Monday, December 27, 2010

Opportunities in the Great Big Literary World- Last One for 2010!

Song of the Day: Merry Christmas Baby by Hanson

   Hello all! Hope everyone had a great holiday! Just one more Christmas song! It's the last set of opportunities for 2010. Make it count! How's everyone coping with the holidays anyway? I for one am extremely busy! My sister's getting married so in addition to running around with her, I have family coming in from around the US and Trinidad! My family's house is quite noisy! I'll have a little bit of quiet when I get back to my own apartment for a few days, so I intend to take advantage of that and get some writing done before the year is over. That will only be for a few days though. I'll be back at my family's house by the end of the week. Well enough about that, take a look at the opportunities I've found.


1. Boulevard Magazine Short Fiction Contest

    Boulevard Magazine is accepting short stories of up to 8,000 words for it's annual short fiction contest. A prize of $1,500 and publication in Boulevard will be awarded to a writer that hasn't published a nationally distributed book. The deadline is December 31, 2010 and there is an entry fee of $15. (With your entry fee you will receive a year subscription to the magazine.) Please visit their website for official guidelines.

2. Glimmer Train Press- Open Fiction

    Glimmer Train Stories will award a prize of $2,000 and publication in their magazine to one short story. Stories can be 2,000-20,000 words. Submit your story along with an entry fee of $20 by December 31, 2010 for a chance to win. For official rules and guidelines see the link below.

3. Rosebud Dylan Thomas American Poet Prize

    One prize of $1,000 and publication in Rosebud Magazine is given annually to a U.S. poet under the age of 40. Poets may submit up to three poems with a $10 entry fee by December 31, 2010. Please see the Rosebud website for more details.

Also, Don't forget about the Black Fox Fiction Contest going on now. We are also looking for poetry for our new weekly poetry section. Happy Writing! :)


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

And the Winners of my Giveaway Are...

Song of the Day: Baby It's Cold Outside by Vanessa Williams

    Hello all! Christmas is around the corner! I can hardly believe it, especially since I'm not done shopping (I have been known to shop on Christmas Eve in the past!). In my own defense, I've been getting better because these days I usually have it done at least a day before Christmas Eve! Posts this week will be a little shorter as I have a million things going on, hence the reason I didn't post any opportunities yesterday. Today I'm announcing who won my giveaway last week! I'm a bit of a softy so I ended up selecting three people instead of two. I really do appreciate the support from all of you! And don't worry, as I've said in the past, when I get to 100 followers there will be a HUGE CELEBRATION with more giveaways! Drum roll please...ehem...and the winners are:

Ghenet from the blog, "All About Them Words"
Joanna St. James from the blog, "Romance by Joanna St. James"
Shannon O'Donnell from the blog, "Book Dreaming"

Ladies, please contact me via email at Tell me what paperback book you would like to sent to you, and I'll also need your address. Congrats! In case you don't see this post, I'll stop by your blogs to let you know!

Thanks to everyone who participated. I also want to thank my loyal followers, especially Pam and Marquita who have been with me since day one, and who comment on every post! A  Christmas surprise is coming your way! Thanks again everyone for the support!

P.S. Don't forget about the Black Fox Fiction Contest going on now! We are also looking for poetry submissions! Send us your best work!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tips for Finishing Your Novel

Song of the Day: Sleigh Ride by the Carpenters 

    Hello all! Just a reminder, I'm giving away a book each to two of my followers. All you have to do is leave a comment on any blog post this week and you must also be a follower. The last day to post a comment is tomorrow! I'll randomly select two people to receive a book of their choice.
    Yesterday I received an email from Writer's Digest with the top writing articles of 2010. Two of them caught my attention. I'll blog about the other one tomorrow or next week, but today I want to talk about the one titled, Finish Your Novel in 4 Simple Steps. I'm really trying to light the fire under my butt about editing my novel. Since I've never edited such a large manuscript, I'm looking for any advice I can get my hands on. I thought I'd share since so many people are in the same boat. The following Four steps are from the article, Finish Your Novel in 4 Simple Steps by Lin Enger.

1. "Write the whole first draft first- and fast."

     Okay, I have this part covered! I wrote my novel in thirty days. You know what this rule directly translates to? National Novel Writing Month. The article states that you should just get the words on the page and not worry about editing. That's essentially the philosophy of NanoWriMo.

2. "Evaluate the Dramatic Function of Every Scene or Unit of Action."

     Here's where the real fun begins. Enger states that readers can tell if a scene does nothing for a story. The best way to start revising is to look at the opening of each chapter and scene and ask yourself the question: “What exactly happens here, and how does it surprise my character or offer some new perception to the reader?” If a scene doesn't move the story along, then cut it.

3. "Identify lulls in action where you can insert mini scenes."

     I love the way Enger says that "summaries then--long passages of exposition--are a necessary evil." She says that the best way to break up summaries that may be necessary for the story is to use some dialogue or "clips of movement." I know this to be very true. I've been told this same thing in a few of my workshops. Readers like white space. If you're not careful too much exposition can lead to boredom for a reader, which can potentially result in them losing interest in your story. And we definitely don't want that.

4. "Vary your methods of beginning chapters."

     The most important sentence under this subtitle is, "As you revise, be strategic with your chapter openings." Enger offers several examples on how you can vary your chapter beginnings. One way is to "position a character in time and instantly establish the dramatic situation." A second way is to "sketch out a period of time, rendering its mood and general character as a way to place coming events into context." This is most advantageous when a character needs to reflect on something. Third, Enger suggests "shaking things up." This is when you would throw a curve ball at your reader. Last, open a chapter by "offering some pithy observation that bears directly upon the events unfolding." Enger has some excellent examples of each suggestion in the original article. To make things clearer, I recommend reading her article. I'm printing it out and using it while I edit.

   I'm officially excited to start my edits. After reading Enger's tips, I feel like I now have some direction. It's not so scary. I hope the same is true for you. Are there any tips that you can suggest for completing a novel?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

2011 Goals and Book Giveaway

Song of the Day: White Christmas by Bing Crosby

     Hello all! First, don't forget I'm giving away two books to two of my followers. All you have to do is be a follower of my blog, and leave a comment any day this week. I will randomly select two followers who will be able to win a paperback book of their choice! You have until Friday to leave your comment.

   I feel like 2010 was the year that I finally started taking my writing seriously. I've been a writer since I was six years old. I would sit at the dinner table in my uncle's New York City apartment and write stories, then publish them myself. Publishing them involved drawing a picture on construction paper that went along with the story, and then tying that piece of paper along with the pages of the story together with yarn. I've always had a passion for writing, but I think I finally realize that it's going to take some blood, sweat, and maybe even tears (though I'm not much of a crier). I now know that I must write everyday and I must read. And you know what that means? Often sacrificing things such as (Gasp!) TV. Now that I've had my wake-up call, here's a look at what I'm hoping to get done in 2011.

My 2011 Goals:

1. Read 75 Books
    This is going to be a challenge, but there are individuals who read over 100 books a year. I can surely
    read 75!

2. Finish Editing my NanoWriMo Novel and begin querying agents
    Now that I've finally finished a novel, I need to edit and make it "good." I also need to start the process of
    querying agents, and I have no idea how to do that. Guess I'll find out.

3. Blog at least 3 times a week
    I started out this year doing five, and realized it was just too much if I wanted to keep up with my
    writing goals. I think 3 times a week is a reasonable target.

4. Establish a following for the Black Fox Literary Magazine
    Black fox is the literary magazine I started with Pam Harris and Marquita Hockaday. We are looking to
    take it to a whole new level in 2011. We are in the process of building a new site where we'll start
    featuring poetry, flash fiction and author interviews. Stay tuned!

5. Create an Emergency Fund
    I'm 25 and sadly, I live paycheck to paycheck. I'm fortunate enough to have enough money, however if 
    something were to happen, I'd have no life line. I should probably be thinking about my financial future,
    so I'm going to create an emergency fund this year, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

6. Exercise at least 2-3 times a week
    The bare minimum is twice a week, but I'm shooting for three.

7. Write Everyday- even if it's just ten words
    I've said it a billion times, but National Novel Writing Month was an eye opener and quite frankly the best
    thing I've ever done. A lot can be accomplished in just ten minutes.

8. Make church and God a priority
    God has done so much for me, only fair that I repay him.

9. Work on my new Non-Fiction idea
    Yup, I have an idea for a non-fiction book. We'll see how it goes.

10. Publish Something, Anything
      If I just keep writing things and not submitting them, what's the point? I'm really going to make an effort
      to get my work out there to literary magazines and contests. My goal is to publish at least one short

11. Graduate with my MFA
      That's right folks, I'm scheduled to graduate, that is if my thesis/presentation goes well. Cross your
      fingers and pray for me.

12. Accepted to a Ph.D. program
      And this will be the final stop on my education journey. It's been a goal of mine since I was ten. It
      sounds crazy, but it's so true. Yeah, I was a nerd. Heck, I'm still a nerd, and I'm proud of it too!

      I have a few other goals I won't post. (Got to have some privacy, right?) What about you? What are some of your goals for the New Year?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Opportunities in the Great Big Literary World

Song of the Day: It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas by Johnny Mathis

    Hello all! I'm really into the Christmas spirit this year, and in honor of that I've decided that I'm going to give away Christmas presents in the form of Books to two of my followers! Read on to find out how you can win! I'll also be featuring Christmas Music on the blog until Christmas!


1. The 2011 Breakthrough Novel Award along with Penguin Group and Create Space announces the fourth annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. The contest is open to general fiction and young adult fiction. There will be one winner for fiction and one winner for YA. Each winner receives a contract with Penguin and a $15,000 advance! (Wowzer!) Your novel must be unpublished or previously self-published. The contest will start accepting submissions on January 20, 2011 until February 6, 2011. For more information on how to enter, please visit the link below.

2. Racquel Writes Book Giveaway

    In the spirit of Christmas, I will give away a book to two of my followers. All you have to do is leave a comment on any one of my blog posts this week. You MUST also be a follower of my blog. I will randomly select two people to win a book of their choice, as long as the book is in paperback (hey, I'm not made of money!). Everyone will have until Friday December 17, 2010 to be eligible.


1. San Francisco Writer's Conference 

     The conference is scheduled for February 18, 2011- February 20, 2011. Attendees will be able to choose from a full schedule of workshops, panels, and sessions that fit their personal writing needs. There is an "Ask a Pro" session where writers can ask questions and pitch books to New York and California editors. This session is included in the cost of registration. Attendees will also have the option of purchasing a special Speed Dating for Agents Session for an additional $50. Here writers can pitch book ideas one-on-one to New york and California Agents. The conference will have pitch contests, open mic readings, a Gala Welcome Party, and "over-the-top networking." They also feature an Indie Publishing Contest offering writers a chance to win a publishing package. AND attendees can receive free feedback on their work from freelance book editors! The cost of the conference is $595. It's a little pricey, but it seems to be worth it. They also offer scholarships to a select few. For more information visit their website. 

Don't forget about the Black Fox Fiction Contest going on now! We are in the process of building a new site and will be featuring new poetry and flash fiction on a weekly basis. Stay tuned for details! Good Luck and Happy Writing!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

All I want for Christmas are....BOOKS!

Song of the Day: All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey 

   Hello all! I'm supposed to be blogging about literary magazines today, but I don't feel like it! AND I like to break the rules! (Hehe) I thought I'd blog about books today since I'm obsessed with them. I've recently been giving a lot of thought to doing the 2011 Debut Author Challenge. I was inspired to pursue this by my two buddies Pam and Marquita. The challenge is hosted by The Story Siren and involves reading 12 YA or middle grade novels, then posting reviews about them. Reviews have to be posted publicly (blog, Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, etc.).  For more information click the green link above. I have a list of books that I've selected, and let me just say that it was one extensive list that I had to choose from! I'm not a YA writer, so I know very little about the subject. However, I thought it was a good idea to stay current since it's such a hot genre. I read Crank by Ellen Hopkins over the summer, and I LOVED it!
    I've also decided that I'm going to read at least 75 books next year as part of my New Year's Resolution (Look out for the rest of my resolutions next Tues!). Goodreads has also released a list of 508 best books of 2010. Since I didn't read a single book on the list, I've gone through and picked out the ones I will read next year. I've also added some books I'm dying to read that have been sitting on my shelf. Here are my lists!

2011 Debut Author Challenge:

1. The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
2. Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley
3. Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
4. What Can't Wait by Ashley Perez
5. Illegal by Bettina Restrepo
6. Like Mandarin by Kristin Hubbard
7. Desperate Measures by Laura Summers
8. Falling for Hamlet by MIchelle Ray
9. Bestest Ramadan Ever by Medeia Sharif
10. Broken Wings by Helen Landalf
11. Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez
12. Mercy Lily by Lisa Albert

And my list from Goodreads:

1. The Kitchen House by Katherine Grissom
2. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
3. The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow
4. Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
5. Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
6. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (when it's released in paperback)
7. Fallout by Ellen Hopkins (again, waiting for paperback)
8. Unfinished Desires by Gail Godwin
9. Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
10. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
11. The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin
12. Come Back to Me by Sara Foster
13. The Hoarders by Jean Stringer
14. Girl on a Bridge by Suzanne Fischkorn
15. Solomon's Oak by Jo-Ann Mapson
16. The Perfect World by Suzanne Bugler
17. Freefall by Mindi Scott

And Books on my Shelf:

1. The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris
2. A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
3. Glass by Ellen Hopkins
4. Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo by Ntozake Shange
5. Caucasia by Danzy Senna
6. The Street by Ann Petry

And that just scratches the surface. I have stacks of books filling up my living room. I think I may have a problem. It's going to be one busy year! What about you? What books will you be reading in 2011?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Plot Thickens

Song of the Day: Let it Flow by Toni Braxton

   Hello all! I recently came across an article featured on the Writer's Digest website called, "10 Minute Fixes to 10 Common Plot Problems." I thought this was a really helpful article since so many people will be revising their NanoWriMo manuscripts. I've pretty much experienced all these problems, so I've added my comments along the way. Please note, the List of ten plot problems and their solutions were taken from the article "10 Minute Fixes to 10 Common Plot Problems" by Elizabeth Sims. You can click on the title to be taken to the original article.

1. "I'm Missing a Crucial Piece of Information."
    "Ten Minute Solution: If you can't find the exact data you need, get as close as you can and wing the rest."
      This happened in my NanoWriMo manuscript. I had to research an illness, but it was slowing me down. I decided to get a few facts then "wing the rest." It's okay to make things up. We're all writing fiction, the point is to just be convincing.

2. "My Action in this Scene Drags"
    "Ten Minute Solution: Resist the urge to pile it on; rather, tighten what you've got."
     The article suggests turning full length sentences into fragments and going for one-line paragraphs. I've definitely felt my scenes dragging, but I've never tried this approach. I think I'll try it once I begin editing.

3. "One of My Characters is Starting to seem Lackluster." 
    "Ten Minute Solution: Give her an Obsession."
     Several of my characters seemed to be doing this in my Nano Manuscript. But why didn't I think of giving them an obsession? I've done it in other manuscripts, but the thought didn't cross my mind for my novel.

4. "I Have to Communicate A lot of Information and it's Overkill."
    "Ten Minute Solution: Turn Narrative into Dialogue."
     I sometimes wonder if there's such a thing as "too much" dialogue. I feel like there's a lot of dialogue in my manuscript and not enough narration. I may have to focus on the opposite for this solution.

5. "I Don't Know What Should Come Next."
    "Ten Minute Solution: Have a ten minute brainstorm."
     What writer hasn't been here? Here is what Sims suggests:

"Flip to a fresh page in your notebook or computer notepad, check the time and give yourself 10 minutes to write down anything and everything that might come next. Record every idea that comes to you, even if it seems ridiculous or awful. Keep going. If you do this with a feeling of open exploration, you will come up with a good idea of what should come next."

     I'll definitely be doing this in the coming months to fill in any holes.

6. "I've Got a Complex Plot, and All of My Final Unraveling Feels Forced."
    "Ten Minute Solution: Choose some loose ends to leave loose."
    This solution makes sense, though I've never really thought about it that way. I'm always trying to have everything make sense to a character. In life, sometimes things don't make sense, so I guess that's okay for a character too.

7. "I Need a Bridge Between Two Scenes but I'm at a Loss."
    "Ten Minute Solution: Insert a chapter break or use a magic word."
     I've done this one as well. Sometimes I'll even just use a page break.

8. "My Ending Made My Critique Group Go 'SoWhat?'"
    "Ten Minute Solution: Add passion, violence, or both."
     I had to laugh out loud when I read this one. I would be a rich woman if I had a nickel for every time my critique group went "so what?" Not to mention all the times teachers have written it on my paper. Sims suggests "heightening the ending you've already got with passion or violence." According to Sims for romance writers, passion is the way to go. For mystery/thriller, or literary fiction writers violence might be the best bet because it has a tendency to satisfy the reader.

9. "My Agent/Editor Wants Me to Cut 10,000 Words!"
    "Ten Minute Solution: Micro-edit your way to success."
    Okay, I haven't been here, but I wish I had. I'd love to have an agent who wanted me to cut 10,000 words. Sims suggests cutting one word from each sentence instead of going through the entire manuscript cutting chunks. An excellent tip for my own future reference.

10. "The Whole Thing Stinks"
      "Ten Minute Solution: Take a Break"
       If you asked my two writing buddies and sisters Pam and Marquita, they would tell you that I've said this many times. Actually, I've said this about my Nano manuscript when it was just chapter one, and now here I am fifteen chapters later. Sometimes it takes you walking a way for a minute to realize that your work isn't complete crap, or even a compliment from another writer (as was the case for me). Something Nano taught me was that you can go back and revise. So what if it is crap the first time around. Nothing you write down is set in stone. That's why there's a "delete" button.

     And there it is, ten solutions to ten plot problems. I know I'll be using these during edits. What about you? Are you going to use any of these solutions? What common plot problems do you most identify with?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Opportunities in the Great Big Literary World

Song of the Day: Firework by Katy Perry

   Hello all! I'm back to the regularly scheduled program on the blog now that the hype over National Novel Writing Month is gone. I must admit, I miss they daily hustle of trying to get my word count in. I'm still writing, just not that intensely. Anyway, I've tracked down some opportunities. Take a look.


1. Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition

    This is more of a reminder. I've listed this competition before. The deadline has been extended until December 8, 2010. Don't panic though, it's only for short short stories. Stories can only be 1,500 words or fewer. If you completed National Novel Writing Month then this should be pie. Just make sure you edit! First place wins $3,000 and a trip to New York City for The Writer's Digest Conference and publication. There will also be prizes awarded to second through twenty fifth place. The entry fee is $20. See the website for official details.

 2. Black Caucus of the American Library Association

   Three prizes are given annually to a book of nonfiction, a book of fiction, and a novel written by an African American Author and published in the United States in the current year. Publishers must nominate the book and the deadline is December 17, 2010. There is no entry fee.

3. Meridian Editors' Prize

   One poem and one short story will receive a prize of $1,000 and publication in the Spring/Summer issue of Meridian. The entry fee is $16 and with that fee contestants will receive a subscription to Meridian. Entries must be submitted by December 17, 2010. See their website for official rules.


1. Writer's Digest Conference

    The conference will run from January 21-23, 2011 in New York City. Some topics that will be covered include, "Perfecting Your Pitch at the Pitch Slam," "Getting Published in the Digital Age," and "Platforms and Social Media." Workshops include, "Your Publishing Options," and "Ask the Agents Panel." If you register early you can receive the early bird rate which is $425 for the whole conference. For more information visit the link below.

Also, don't forget about the contest going on at the literary magazine I co-founded with Pam Harris and Marquita Hockaday. Visit The Black Fox Literary Magazine for Details.

Good Luck Folks and Happy Writing!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

National Novel Writing Month Recap

Song of the Day: Sweet Victory by David Glen Eisley

Hello All! It's December first and I think it's safe to say that I'm officially back and a proud winner of National Novel Writing Month. It was a long, bumpy journey, but I stand before you today, a novelist! But the month didn't always go my way and here's why:

1. I had no intention of deserting the Blog World- I had this great plan when I started NanoWriMo. I was going to have blogs ahead of time for at least the first half of the month. Then I was going to write the other ones over the weekend, since it wouldn't be so hectic. That was an EPIC FAIL as the saying goes. A few things had to give so that I could keep writing, and unfortunately blogging had to be one of them. (What I gave up list at the end of post).

2. I didn't plan on my flash drive breaking- So there I am on my couch writing with my laptop on my lap. I pick it up to move positions, and what do you know? It slips right out of my hands, hitting the coffe table before it crashes to the floor. So then I take the flash drive out to see if it's okay. When I plug it back in, NOTHING! That's when panic mode set in, which brings me to Number 3.

3. I hadn't planned on feeling demoralized- After the Flash Drive Fiasco, I didn't feel like writing. I moped around for about three days without writing a thing. You know what turned it around for me? TWITTER! Go figure. I kept reading other writer's tweets about their word count success. God must have been looking out for me because two days before my flash drive broke, I emailed my manuscript to myself. So, the whole thing was not lost. I opened up my laptop and just began writing, telling myself that I would go back and re-write the missing section later.

4. I forgot how many events I had in November- There was my birthday (which is also my mother's birthday), my friend's wedding, Thanksgiving, Black Friday plus various smaller things that I forgot about until they came up!

Here's a List of What I sacrificed for NanoWriMo

1. My eyebrows (they look rough)
2. Exercise
3. Blogging
4. Facebook
5. Socializing (far less than I was used to)
6. Reading (Gasp!)

Was it all worth it? YES! I have written my first novel. NanoWriMo has encouraged me to get off my bum and just write. I used to keep making excuses about why I wasn't ready to write a novel, but now I have one. The editing I have to do is going to be crazy, but I have a feeling that that's going to be worth it too! I've also learned how much I'm capable of writing in a short amount of time. I should be writing every day, no matter what. This experience has been everything I'd hoped for and more. Congratulations to my fellow Nano Winners. We did it!

Also don't forget about The Black Fox Literary Magazine's Fiction Contest going on now!