrong with a more formal approach, whereas a familiar, too-friendly tone may repel the receiver. "Oh, another nut job," they might think. No, really.

Yours truly,

Georganna Hancock
10725 Escobar Drive
San Diego CA 92124

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Published Book Reviews

My review of the novel about Muhammad's youngest wife, Aisha, is now displaying at BlogCritics as Book Review: Mother of the Believers: A Novel of the Birth of Islam by Kamran Pasha. And some others appear in this month's Midwest Book Review on Georganna's Bookshelf in the Reviewer's Bookwatch section.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Writing Consultant Blues

The dream client: naive, trusting, rich. What could possibly go wrong? Nothing for scam artists. An ethical consultant who cares about her clients, soon hears the giant sucking sound of a time sinkhole opening.

Example the First: a professional who knows her stuff, but nothing about writing, is hell-bent on producing a handbook for her field. I get the edit job. The manuscript is a digital mess. When it's done and the expensive bill is paid with a surprise bonus, she asks, "What's next?" She is self-publishing. So many dilemmas arise in my mind that I get dizzy and have to go have a lie-down, as the British say.

Example the Second: an established high-maintenance author with great connections has lost his long-time editor/writing partner and wants to "try out" my skills on a small job. Several phone calls and emails pass without the document arriving, suggesting he is really trying out a personality fit. I enjoy his topic, he seems like a nice guy, and I understand his nervousness. The relationship holds potential. How far can I stretch my usually minimal patience?

Fooling around with Twitter all day wastes too much time already, as Lori Widmer warned. It is difficult at first to discern when jiving with a client is a wise investment or being a sucker. Some is necessary, of course, but where's the line? How do you find the balance? And if you're the writer looking for help, do you realize that all time is money? While a consultant is answering your seemingly endless questions, the bills still need to get paid.

I don't want to be so crass as to say, "You've used up a half-hour of your consultation time already, you know," as one potential client told me another consultant said to him. I laughed, but declined to rearrange my schedule the following day just because he was popping into town and wanted to meet me. I never heard from him again. Sigh!

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Writing Classics Rock!

What fun! "Classics Rock! features popular songs based on, inspired by, or alluding to books, authors, or literary characters. How many can you think of. . . ?"

My fave, of course: Classics Rock!: Rice Anne paired with a song from Sting’s first solo album, The Dream of the Blue Turtles.


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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Right TweetChat Times

Oy! When I screw up, it's a doozy. In last Thursday's post, the first two writers' chats listed the wrong day. I've corrected the post, and here are the right listings:

#blogchat -- Bettering your blog 8-9pm CST Sunday
#writechat -- Writing and the writing life. 2-5pm CST Sunday

If it's any consolation, I just missed the #writechat, too. No wonder I was so confused when I stumbled into the #blogchat room last weekend!

This is even more embarrassing because a subscriber took the time to send me a thank-you email.


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Hint Fiction

Have you heard of it? Hint fiction. Shorter than a short (story). Less than a flash. "A story of 25 words or less that suggests a larger, more complex story" is Robert Swartswood's definition of Hint Fiction. Yes, he's at it again. Another contest, but this time with more than a hint of getting published and being paid:

Tentatively scheduled for the fall of 2010, W.W. Norton will publish an anthology of Hint Fiction.... The thesis of the anthology is to prove that a story 25 words or less can have as much impact as a story 2,500 words or longer. The anthology will include between 100 and 150 stories. We want your best work.
See the previous finalists and winners' stories, but don't ape them. Email entries are accepted through midnight August 31 and requested in a particular format, but no fee is charged to enter. People have pulled up their shorts, and Swartswood says the entries are pouring in.

I pored over my three, thinking I might have a feel for this now that I've been communicating in 140-character chunks for a few weeks. When I finished, I noticed that for the first time in my life of creative writing, I didn't start with a title, and titles are required. It feels like working backwards.

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

The National Book Foundation

Advice for aspiring fiction authors often includes the direction: read! How about reading the last 77 books to win the annual National Book Award?

468_60 banner ad for 60th Anniversary of National Book Awards
The National Book Foundation Fiction Blog begins with the 1950 winner, Nelsen Algren's The Man With the Golden Arm.

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Engineers' Cat Guide

Thanks to Word Thief: Study Finds Cats Control Humans.

And don't miss the even longer Cat Yodeling video. Stick with it to the fantastic finale!


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