Write On!
Quarterly Newsletter
Dear (Contact First Name),

Welcome to the first Capitol City Young Writers' quarterly newsletter, Write On! 

I would like to thank each of you for becoming a member and sharing your passion for writing at such a young age. You are taking those first steps to share your dreams and hopefully turn them into a reality. My hope is that we are able to provide a resource, to connect you with other young writers throughout the world and provide unique mentoring and career building opportunities. 

What began small, with an interest in teaching creative writing in my daughter's school, led to a series of events which later grew into the reality of CCYW.  Most recently, our outreach has turned international with members in Canada and Germany.  

 This same passion and dedication extends to an amazing board of directors who live throughout the U.S. Tracy Saville our vice president and treasurer (CA), Mary Jo Campbell as secretary (IL), and board members Bob Yehling (KY), Deborah LeBlanc (LA), Kathryn Mattingly (CA) and Bob Stanley (CA). Each one of us believes in the power of education and mentoring and has become a part of CCYW to share a diverse expertise in career, education and writing.

Write On!, our quarterly newsletter is one of many benefits you receive as a member. In each issue, we will feature articles from published authors in a variety of different genres from fiction and non-fiction to the business of marketing and publishing. A "Spotlight Author" will be featured in each issue who will share their journey as a writer. This month, Margaret Weis shares her success story, speaks about the author who inspires her the most and offers helpful advice to the young writers of today. Each newsletter will also highlight the early success of a young writer - someone who is making their dreams a reality before graduating from high school. If you have a success story and believe your story would inspire others, or if you would like to see an article on a particular topic please contact us at info@capitolcityyoungwriters.com. 

One of the many benefits as a literary agent is to travel each year throughout the U.S. and Canada to writers' conferences. The purpose of a writers' conference is to gather with like minded writers who share a passion for writing and to spend one to several days learning the art and craft of writing as well as the business of writing. Classes vary from beginning to advanced, allowing any level of writer to enjoy the benefits of attending.

Most recently, I attended the Truckee Meadows Community College Writer's Conference in Reno, Nevada as a workshop presenter, sharing my expertise as a literary agent with the attendees. These conferences are not solely for adults. Two CCYW members attended this conference, Elena (grade 6) and Breanne (grade 9), both who live in CA and traveled to Nevada in order to attend.  Elena is a CCYW youth advisory board member and returned with an experience that will not only add to her own abilities as a writer, but with skills to enhance her leadership position to CCYW. Breanne completed a full length fantasy fiction manuscript last November and had the opportunity to try her "in person" pitch to Writer's Digest editor, Chuck Sambuchino, in front of 150 other writers during a workshop. Both girls impressed the attendees of the entire conference and received numerous compliments and words of encouragement for their perseverance and dedication.

(Pictured: Elena, Chuck Sambuchino, Breanne)

Because I believe in the importance of writers' conferences, I am currently working to provide scholarships to young writers at various conferences throughout the U.S.  Any scholarship opportunities will be posted to the website and sent in an email correspondence. 

For members or sponsors who would like to provide a conference scholarship, please contact me at verna@capitolcityyoungwriters.com. Scholarships are provided through individual donations and grants.      


I look forward to hearing from you and I hope you enjoy the newsletter.



Verna Dreisbach

Verna Dreisbach

President and Founder

  Author Spotlight:  Margaret Weis
Pictured: Margaret Weis with daughter, Lizz Baldwin Weis, who is also an author
Margaret Weis was born and raised in Independence, Missouri. She attended the University of Missouir, Columbia, graduating in 1970 with a BA degree in Literature and Creative Writing. In 1983, she moved to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, to take a job as book editor at TSR, Inc., producers of the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® role-playing game.
At TSR, Weis became part of the DRAGONLANCE® design team. Created by Tracy Hickman, the Dragonlance world has continued to intrigue fans of both the novel and the game for generations. 2004 was the twentieth anniversary of the DRAGONLANCE CHRONICLES, which has sold over twenty million copies world wide.  Dragons of Autumn Twlight has been made into an animated film featuring the voices of Kiefer Sutherland, Michael Rosenbaum, and Lucy Lawless from Paramount Pictures.
Weis is the author/co-author of several other New York Times best-selling series, including DARKSWORD, ROSE OF THE PROHET, STAR OF THE GUARDIANS, THE DEATHGATE CYCLE, SOVEREIGN STONE, and, DRAGONVAARLD. Weis also continues to write with co-author Tracy Hickman for the Dragonlance novel line, THE LOST CHRONICLES.
Weis and her daughter, Lizz, have finished their newest romance novel, Fallen Angel, which was published October, 2008. Margaret and Lizz are also working on a Wonder Woman graphic novel for DC Comics with artist, Justiniano.
Weis is currently working on a new six book series with Tracy Hickman, Dragonships of the Vindras, to be published by Tor. 
Weis is owner of Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd., the Serenity Role Playing Game, based on the movie by Josh Whedon, licensed from Universal Studios, and the Battlestar Galactica RPG, also licensed from Universal, Supernatural, licensed from DC, among other exciting game and book projects.
Weis lives in Wisconsin with four dogs, Max, Tess, Dixie, and Joey. Weis and her dogs, Dixie and Joey, enjoy competing in flyball tournaments. Also living with them is mystery cat, Motley Tatters.
Interview with Margaret Weis:

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

I was actually a storyteller long before I knew I wanted to be a writer. My kindergarten teacher had me sit in a little chair in front of the class and I told stories to the kids while she did her paperwork. I was always the kid in the neighborhood who made up the stories we used to act out when we played soldier or fairy princess locked in the castle. I was good at telling stories and later on I found out I was good at writing them down. It wasn't a big deal to me.  Other kids could hit a ball really far or run really fast.

What was the first experience that gained you recognition and how did you feel?
My first novel that I wrote with co-author, Tracy Hickman, unexpectedly hit the New York Times best-seller list. The book was Dragons of Autumn Twilight, the first volume in the Dragonlance Chronicles. Tracy and I wrote it when we worked for TSR, inc., the company that first produced the game, Dungeons and Dragons. I was astonished and elated. In fact, I was so elated that when I fixed my kids tuna casserole for dinner, I accidentally used cat tuna instead of Star-Kist. The kids loved it. They said it was the best I'd ever made!

Who inspired you the most and/or who did you aspire to write like?
My family went to the library every week. I read books from the time I was little. I remember reading Dumas's the Three Musketeers in the fourth grade and I added the three musketeers to our neighborhood games of make-believe. When I was a freshmen in high school, I read all the Sherlock Holmes stories. I used to lie awake at night and make up stories about Sherlock Holmes and how he and I and Dr. Watson would solve mysteries together. I realize now that this was how I learned to plot stories and develop characters. When I took creative writing courses in college, I learned how to analyze books and short stories and poems to see the techniques other writers used. I do that to this day!

Which of your past books are most memorable or rewarding to you?

That's like asking a mother which of her kids is her favorite! I like them all for different reasons.  But I guess my favorite book is always the one I'm working on.

Please tell us about your current or future projects.

I'm currently working on a new series for Tor books with Tracy Hickman. It's called Dragonships. The first book is Bones of the Dragon. It's a fantasy about a young man named Skylan Ivorson, who is the war chief of his people. Three sets of gods are going to war over Skylan's world and his gods are losing. Skylan and his people go on a quest in their dragonship to try to help their gods win the war.

What is the best advice you could give to young writers?
BE PATIENT! Give yourself time to grow creatively. After all, if you play football in high school, no matter how good you are, you're not going to play for the Green Bay Packers.  If you are taking ballet lessons, you won't be asked to be prima ballerina with the American Ballet Theater. It takes years of work and practice to be good at anything. Writing is no exception.
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Business:  Think You're Ready for an Agent? Not So Fast!
By: Chuck Sambuchino
Editor, Guide to Literary Agents

You finished your first novel.  Congratulations.  There were bumps in the road along the way, but that was then, this is now.  You're all finished.  Done.  The next thing needed in your journey to being a famous author is getting a literary agent to represent you.  Right?  If that's what you're thinking I have one thing to say to you.
            Not so fast.
            Finishing the first draft of your novel is a monumental accomplishment, and a big step in the right direction.  But it's just that.  A step.  There are more steps to go. 
            I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, "But Chuck!  It took me a year to finish this dang beast of a book and I want to get moving on this.  I think I should get it out there and see what happens."  If that is indeed what you're thinking, know that it's a free country, and you're free to do whatever you want.  High-schoolers have sold novels before.  S.E. Hinton was a teenager when her young adult novel, The Outsiders, was published.  The book sold more than 10 million copies.  Lightning does strike. 
            But if you're serious about doing the process right, there are things you need to know and do before you start looking for an agent.  Start with these four tips below.
1. Revise and rewrite.
            The old phrase goes: "Good writing is rewriting."  You've jumped the first hurdle on your path by sitting down, putting in the hours, and completing a novel.  Now you need to set it aside for a few weeks then return to it with fresh eyes.  You'll quickly start to see characters, scenes, dialogue and narrative that doesn't work as well as you thought.  Feel free to cut out paragraphs or even chapters.  If you feel inspired to write new material, do so.  When you've finished editing, save this "new" version of the novel as a separate draft. 
2. Seek editing help.
            Find other writers who will swap work with you and give you a free critique.  Do this by looking for local writing groups (check online and in the newspaper).  Or look for online groups in the same genre you're writing in.  For example, if you wrote a mystery, the Mystery Writers of America might be a nice Web site to check out and soak in.  Some big sites may require a fee to join, so think about asking for a year's membership as a birthday gift.  Use Google to find lots of resources online.  It may be tough to hear someone else criticize your work, but keep in mind you need to hear honest feedback-and (once again it's a free country), if you don't like their suggestions, you don't have to take 'em. 
3. Don't stop writing.
            You get better at writing and editing as you go along.  The more you write and read, the more you learn.  This means two things.  First, it means that the work you create in high school is not usually award-winning stuff, if you know what I mean.  It's a start, and you can learn from it.  Second, know that with each story, or screenplay, or article you write, you're getting better.  The worst thing you can do is put down your pen, declare yourself "finished" and try to get an agent for this book you've written: your one and only novel.  That's called "putting your eggs in one basket."  You're young-keep going. 
4. Educate yourself
            It's very challenging at first, but if you want to sell your work, you need to know the process of how work gets sold.  For example, let's say you simply write a letter (or an e-mail) to a literary agent and say, "I've written a mystery novel.  Will you be my agent?"  The agent will say no 100% of the time.  That's because if you want to get an agent, you have to submit a query letter, and a query letter has a specific purpose, structure and format.  Don't know what a query is-or perhaps what a synopsis is?  Don't worry-I had no clue till I was much older than you.  The point is to get online to Web sites and slowly start to realize how books get sold, and how contests work, and how magazines get articles, etc.  The sooner you start, the sooner you'll be selling your writing and seeing your name in print.  Good luck!

Chuck Sambuchino is the editor of Guide to Literary Agents and the assistant editor of Writer's Market (both Writer's Digest books). He is a former staffer of several newspapers and magazines-most notably Writer's Digest. In addition, he was recently named the founding editor of Screenwriter's and Playwright's Market, a directory and instructional resource for those who write scripts and plays (December 2008 release).

He is a produced playwright with both original and commissioned works produced. Chuck is also a freelance editor, public speaker, and award-winning journalist-with accolades from both the Kentucky Press Association and the Cincinnati Society of Professional Journalists. He teaches online instructional courses through Writers Online Workshops.

He is a magazine freelancer with recent articles appearing in Watercolor Magic, Pennsylvania Magazine, The Pastel Journal, Cincinnati Magazine and New Mexico Magazine

Fiction Craft: Hook Your Readers!

By Les Edgerton 

(Excerpted from: Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Them Go)

Movies and television and the speed and complexity of modern life have changed our reading habits. Whether we do or not, most of us feel we have insufficient waking time to get done all we need done each day. We're too busy for slow openings. And movies have taken the lead in creating a product that caters to the contemporary lifestyle. When movies were first created, they followed the literary model. It has come to pass that films have passed the written word in popularity and now it is movies that drive the entertainment engine. Novels and short stories nowadays imitate movie structure.
            What does that mean to you, the young and beginning writer? It means that if you expect to have your work published, you will need to understand modern story structure. First, you need to accept as fact that publishable stories are always and without exception about one thing always and that one thing is: trouble. If you accept that-and you really should, because it's true-then you should know that today's stories begin in one place. Where the trouble begins. Not ten years before the trouble or even ten minutes before, but when the trouble begins. The trouble begins with a story element we call "the inciting incident." The definition of the inciting incident is "something that happens to the protagonist that creates and/or reveals the story problem to him or her." I won't go into depth on inciting incidents or what passes for trouble in fiction because of limited space here, but you need to become familiar with the definitions of what constitutes trouble in literary terms and how inciting incidents work and are written, available in any good writing text, including my own book, Hooked.
            The best way to learn to be a good writer is to read everything you can get your hands on and write. Read and write. It's really that simple. However, when you read, be aware of the fact that writing changes and always take that into consideration. What I mean by that is that while we should read and also respect those writers who came before us, many times those "masters" are using techniques that aren't used nowadays and therefore they may not make the best models for our own writing.
A great example is William Faulkner. A brilliant writer, he was one of the pioneers of the writing technique known as "stream-of-consciousness." However, Mr. Faulkner is dead and his work is frozen in time. There are many writers today who use stream-of-consciousness in their writing today much better than Faulkner did, writers such as Gordon Lish or Amy Hempl for instance. If Faulkner were still alive he would have had the benefit of all we've learned about writing technique and being a smart guy, his books would be taking advantage of this and would look much different today than they did then. Whenever a great writer is offered up to you for instruction, keep in mind that many times their style is considered dated by today's standards and therefore some of what they did cannot be emulated.
*                          *                             *
            And finally... a prescription.
            Be true to yourself.
            I taught creative writing for three years at the University of Toledo and although I'm a couple of years removed from that gig, I still get emails and phone calls and mail from students I was privileged to teach while there. I just got another email from one of my best students yesterday and thought folks might be interested in her story. She's a wonderful writer and it just so happens she's a young black woman. Normally, a writer's race wouldn't be notable, but in this case it is, I think.
            When she came to my class the first time, she told me that another professor in the department whose classes she'd taken before mine, had told her she needed to quit writing the fantasy novel she'd been working on for years and instead, write about her "black experience." I was dumbfounded, especially since the young student told me she could care less about her so-called "black experience," feeling that all she'd ever had was an "American citizen experience," or a "resident of Toledo experience," and what she really enjoyed reading and writing about was fantasy. But, she now had doubts. I told her that I thought this teacher's advice was the silliest I'd ever heard. What does it matter if she was black or white... or green or purple? Write what you want to write, I told her. If Samuel Delany had had a teacher like this woman had and told him he should only write about his "black experience," we'd never have gotten to enjoy his wonderful sci-fi books.
            Well, my bright young student has finished her novel (fantasy) and it's really darned good. She's in the process of securing an agent and sending her "baby" out into the world. Not a word in it about any "black experience."
            Wonder what this teacher is going to say when her former student's book gets published...
            The first rule in teaching should be: Do no harm.
            Too bad some folks don't follow this precept.
*                         *                            *
            If you're looking for good writing texts, I'd like to suggest both of my own, Finding Your Voice and Hooked. I'd also like to recommend to you the book I consider the very best on writing, Janet Burroway's Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. It's a pricey book (but worth every cent if you can afford it!) and you can get a much cheaper, used copy at www.abebooks.com.


Les Edgerton has published nine books, including a novel, a collection of short stories, and two writer's how-to's. His fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, O. Henry Award, Edgar Allan Poe Award, PEN/Faulkner Award, Jesse Jones Book Award, and the Violet Crown Book Award, among others. One of his screenplays was a semifinalist in the Academy Award's Nicholl's Foundation  and another was named a finalist in the Writer's Guild Awards and a semifinalist in the Best of Austin Screenplay competition.

He's taught creative writing for the UCLA Extension Writer's Program, was the visiting writer-in-residence for the University of Toledo, the visiting writer for Trine University, and teaches creative writing online for the Gotham Writer's Workshop, for Vermont College (where he earned his MFA in Writing), and for Writer's Digest Writer's Online Workshop (WOW). He also provides private coaching for the writing of a number of prominent Hollywood personalities. Les will participate in two of the nation's most prestigious literary events, this summer. First, at the University of Wisconsin's Writer's Institute, where he will be the co-headliner along with Linda Seger, screenwriting guru. LesEdgerton.com

Non-Fiction Craft: Memoir Writing

Write Your Story Now!

Linda Joy Myers

National Association of Memoir Writers



The young man grinned across the table from me as he adjusted his owl-shaped glasses. "I've had all these experiences I want to write about, but who will listen to me? I'm only 18, and no one thinks I've had much of a life yet."

His eyes glanced down at his hands where the loops and twirls of a tattoo encircled his fingers. They folded into hands of supplication and then fluttered apart like nervous birds. In his dark eyes, I could see the passion to tell his story. I told him, "You have the passion to write your story, and you've already started.  Your poetry, songs, and blogs are your story. You can capture your ideas and thoughts any way you want, just make sure you write while it's fresh." He nodded and fiddled with his iPod, his face relaxing into a smile.

As the President of the National Association of Memoir Writers, I encounter many people, young and old, who have a story to tell and who want to write a memoir. This is a great time to write your story because there are so many ways to tell a story, and so many places where you can share it. No matter how old, or young, you are, from the time of your birth you fell into the story of your family, friends, school, and companions. We enter the world in the middle of other people's stories, and intertwine ourselves in and out of the tapestry of life that's made of many colors.

Often, people ask me, " Where do I start? How do I know if my story is boring?" My answer is always this: start anywhere. Write about an experience you had that you can never forget. Put yourself back in the scene-remember how things smelled, looked, tasted. The sounds around you, notice the faces, fabrics, and feelings you had then. Throw it onto the page quickly without censoring. Allow yourself to be messy and unorganized, that is how the creative mind works.

After you have done some of these stories, then you can figure out when they happened, you can create a timeline for your stories, and have a sense of whether you want to edit them, put them in a blog, or start writing a book.

The important thing when you want to write your life is to begin, and begin now.  If you have a passion, a "fire in the belly" to write, let it guide you. Take dictation, and don't listen to any critics. It is your story. It is your life. Begin writing now.



Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D. has had a therapy practice in Berkeley, California for 30 years and has taught memoir writing as a healing practice for 10 years. She is President and Founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers.  Linda is in the process of completing a non-fiction book on the healing benefits of writing memoir to be published by Jossey-Bass/Wiley in 2010 and is also the author of a book-length memoir, Don'tCall Me Mother: Breaking the Chain of Mother Daughter Abandonment, which received the Gold Medal Award from the Bay Area Independent Publishing Association in 2007. A chapter from the book was a finalist in the 2005 Writers Digest Nonfiction contest. Linda Joy Myers



Poetry Craft: Fool-proof Forms

Foolproof Forms 

# 1 - Freewriting

By: Bob Stanley

Sometimes poetry forms can seem difficult, and they keep us from getting started. So I look for ways that help me write. One of the simplest ways to "get ideas on paper" is called freewriting. Now freewriting might lead to a poem, and it might not. But the idea behind it is that if you write something, you'll write more. The only rule of freewriting is "keep writing." Don't stop for anything. Especially don't stop because you are worried if it's any good. The truth is, when you put words on paper, you start to have ideas. So just let your mind ramble - let the words lead your mind and don't stop - and you'll discover ideas you didn't know you had.


Natalie Golberg has used freewriting to help her in her writing career. These are some of the pointers she gives:

  • Give yourself a time limit. Write for one or ten or twenty minutes, and then stop.
  • Keep your hand moving until the time is up. Do not pause to stare into space or to read what you've written. Write quickly but not in a hurry.
  • Pay no attention to grammar, spelling, punctuation, neatness, or style. Nobody else needs to read what you produce here. The correctness and quality of what you write do not matter; the act of writing does.
  • If you get off the topic or run out of ideas, keep writing anyway. If necessary, write nonsense or whatever comes into your head, or simply scribble: anything to keep the hand moving.

So the next time you're stuck for an idea, try freewriting, and see where it takes you. If you pick up some ideas for topics to expand on, then you can go back and write about them. Freewriting can work for creative pieces like poetry or fiction, and it can help with essays, too. You can use it in the beginning of a writing process, or in the middle. Learn to make freewriting work for you - it may seem silly at first, but it's a proven cure for "Writers' Block."

(Fool-Proof Forms #2 - Anaphora will be featured in June 2009's Write On!)


Bob Stanley teaches creative writing and English composition at CSU Sacramento and Sacramento City College.  Bob's poems have been published in various journals and anthologies, and have won a number of awards including the California Focus on Writers first prize for poetry in 2006.  President of the Sacramento Poetry Center, Bob is currently editing a collection of poetry by poets laureate from the cities and counties of California. He and his wife Joyce have four children, and they have lived in the Arden area of Sacramento since 1989. Bob's first chapbook, Walt Whitman Orders a Cheeseburger, will be published by Rattlesnake Press in the spring of 2009.

Screenwriting Craft: Formula for Writing Success

My "Formula" for Writing Success


by Eldon Thompson


There's no such thing as overnight success.  Or if there is, I haven't met anyone who encountered it.  If you talk to someone who achieved a rapid rise in fame, fortune, or some other pursuit, I'd be willing to bet that what they truly experienced is simply the manifestation of years and years of preparation, dedication, and discipline finally paying off.


I enjoy lifting weights.  I have for nearly twenty years, since deciding in the Eighth Grade that I needed to get bigger and stronger if I wished to excel at football.  Nowadays, a lot of people I meet in the gym want to know my secret to staying fit.  They ask questions like: "What do you eat?  Do you take any supplements?  Have you ever used steroids?"  The assumption is that there's some magic recipe that they might follow in order to enjoy an overnight transformation.


Unfortunately, it's not that easy.  I have only a rudimentary understanding of what constitutes a good diet.  The only supplements I've taken can be picked up at GNC.  My "secret" is simply to lift hard an average of two hours a day, six days a week, for almost two decades.


It's much the same with writing.  If there's a magic bullet or secret pill for getting published, I never found it.  Nor have any of the other professional writers I've met over the years, many of whom are much more accomplished than I am.  What I have found, despite the myriad roads to publication, are certain commonalities-traits and practices that each and every one of these professionals exercised in order to achieve their goals.  It's the closest I've managed to come to devising a formula that aspiring writers might follow.  I call it the 6 "P's".


(1) Passion - First and foremost, you have to love to write.  Passion for the craft will ignite your endeavors and sustain you when times are hard.  No matter how much you enjoy it, there will be days in which you wonder why you bother, why you don't simply give up.  Mere enjoyment won't get you through.  You have to love it so much that not writing is more painful than writing could ever be.  It's been said that if you can do something other than write, you should do that instead.  My feeling is that nothing in life is easy, so you might as well do what you love.


(2) Preparation - If a person has a specific goal or destination, chances are, they will not reach it by accident.  Travelers have maps or navigation systems.  Builders have blueprints.  Coaches have game plans.  If lacking these planning materials, the odds of success decrease dramatically.  Why should writing be any different?  If you're just toying around, that's one thing.  But if you have a goal, then look ahead to see how best to get there.  Take the time to analyze your story idea, synopsis, outline (whether loose or detailed), pitches, proposals, and query letters.  When ready to submit, research agents, editors, and the marketplace in general.  If you are haphazard in your approach, you will likely reap haphazard results.


(3) Practice - The more you work at something, the more natural it becomes.  For most writers, storytelling is largely instinctual.  But there is always room for improvement, and any writer worth his or her salt is always striving for it.  Professional athletes don't just show up on game day.  They review their fundamentals, analyze opponent tendencies, and practice their techniques over and over again.  There's no better method for improving one's physical, mental, or artistic skills than simply logging the repetitions.  For writers, that means reading everything you can get your hands on and writing as much as is humanly possible.  You'll meet lots of people who claim to have amazing story ideas.  But writers sit their tails in the chair and actually write.


(4) Patience - This may be the hardest notion to accept, particularly for inexperienced writers.  We all think ours is the next great tale, and there's a tendency to want to rush it to market before someone beats us to it.  Having such aspirations can be a positive thing, but expecting overnight results can lead to undue frustration.  In the world of publishing, few things happen quickly.  Even after you've written and revised your manuscript to "perfection," you'll spend weeks, months, or years submitting to agents/editors and awaiting their responses.  Even when you are finally published, you may wonder why readers aren't racing to bookstores to snatch your debut volume off the shelves.  Rather, you'll likely have published two or three volumes before anyone realizes you've written one.  It all can happen faster, but it rarely does.  I hate to see aspiring writers get discouraged when they realize just how slowly the wheels of publishing tend to turn.  So think of writing as a marathon, not a sprint.  Dream big, but set a long-term pace, and don't expect too much too soon.


(5) Prioritize - To become a professional writer, you'll likely have to give up something of lesser importance to you along the way.  As I mentioned above, writing takes time-and lots of it.  Every moment you spend playing games, watching TV, or hanging out with friends is a moment in which you could be honing some aspect of your craft.  Going without sleep, spending money on writers conferences, giving up your Friday nights out-these are the types of sacrifices you may have to make if you plan to take your work to the next level.  I don't recommend ignoring your family and friends completely.  Don't shirk responsibilities such as school, work, or chores.  But if writing is truly important to you, make it a priority.  Look at other hobbies that mean less to you, and consider cutting them out of your schedule.  Life is filled with balances and tradeoffs.  With writing, as with all things, you may have to repeatedly ask yourself how badly you want it.


(6) Perseverance - I know it sounds trite, but the surest way to fail is to stop trying.  People out there (even friends and family) will tell you you're foolish to pursue a career in writing.  At times, you'll wonder if they're right.  Some level of doubt is necessary, as it pushes us to work harder, to challenge ourselves to do better.  There's nothing shameful about changing your mind and altering your professional pursuits.  But if you truly want to write, then do so.  You may have to modify your specific actions from time to time in order to achieve better results.  You may have to take time off entirely to deal with something else life throws your way.  No matter your circumstances, however, the ultimate decision is yours.  If building a writing career is what you really, really want, then don't let anyone tell you it can't be done.


There it is, my formula for writing success.  In today's fast-food, movies-on-demand, instant-communication society, it may not be what folks want to hear.  But it's the best advice I can offer.  Would you prefer that it be easy?  If it were, everyone would be doing it.  So look at it as a way to challenge yourself, to do something that sets you apart from the pack.  And imagine the sense of joy and accomplishment you'll feel when able to fulfill a dream that others told you was impossible.


Like most fantasy writers, Eldon Thompson is an avid weightlifter and wishes he was playing quarterback in the NFL. But a hardcover deal with HarperCollins for his "Legend of Asahiel" trilogy seems a fair consolation prize. In it, he is dutifully following some of the longest-standing conventions of the genre... so that he can tear them all down and catch a reader or two by surprise. If that doesn't work, he is on the verge of making a splash in Hollywood - and hopes that he won't merely drown. His screenplay adaptation of Terry Brooks's "Shannara" is currently indevelopment at Warner Bros.



Shout It From the Rooftops: How To Develop The Self-promotion Habit

By Christina Katz


Your heart warms with pride, your cheeks burn with a tinge of self-revelation, and your stomach flutters at the thought that you have made your innermost thoughts public. No matter how comfortably or uncomfortably you experience these feelings, without a doubt I'm talking about one of the best feelings in the world: seeing your byline appear after the title of a piece you wrote and got published.

 But perhaps one of the worst feelings is immersing yourself into a piece of writing, rewriting and rewriting and rewriting it until every word is as perfect as the lyrics in your favorite song, actually getting it published, and then having nobody but your mother, your grandparents, and your best friend seek out the piece and read it.

 Fortunately, you can prevent this sad scenario from happening when your words make it into print by becoming one of the increasing numbers of authors who champion what they write. By making a commitment to marketing yourself and your hard work before and after it goes to print, your words will get read. And by becoming the producer-in-chief of all your writing endeavors present and future, you will never have to worry about anonymity today, tomorrow, and as long as you choose to write.

 Does this sound like a huge responsibility? It isn't. You can guarantee that your words will actually be read by real live people who are not even related to you by getting yourself out there and getting the hang of promoting yourself. Here are four easy examples to tackle when you are ready:

 Start an e-mail list:

Who are the people who like to hear about your writing success? Why not start a list in your address book with them and keep adding to it as time goes by. You can start by sending out simple regular announcements of good things that happen-just be sure to get permission. One way to get permission is to send an announcement about your work out to everyone you know and tell them that they can unsubscribe if they don't want to receive future messages from you on the topic.

 Create a sign-off at the bottom of your message that invites people to forward your writing-related news to their friends who might also be interested. Once you start to get into high numbers of subscribers (say, 100+), it's time to start checking out automated newsletter services like www.aweber.com, www.zinester.com, or www.constantcontact.com to streamline the endeavor. Then people can come and go whenever they please without creating more work for you.

 Create a simple website:

Although social networking is fun, a proper writer's website is not a Facebook or a Myspace page; it's not even a blog. So save the detailed descriptions of your quirks and faves for the social networking you will do after you've built yourself a solid website to publicize your genuine writing credentials (creds) across the ethers while you are sleeping. And if you don't have any genuine writing creds yet, getting some is an important first step.

 Once you have some creds to share, it's time to test-drive some simple site-building software like Adobe's Contribute or a free online version like www.dotnetnuke.com. Avoid any web-building services that are going to flash gratuitous advertising across your site. Better to cough up a few bucks once a year than have a site that's crowded and rife with messages you can't control.

 To earn the dough to pay for your site's expenses, why not post links to your favorite books and ask folks to place their book and product orders through your site so you can earn referral fees? A few bucks a month adds up over the course of a year. Check out a widget called Adaptive Blue (www.adaptiveblue.com) that can reference all the available online booksellers while including your affiliate link to retailers who make one available.

 Blog when it makes sense:

Blogging can be great for writers assuming three things:

 1.      You have ample material to draw on and time to blog regularly.

2.      You take the time to determine your appropriate audience, topic and your specific slant (or take) on your topic for your specific audience.

3.      You don't plan on starting a blog, blogging like mad for six weeks, and then disappearing from the face of the blogosphere without a trace. Preparation can prevent this common pitfall from happening to you.

 Quite frankly, when you consider all the time and energy a blog requires, sometimes it makes more sense to cultivate your email list, aim for publication credits, develop your website and blog later. Or even not blog at all. Because down the road, you'll have a better idea whether or not the strategy of blogging is the best one for you. In my experience working with adult writers, blogging can suck up a lot of energy that might be better devoted to the writing and pitching skills necessary for long-term success as a writer.

 Volunteer some time:

Why not offer your services doing writing-related work like mentoring, tutoring, becoming a teaching assistant or camp counselor so you can become rich with inspiration, confidence and opportunities too? Staying home and curling up with your pen and journal is great, but isolation is not a long-term strategy for writing success. Private time for personal reflection is vital for any writer, but equally important is taking the risk of expanding your interests to include interaction with like-minded others.

 I host an author series in my hometown and I recruited a senior in high school to assist me when the task became too big for me to manage myself. This is an amazing opportunity for Ashleigh because not only does she get to attend the entire series for free and take notes on what the authors say as one of her responsibilities, she's also been inspired to apply for a scholarship to a local writers conference. Volunteering has spawned numerous writing ideas and conversations with professional writers that might not have happened had she simply stayed home.

 Now you know what can you do to encourage readers to step right up and read your latest gems without becoming like a carnival barker. Make peace with promoting yourself as a writer and then work at it continually. Because if you want to write for today's marketplace, self-promotion is key to keeping your published work vital and cultivating a readership who will keep coming back for more.



Christina Katz is the author of Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids(2007)and Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform (2008) for Writer's Digest Books. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and holds an MFA in Fiction from Columbia College, Chicago. Christina is publisher and editor of three free e-zines: Writers On The Rise, The Writer Mama, and the Get Known Groove. A passionate writing instructor, she has mentored hundreds of writers through her classes over the past eight years. Learn more at www.christinakatz.com.

Songwriting: Interview with Erik Vanderheydt

An Interview with Erik Vanderheydt, Songwriter & Graduating Senior

By Tracy Saville


About studying music and songwriting, Jimmy Webb in his book "Tunesmith" said, "It's never too early or too late to start". So true; take Erik Van Derheydt, age 17 and a senior at Rio Americano High School in Sacramento, California, for example. Erik's been writing music for 2 years, playing keyboards for 2, and drums for 4, although he says he's ten times better on the keyboards, that this is where his natural talent lies. Here's what new CCYW member Erik had to share about songwriting and his songwriting experience when I caught up with him recently in between rehearsals for two performing and recording band projects, composing the international theme song for Capitol City Young Writers, and the last part of his Senior year. 


Lyrics or music? I'm not a big fan of writing lyrics, but I have to write them, so I do it well. I collaborate with others a lot, like I am with this CCYW project. I'll end up doing most of the music and my two partners will probably work a lot on lyrics and helping to compose and produce the song.


What's the biggest creative difference between the two? Personally, I'm a composer, I see and hear the music before I see or hear the words. It's true; you have to learn the rules and practice before you can write a book, which is the same for writing music. I'm not formally trained, and I started by doing everything by ear. Also, I find it easier to express my emotions through the music itself, because some emotions can't be described by words. I also like my lyrics to have a story (not like a musical), or have a lot of meaning to them. I don't really like music with no meaning to it, like a lot of popular music today.


Who turned you on to writing music? My dad. He is an awesome keyboard player, guitarist, and bassist. He built a home studio a couple of years ago; he bought tons of recording equipment and a Yamaha es7 keyboard. I started messing with the keyboard later on, and then started writing my own music. I didn't really have a reason to write except I wanted to; I felt a need to write music. I think I have a knack for it, but I also do it all day every day, so...


Who are your influences and what do you listen to? I listen to ALL kinds of music. Classical, Symphonic Metal, Avant Garde, and Death Metal are my favorites. Early on I was inspired a lot by Rammstein and Nightwish. I often listen to bands like Wintersun, Unexpect, Ensiferum, Dog Fashion Disco, Dimmu Borgir, and Opeth. I listen to composers like Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard, Steve Jablonsky, Elliot Goldenthal, Mozart, Verdi, Brahms, Chopin. The more complex and epic, the better.


Is songwriting your only talent? I can draw pretty well, and also write stories pretty well. But I live and breathe music every day.


Where do you want to take your songwriting? Everywhere.


What advice do you have for youth who want to pursue a career in songwriting? Learn, learn, and learn, wherever and however you can. If you're writing and you're frustrated, take a break. When you're writing the same song for awhile, it will start to sound stale and not good enough to you; everything won't sound good enough and you won't be motivated to continue. I've encountered that problem tons of times. Also, don't be arrogant, because there will always be someone better than you. Arrogance will blind you and prevent you from moving forward. Nobody will want to work with you and you'll end up going through so many band members you won't get anything done.


If there was one big goal or dream that songwriting could bring you, what would it be? All I want is to be successful enough with my music so I can donate most of my money and be financially secure for the rest of my life. My goal is to help other people, because one man doesn't really need to have a lot to be happy.


More about Erik and his music here: www.myspace.com/solomusicianerikv   


Book Review

My Most Excellent Year-a Novel of Love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park

by Steve Kluger

Book Review by: Becky Levine

  T.C. Keller and Augie Hwong have been best friends since first grade, when T.C.'s mother died and Augie was the only kid who knew the right things to say. They are so close, they consider each other brothers and share vacations, houses, and parents. Then Alé Perez comes to school and catches T.C.'s attention. In many books, this change would cause problems for the guys, but Kluger makes Alé a great friend to Augie as well as a romantic interest for T.C.

Of course, things don't start that smoothly. In the first "conversation" between T.C. and Alé, T.C. sticks a note in Alé's social studies book, and Alé replies with a letter in an envelope that looks like it came from the principal's office.


*          *        *

 Dear Anthony:

I appreciate your recent interest, but I'm not accepting applications at this time. Your letter will be kept in our files and someone will get back to you if there is an opening.

Thank you for thinking of me.


Alejandra Perez

P.S. It's not "Allie." It's Alé.

 Notes? Letters? That's not all. Kluger has stepped way outside the typical chapter-after-chapter style of most books. His story is told by over a dozen different narrators, including the three main characters, their parents, and a CIA agent. Keller's characters use every "written" form of communication from journal entries to email to text messaging.

When Augie finally realizes he's gay (which everybody else already knew!), he IMs T.C.

AugieHwong: What would you say if I told you I think I like boys? I mean LIKE boys. I mean the way you like Alé?

TCKeller: "Duh"?

AugieHwong: That's it??

TCKeller: Depends. Who's the boy?

AugieHwong: Andy Wexler.

TCKeller: The jury's out. I need to see how he treats you first.

Kluger handles all the relationships in this book beautifully. Yes, he includes conflict, but the ground beneath these kids-thanks to their friendship and families-is so rock solid they can grow with the changes that come along. Not only does Kluger write tightly and with laugh-out-loud humor, he's given the reader an alternative to the many books that throw their characters head first into deep, dark problems.

Because, in this book, even Mary Poppins is real. The triangle turns into a team when Hucky Evan Harper comes along. Hucky is deaf, pretty angry, and worships Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins, not Julie Andrews. Coached by his memories of his mother, and backed up by Augie and Alé, T.C. is determined to make Hucky's dreams come true. By the time the story is over, the "family" that T.C. and Augie share has stretched to include Alé, Andy Wexler, Hucky, and...well, you'll have to read the book.

My Most Excellent Year-a Novel of Love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park is a fun, happy story about romances that work out and dreams that come true. This book isn't likely to get assigned in your English class or even handed to you for extra credit, but it's going to make you smile and laugh as you turn every page. And that's not a bad thing.


Becky Levine is a writer and speaker, living in California's Santa Cruz mountains. She writes for children and young adults, and is currently working on a historical YA set in Chicago, in 1913. Becky is the author of The Writing Group Survival Guide, coming from Writers Digest Books in 2010. You can learn more about Becky at her website and blog, www.beckylevine.com.

Young Writer Success Story: Samson Dada
Interview with Young Published Journalist, Samson Dada, age 17

Interview by:   Mary Jo Campbell

1) How old were you when you had your first article published and what did that feel like?

I was sixteen years old when I had my first paid article published in
the North and East Manchester Advertiser last summer on Thursday 24 July 2008. Although, I was fortunate enough to have three separate articles published during a one-week work experience placement I spent at the same paper, this was my first paid article of considerable length that I had chosen myself. Asylum seekers: "Should they be allowed to stay?" aimed to make more of the local community aware of the misconceptions and misplaced generalisations that not everyone seeking asylum in the United Kingdom receives financial support and free accommodation. People seek asylum for different reasons, ranging
from escaping tyranny to looking for employment and learning
opportunities. My feelings were a sense of relief as well as
accomplishment. This was because I had been offered the chance to write for the newspaper at the age of 13, but my inexperience and unfamiliarity with the basic structures of writing newspaper articles had me writing many different drafts of
this story.

I remember writing a 1,000 word draft that had no quotes
and a long quote from myself in the format of Samson Dada said.....Eventually after taking out a lot of time in between and giving the editor a lot of lame excuses, my article was eventually published. I also spent quite a lot of time gathering many quotes and making persistent phone calls. I will always remember my first publication for two reasons. One because it was the day when Barrack Obama addressed a crowd of over 200,000 in Tiergarten, Berlin with his "This is our moment" speech, and secondly because my article received written reaction from readers, which led me to be becoming their first ever Youth Community Correspondent. Because I was drooling over my article, I missed Obama's speech, but thank God for You-tube.  I doubt
that if this article was as good as it was then my editor Gerry Sammon would be placing his trust in me now to be publishing my articles on a regular basis.

2) Can you give us a quick overview of your writing process? (how do you get your ideas, form them into a story, revise and pitch for

That is a very good question! Homecooks never reveal their secret
recipes, but I will reveal my writing formulae. I may take a national,
international or regional story and try to relate this story to the
local area by including local case studies and or local quotes in my
article. My 'Future hopes now rest with President Obama's article was related to the international event of his inauguration, but the reason it was published was because there was relevance to North and East Manchester. For example, a secretary of the Manchester Cuban Solidarity Campaign group told me that President Obama could improve relations with Cuba by lifting the blockade, lifting the travel ban and freeing the five anti-terrorists serving long sentences in the US following trumped up charges of spying. There are three main different styles of articles that I can present to my to the editor: Informative news articles, opinion pieces and exclusive interviews. My first three paid articles for the newspaper were
opinion pieces for me to make a strong statement, but now I am
focusing a lot of getting original news stories to the readers and
also having more exclusive interviews. Last month I secured my first exclusive interview with the chairman of a local football team called Moston Juniors.

I get quotes by emailing the relevant sources, then if there is no
reply closer to my deadline, I phone to them to try and arrange
something. All too often I relied on solely sending emails but there
are not always received in time or responded to. This article:
is a follow up to an originally reported story, so I sometimes respond to stories. The most basic point to remember is to write directly to suit your audience. Because of my interest in national and international affairs I used to fall into a trap of writing a well
written national or international article that had no relevance to my
target audience. So, if you like your publication, find out their
audience, read their articles, analyse their style and adapt to it.

3) Who are your greatest writing influences and why?

One of my greatest writing influences is William Shakespeare because he was a man who lived for writing. He was a true writer in the sense that his versatility was phenomenal. Shakespeare was the wizard of writing with a Midas touch. He wrote poems, plays and novels. A huge indicator of his influence is that his writings were translated into every major language. His works made plays such as Romeo and Juliet and King Lear. Many people still read his works for pleasure, and cover him in curriculum's across the world. My greatest modern influences are J.K. Rowling, Philip Pullman and John Grisham. Rowling appreciating and understanding her audience along with her perseverance during extremely painful times in her life make her the success she is today. Philip Pullman captures what description and imagination are by creating worlds with his Dark Materials trilogy.

John Grisham has an influence of me because he is someone with a story. As an ex-politician and retired attorney, his legal and crime
thrillers have sold over 250 million copies worldwide, and this is the
measure of his experiences. Accomplished journalists such as Sky News' Jeremy Thompson and Sir Trevor McDonald are brilliant influences for me to aspire to be, as well as Hunter Thompson and Walter Cronkite because their rare longevity and professionalism is someone I would like to have as a writer.

But I would say that my greatest writing influence is Cleland Thom.
He is one of the UK´s leading journalism trainers, and made me the youngest ever member of his premier gold mentoring scheme. He also offered me a scholarship to achieve my NCTJ Journalism qualification with CTJT Online courses. Despite his very busy schedule, when I email him he always gives me great advice in many things apart from journalism. He has helped a lot in my life, and is a big contributor in my development towards becoming a qualified newspaper journalist.

4) I see that you are very passionate about politics.  Do you feel
that young writers can go further in their writing careers if they
have a "specialty" or "niche" to write about?  How has it helped you
gain more publishing credits?

Firstly, I believe that as a writer it is important, especially if you
work in print journalism to be able to adapt and write about a range
of different issues from archaeology to zoo keeping events.

Secondly, having specialist knowledge and understanding of two or even three areas places you head and shoulders above millions of print journalists. There is obviously freedom and the opportunity to break in markets that will accept your work. The same principle applies to broadcasting. There are news correspondents who report on stories that are assigned to them by the news desk, but specialist correspondents such as political and business ones are placing with a greater responsibility of reporting the news for their important areas. With regard to your question of whether it has helped me gain more publishing credits, the paper I write for is not a specialist one, but my knowledge of US politics allowed me to write about Obama's inauguration and get it published. I do envy the MSNBC White House correspondents such as Chuck Todd, Savanna Guthrie, John Yang and David Gregory.

5) What is on your desk right now (either objects or writing projects?)

There are no great big lists of writing projects on my desk, but I
have recently had an advertisement about my role in the newspaper, so my brother cut it out and placed it on card. It is now a stand up label on my desk. I like the thought of having 'Samson Dada, Editor' in a large headquarters somewhere. To the left of my desk, next to my hard drive resting on a shelf, there are several books such as Alan Greenspan: The Age of Turbulence which I am enjoying at the moment, The Blair Years by Alistair Campbell and Ann Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl. I do not have a clue when I will finish them. Under my desk I often place my journalism portfolio there when I feel like massaging my ego!

Samson Dada, age: 17, resides in the United Kingdom with his parents and brotherHe is a student at Xaverian Sixth Form College, studying English Language and Literature, History, Government and Politics.
Writing projects include: Youth Community Correspondent for the North and East Manchester Advertiser; one of three editors for Xpress (College magazine);
and contributor for up and coming magazine.
Ambitions: Become a qualified journalist, write for a national
newspaper and eventually become an editor, own a media business, be an American writer/ correspondent, possibly enter into politics and release at least one book.
Blog/site link: http://samsondada.com/articles/


Grammar Fun!

Grammar:  Hip, Slick, Important, Cool, and No Silly Costume Required

by Professor Brad Henderson,AKA, the neo-cowboy poet and blues-rock drummer "Beau Hamel"


           As a young person in junior high or high school--among other things, like what your favorite sport or music group is, where might you go to college or get a job someday, or whom you secretly admire and want to date--does grammar matter?  Or is it something totally lame, unnecessary, and weird--like placating your Aunt Margo by dressing up as a junior member of the Order of the Antelope Family Club and wasting an entire Saturday morning marching with her and a bunch of old-fogies in a community spirit parade?

            Hi-ho.  Before you answer, my noble grade-6-through-12 students, let me ask you this:  Do you care about your own ideas--that is, your signature, creative, and educated thoughts and feelings about your life, other persons' lives, and all else going on in world around you?  My guess is that your answer is definitely yes!   Then, guess what?  Like it or not, grammar--that age-old system for capturing an idea so that it can be spoken or written, and, hence, saved by you and also shared by you--is pretty darn important.

            So, let's get real, and take a look at what grammar is and what it is not.  First-off, a lot of people--young, old, even some people who are technically dead and living on in dusty textbooks--preach about grammar as if it were a thick code book--an exhaustive set of rules and regulations having to do with how to use specific words when one speaks and writes.  These people seem to be on a mission of teaching innocent students a bazillion dos and don'ts about grammar, one punishment at a time.  For example, "No!  It's not, 'Alexis and me are going to the mall."  It's 'Alexis and I...'."  Or, "My goodness, that's wrong!  One should say, 'That pile of video games was Jason's.  Not '...were Jason's'." 

            These people, let's call them Grammar Vice Principals (GVPs), have good intentions, but it is they, not you, who should be punished.  Yes, grammar does guide speakers and writers to arrange words properly in sentences.  And the GVPs are often correct relative to the "corrections" they suggest.  But they're wrong to imply that being grammatical is a penance centered around not breaking rules.

            Not true.  Being grammatical when you speak or write means trying to do something--as opposed to trying not to do something--regarding the expression of your individual ideas--the activities of people, places, and things that matter to you.  Grammar is a common system of logic for encoding ideas into language.  We need a common system of logic, rather than random and individualized systems, because multiple people must use the system, decode it, and make sense out of it.  In some ways, too, grammar is cosmic and universal--sort of like the essence of great music--songs that sound "sweet" and make you feel "chill."

            Not only am I a professor in writing at a university, but also I am a drummer.  I never liked my drum teachers barking orders at me, but I did (and still do) appreciate the basic rudiments they taught me, such as how to play a paradiddle, what are the basic components of a 4/4 rockin' beat, and how to take those pieces and create a solid groove punctuated by tasty fills.  A good set of lessons in grammar--by a teacher who likes to rock rather than one who likes to be a grammar disciplinarian--will serve you well. 

            Knowing the basics of grammar means that you know the basic components of a sentence--the Eight Parts of Speech--and how to use and arrange those components to communicate an idea--most importantly, one of your ideas.  The resulting sentences are the equivalents to a well-phrased drum beats, bass riffs, or guitar licks that sound awesome, rather than like clunkers. 

            Do you know the Eight Parts of Speech? 

            One of the Eight Parts of Speech is the noun--a word or group of words that represents a person, place, or thing.  Another is the verb--a word or group of words that expresses action.  A Third Part of Speech is the pronoun--a word that stands-in for a noun as a placeholder.  What's more, the noun being replaced has a special name, the "antecedent."  (Okay, so you just learned a big, fancy word.  That wasn't so bad, was it?)   Now, would you like to learn more about the other five parts of speech?  If so, I suggest you Google the "Eight Parts of Speech."  Or, ask your English teacher.

            Okay, let's end with a simple sentence made from three words, each representing a Part of Speech--pronoun ("I"), verb ("like"), and noun ("grammar"):

I like grammar.

            The grammar of this sentence guides the proper arrangement of the words.  For example, it's not "like grammar I."  That sequencing sounds too funky.  Grammar lines the words up correctly so the listener or reader "gets it."  Moreover, let's slice and dice this sentence.  Here, the correct use of the pronoun is "I" not "Me."  However, what's really important, is that "I" stands for somebody, maybe you.  You.

            Dude!  It's all about the antecedent, not the rules.

            You are important, your ideas are important, and the grammar you use to express your ideas is important, too.  This is not to say that learning grammar is a breeze, nor that it's as fun as ripping out on a drum set or shredding on a guitar.  But it's certainly more worthwhile and less embarrassing to master than learning how to wear a fuzzy outfit with horns, Swiss-march, and make fake antelope noises in public with your Aunt Margo.



Brad Henderson is a Professor in Writing for the University Writing Program at University of California, Davis, and the author of the forthcoming book, Grammar Rocks.  Henderson's first novel, Drums, won a Phi Kappa Phi Award in Creative Writing from University of Southern California, and received endorsements from the drummers of Guns N' Roses and Pearl Jam.  He is also the author of the poetry book, Split Stock.  Henderson's stories, articles, and poems have appeared in a variety of newspapers and literary journals.  When he is not teaching students how to write grammatically, Brad spends his time performing before Sacramento-area audiences as "Beau Hamel," the neo-cowboy poet and blues-rock drummer.





From the Board: Tips on Starting a Writer's Group

Find Your Tribe!


By: Mary Jo Campbell

"Whatever you want to do - begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it." ~Goethe

I wanted to wrap up this issue of Write On! by coming full circle on the subject of passion. Verna speaks of the energy found in a writers' conference. Well, what if you could get that juice once a month or once a week, even?

I'm talking about a writers' group. This is a small gathering of writers who meet locally at a designated place on a designated day to share their writing and offer each other feedback.

Writing can be lonely. And without people to read your stuff (besides your mom) how do you know if it's really any good?  In a worn black notebook that sat in a box under my bed for years, was a story I had scribbled. To me it was just "OK," a short piece I wrote from a writing prompt with no real direction. The characters were intriguing, the setting was mysterious, the pacing was quick, but there was no plot.  I mustered up my nerve and read it to my writers' group.

To my surprise, they were in awe. They saw the dark undertones, they could read where my main character, Georgie was headed. They urged me to write more of this story, to go forward with it in the direction of a novel. Of course I was giddy and my head filled like a balloon. But, I took their advice, and their constructive criticism, made some changes and charged full speed through rough drafts and outlining the entire plot arc.

Have I piqued your interest? Want to know where to go to find your writing tribe?

Start locally:

Ask if your school offers a writers' group. See if the PTA sponsors an after-school program that would benefit writers.

Check the Junior Room at your public library. This is where I started the first young writers' workshops last summer, in Illinois.

Call your park district.  Maybe if more than one young writer is requesting this type of program, they'll begin to offer it.

Research local bookstores. They have story time for tiny tots; maybe they offer a gathering of young scribes.

If you strike out finding a group already in session, become the chief of your own writing tribe.  Here are some basic rules to follow to assure your group will be successful:

Decide when, where and how often you will meet, and for how long.

Determine a mission or purpose for the group: will it be a gathering to share and critique each other's works? Will the main goal be publication for each? Will each member be required to bring in a writing resource to help educate each other on the writing craft? Or maybe a newsletter or website to share that lists markets accepting young writers?

Discipline yourselves: on time limits given to each reader, the criticism allowed, arriving and ending your workshops on time and snack consumption. One girl had a few too many granola bars one night; it wasn't pretty.

As your tribe grows in numbers and confidence, you'll see a stark improvement in your own writing and the ability to find quality in other's writing as well.


Mary Jo Campbell sits on the Board of Directors for CCYW as Secretary.  She is a published freelance writer who founded the first Young Writers' Workshop at the Downers Grove Public Library in IL. Mary Jo also teaches two writing courses (Creative Writing Workshop and Publish Me!) for students in grades 3-8, through FRoG: Friends of the Gifted & Talented, also in IL.  Her FRoG students each participated in the 2008 Young Writers Program of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and celebrated their successes with a party and public reading.  Mary Jo  is currently working on her novel "Not Girls Like Me."  She can be found giving tips and inspiration at her two blogs: writerinspired.wordpress.com and writelikeCRAZY.wordpress.com.
Call for Editors:

At this time, we have posted a call for editors for the youth run literary journal. Applications are due by May 1st, 2009. 
We will be taking applications for youth advisory board positions as well and details will be posted to the website soon. The application deadline for these positions will be May 1st. 
Please continue to check the website regularly for updates. 
Adult Volunteer Positions:
Marketing and Publicity Sub-Committe
Facebook Page
My Space Page
Web Design
Send application and resume to verna@capitolcityyoungwriters.com


Verna Dreisbach
Capitol City Young Writers
In This Issue
Author Spotlight: Margaret Weis
Business: Ready for an Agent?
Fiction Craft: Hook your readers!
NonFiction Craft: Memoir Writing
Poetry Craft: Fool-proof Forms
Screenwriting Craft: Formula for Writing Success
Marketing/Self-Promotion: Shout it from the Rooftops!
Interview with Young Songwriter, Erik Vanderheydt
Book Review: "My Most Excellent Year-a Novel of Love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park"
Interview with Young Published Journalist, Samson Dada
Grammar Fun!
From the Board: Mary Jo Campbell on Starting a Writers Group
Quick Links
Author Spotlight: Margaret Weiss
Find out how this successful novelist got her start and keeps her momentum in this issue's Author Spotlight Interview
Think You're Ready for an Agent? Not So Fast!
Editor, Chuck Sambuchino talks about the right time to find an agent for your work
Hook Your Readers!
Fiction author, Les Edgerton, gives tips from his latest book on how to hook your readers from the first sentence
Write Your Story Now!
Memoirist, Linda Joy Meyers, shares the process of memoir writing
Fool-Proof Forms: Poetry

Bob Stanley describes the "fool-proof" exercise of "Freewriting" to help strengthen your poetry.
Formula for Writing Success
Screenplay writer, Eldon Thompson, uses the analogy of weight lifting in this inspirational article on how to succeed in your writing. Eldon was the presenter at our February 2009 meeting!
Shout It From the Rooftops!
Author, teacher and speaker, Christina Katz, will speak from experience and show you how to grow your "platform" by promoting yourself and your writing.
Young Songwriter, Erik Vanderheydt
Learn how this rising rockstar writes his music, his lyrics and finds inspiration
My Most Excellent Year-a Novel of Love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park
A book review by Becky Levine will have you in stitches and racing to pick up this novel from your bookstore
Young Journalist Success Story
Read Samson Dada's amazing interview of his first publishing experience and the politics he closely follows.
Play with your Words!
Neo-cowboy poet, Brad Henderson, shows how you can have fun with grammar!
Find Your Tribe!
CCYW Board Member & Secretary, Mary Jo Campbell gives tips on starting your own young writer's group.
Check the website often for updates and new announcements!

Next "Meet the Authors" Meeting:
May 16, 2009 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at St. Francis High School Theatre in Sacramento

For New Members:
We have a limited supply of books autographed by Eldon Thompson for new members.

Work with us!
Available Positions for young writers interested in working for the CCYW Journal.

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Coming soon: You can be our friend on Facebook & MySpace

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Capitol City Young Writers | PO Box 5379 | El Dorado Hills | CA | 95762