Tag Archives: Arts

Getting it Right

Writing and ResearchWriting.  What a challenge. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, facts are part of your writing.  If your work is not accurate, someone will catch your mistake and you will hear about it!  For the nonfiction writer truth and accuracy must be adhered to.  Since readers may not be able to discern the difference, the nonfiction writer assumes this responsibility – and the accompanying accountability.

Many writers refer to and utilize historical facts, experts, interviews and research.  You must be aware of copyright issues, of individuals that claim expertise but are not experts, plagiarism, and the authenticity of memoir writing.The Everything Guide

The Everything Guide to Writing Nonfiction by Richard D. Bank covers many of these issues and can be useful not only to the non-fiction writer, but any writer needing to address these concerns.  If you do your own research then look to The Craft of Research by Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb and Joseph Williams, or The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Research Methods by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D. (definitely written with me in mind.)

For tidbits of historical facts look into The Timetables of History – A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events by Bernard Grun and  The Reader’s Companion to American History  edited by Eric Foner & John A. Garraty.

The Timetables of HistoryThese are just a few references on my bookshelf.  Do keep in mind however, that just because information is published, even in a scholarly work – and may even be on the New York Times bestseller list, this does not mean that everything is the truth. (Or, I got it off the Internet so it must be true!) Legends can and are perpetuated and digging for the truth can reveal some very interesting and revealing reasons for misinformation in original documents and memoirs.

So, writers beware – because these days readers are very aware.

What is your biggest challenge in getting it right in your own writing?

Donna Otto



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Filed under memoir, methods, organizing, research, writing advise

Worth A Second Look

RevisingI wrote a story a couple of years ago, and I just fell in love with my main character. He’s a sharp-tongued charmer, fluent in sarcasm and dry wit. He’s a flawed liar with a crooked grin. I loved him.

After a quick first draft and a couple more revisions for polish, I sent him off to a publisher for consideration. He sent me a very polite rejection letter. I tweaked a little more and asked an editor friend for an opinion. More rejection.

I took my work home and placed it on a shelf where it could stew or cure or whatever manuscripts might do when ignored by their creator. I got busy on a couple of other projects that consumed my time.

Then last week something curious happened. I started to get a few projects ready to enter in a writing contest, and my lonely little manuscript began to wave at me, begging to enter the contest, too. It was a fine idea.

I pulled the notebook out and decided to re-read the first ten pages—the only ones that really mattered for the contest. Even if other parts of the story were weak, the first chapter was terrific. I was sure of it.

Until I read it.

What was I thinking? This work in progress was still in its awkward teen years. No wonder it flailed so helplessly in the big world—it wasn’t ready to leave the nest. I decided that ten pages wasn’t too much to iron out for contest. I got to work.

I opened my document. I opened the hard copy with all my margin notes. I read the first chapter—it wasn’t good.

The mood was wrong. My main character was mean, not quirky. His flaws weren’t cute—they were just flaws. I realized that all of my main character’s sardonic wit and charm was in my head, and not on the page.

I resisted the urge to hit the delete key on my laptop. Instead, I reached for my favorite blue ink pen and a thick stack of notebook paper and curled up on my bed with my lap desk. I returned to the place where I first fell in love with the idea of writing down my stories. I let my fingers form the words with imperfect spacing and full, indigo loops. I poured my soul onto the page and connected with my character in a very physical act.

I wrote about a man who had pain that developed from a broken past. He was still scruffy and misfit, but now he had a family and a sense of humor. His methods weren’t efficient and his motives weren’t pure, but he had a mission, and so did I.

In just a few hours, chapter one was revised. My hero was reborn. I can proudly say that he is well on his way to battling his demons and winning the fair maiden. Oh, she’ll teach him a lesson first, the same lesson that a second look taught me. I had to see him with honest eyes—both his good and bad traits—before I could find the man worth loving.

Kimberly Black

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Filed under characters, Contests, description, editors, publishing, rewriting, Writing

Time is Running Out! Enter Soon!

The Spiral of Time


2013 Frontiers in Writing Contest

Now open for entries 

 For one low entry fee you can now enter multiple categories

Cash prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places in EVERY category.

Go to:


Entry rules, procedures and format regulations are listed on the FiW Writing Contest page

Download FiW entry Application and mail along with your entry.

Entry fees can be check or Money order, or pay online using “Payments” on the PPW website.

Sponsored by the Panhandle Professional Writers

Basics to Entering a Writing Contest

 Writing contests can offer great benefits to a writer, however they can also be intimidating. To help you wade through the process, let’s look at some of the basics of entering a Writing Contest.

1. Choose the right contest – Do the research to find the best contest for your writing. Contest entry fees can vary greatly from free to extremely high. The rewards can be just as varied from a simple recognition and critique of your writing, to rewards of money prizes and publication. Beware of contests that require you to purchase the published work of your “Winning” writing. More information can be found in my article Writing Contest Benefits.

2. Choose the correct Genre – To avoid poor critiques or placement, choose the correct genre for your work. While some pieces may cross over into another classification, you will have better results if you focus your writing to one specific genre.

3. Follow Submission Guidelines – When entering a contest pay close attention to the submission guidelines. These rules may vary greatly with different organizations and contests. Be diligent to have the correct word count while using the proper page format, font, and cover page identification requirements. Don’t expect contest officials to overlook the rules just for you, it’s their contest and it’s their rules.

4. Pay attention to Postage – If you are sending an entry by mail it will require the correct postage, so does the return of your entry. Read carefully any instructions regarding postage and the return mailing requirements of your entry or prizes. If you are using metered mail, postage from a meter or computer, understand that it expires on the date stamped. If you stamp the return envelope with the current date, and the contest results are not given for several months, postage may be expired and could result in your entry not being returned.

By following these few steps, entering a writing contest can be fun and successful!

Rory C. Keel

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Filed under Contests, genres, memoir, novels, poetry, prose, short stories, Writing

Research for Fiction? Of Course!

ResearchI’m in the process of writing a piece of historical fiction, based in first century Macedonia. Though the work is fiction, there is a huge amount of research that goes into the development of the story. Clothing, food, religious practices, vocations and geographical studies all play a part in the setting and set-up.

Finding reliable sources can be a challenge. Religious works are usually vague or absent of concrete details, and historical data can be politically skewed and conflicting, and usually relies on the objectivity of the researcher.

In school we were taught to find multiple resources. With the internet, it is easy to find information—often too much is available. The challenge becomes sifting through piles of speculation and opinion to glean accurate information and truth. And even then, how do you know for sure?Computer Research

My rules have become basic. First, as I study through articles and essays, I look for archeological evidence and historical documentation. I compare commonly accepted fact with what the evidence shows. Next, I find corroborating sources. I look for two to three unrelated resources that say the same thing. Thirdly, I look for details within those articles that propel the story I want to tell. Interesting tidbits that don’t help my story are useless to me.

Lastly, I rely on my gut instinct. If the story idea took hold of my brain in the first place, why? What was it that was important enough to latch on and develop? I look for information that develops that hook. If I’m hooked, the reader will be, too.

What works for you in researching for a story?

Kimberly Black

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Filed under basics, books, description, methods, novels, research, story, Writing

Writing Contest!

Typewriter Keys


2013 Frontiers in Writing Contest

Now open for entries

 For one low entry fee you can now enter multiple categories

Cash prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places in EVERY category.

Go to:


Entry rules, procedures and format regulations are listed on the FiW Writing Contest page

Download FiW entry Application and mail along with your entry.

Entry fees can be check or Money order, or pay online using “Payments” on the PPW website.

Sponsored by the Panhandle Professional Writers


Writing Contests BenefitsPen and handwritten doc

It costs money; why should I enter? What benefit will a contest be for my writing and me? I’m not good enough so I’ll never win.

Those who are looking at entering writing contests frequently express these statements and questions. I know, I’ve asked most of them myself.

Having entered my share of writing contests let me offer some positive benefits from my personal experience.

1.Training for working with deadlines – Contests give a writer the opportunity to work under a deadline. Most contests will have strict dates for submitting an entry. This is good conditioning for working with agents, editors, and publishers who will place deadlines on your writing.

2.Provides automatic platform – A platform is your audience, those who will read your work. While your mother and “BFF” will gladly volunteer readership, contest judges can provide you with an unbiased and anonymous audience for your writing. And who knows, the judge may be an agent, editor or publisher.

3.Gain feedback – One of the most valuable benefits of a writing contest is the critique. To have the judge’s comments noting any mistakes, suggestions for improvement and yes, even praise can help improve your writing.

4.Build your portfolio – Writing contests are a perfect way to build your portfolio. When seeking an agent or publisher, a few writing clips, accomplishments and certificates may be the edge you need to seal the deal.

5.Increase your confidence – Entering a contest gives a writer the opportunity to gain confidence in their writing. Have you ever written something only to tear it up or hide it in a drawer? Have you ever said, “I could never write well enough to be published!” A writing contest provides an inexpensive way to test the waters of being an author.

6.Avoid scam contests – As with most everything, there are people who take advantage of others. Before entering a contest, research the person or organization holding the contest and make sure they are legitimate. There are a few contests that are no more than book selling scams. When your entry wins, it is accepted for publication in an anthology, with all of the other first place winners, then you must pay an outrageous price to obtain a copy.

Rory C. Keel

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Filed under basics, books, Contests, creativity, editors, genres, poetry, prose, publishing, story, techniques, writers, Writing, writing advise


Typing Paper SkullRecently, I saw a great post on one of my favorite websites, Writer Unboxed, by Barbara O’Neal titled, The 20 Minute Win.  In the article, O’Neal describes how she manages to stay on task with her writing.  She focuses on her work each day as soon as she can possibly get to it by creating a 20-minute window to write. She got the idea from the late Ray Bradbury who said, “A writer should begin writing before he lets the world in.”

When O’Neal sits down for her 20-minute session, she sets the timer and writes whatever comes up.  Sometimes, it’s a blog.  Sometimes, it’s a scene that comes later in her book.  Sometimes, she even writes in a journal.  The point is, she writes uninterrupted for 20 minutes for the sole purpose of getting the juices flowing.Bottle of Creative Juices

This accomplishes two major things.  First, it warms up her writing muscles and gets her into her Writing Work Room.  Second, it reminds her how little time it takes to actually put words on a page if she will just show up to do it.

I decided to try it for myself.  The only modification I made was to shorten the sessions to 15 minutes.  I wrote the first piece in the allotted time. I started with this sentence: “Am I the only one who thinks the term baby bump is obnoxious and unflattering?”  When the timer sounded, I checked the word count.  Three hundred twenty-nine words.  About baby bumps.  I agree with Barbara.  It gets the writing juices flowing.  Can I sustain the pace of 1,316 words per hour all day – every day – when working on my latest novel?  Probably not, but that’s not the point.  The point is if I will just show up to write and get to it, I can actually produce words on the page.

What then shall I do with this newfound way to exercise my writing muscles and get the juices flowing?  Blog of course.  In the very near future, I will post these 15-minute writing exercises on my new blog.  After spending 15 minutes writing with no internal editing, I go back and spend a few minutes cleaning up the prose.  Then, since I’m in the writing groove, I find it easier to get to work on my latest project.   I have a short story with a February 1 deadline and then it’s back to revision hell with my first novel.   It’s a good thing I have writing to occupy my time.  Otherwise, I might end up watching reality TV.  Oh, wait, if I watch reality TV, I’ll have something to blog about!

Try Barbara O’Neal’s 20 Minute Win http://writerunboxed.com/2012/10/24/the-20-minute-win/ and see if it doesn’t get your creative juices flowing.

Matt Sherley


Filed under basics, blogs, books, creativity, exercises, methods, novels, organizing, short stories, Writing, writing advise

Writing in the Spirit of the Season

Gift 4

During this  season of giving I would mention how wonderful a gift writers have to share their stories with family, community and all readers.   Whatever genre you write, I would ask during this season to give a gift of a short story, poem, or other writing, even if only to family, and consider the subject of patriotism – “devotion to one’s country, national loyalty.”  As citizens we have a privilege and duty of patriotism – whether it is to vote, serve on a jury when called, or just to obey our laws. 

We are very fortunate to have the freedom to write on any topic of our choosing.  We don’t  have to wait for editors or publishers to get works out, available for anyone to read.  We have the freedom for people to agree and disagree with our writing – without “book burnings.”  This and other freedoms we have would not have been possible without the past sacrifices of ancestors and continued commitment to service by firemen, police, military, etc.   We have many wonderful stories of these heroes and new stories are surfacing daily.  We have a growing archive of resources – through the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, county and state histories, reports by military historians, and daily newspaper reports of acts of valor.  We have new perspectives from women in service and naturalized citizens.  A family member, a friend, a neighbor may have a story to share.

I would ask writers to commemorate and perpetuate the spirit and purpose of the extraordinary men and women, past and present, who serve our country and preserve our American heritage so that future generations might continue to live in freedom and peace.

What stories of patriotism do you have to tell?

Donna Otto

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Filed under gifts, memoir, patriotic writings, poetry, prose, season of giving, short stories, story, writers, Writing