Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, October 29, 2004

"It's better than nothing."

There’s something I’ve been repeating to myself all week: “It’s better than nothing.” This comes as a result of way too many deadlines and not enough time to do any recreational writing.

In my forthcoming book, 365 Tips for Writers: Inspiration, Writing Prompts and Beat The Block Tips To Turbocharge Any Writer's Creativity (due out in December), I encourage readers to do some recreational writing as much as possible. As I say in the book: “Recreational writing gives the working writer an outlet for their creativity and it offers a break from writing the same thing every day.” It’s my chance to use creative liberty with my writing, to explore non-assignment ideas and to write stuff I don’t normally write. This allows my muse to keep going strong, to feel quite free to toss any story ideas or angles my way and to challenge my writing abilities with something different.

Unfortunately, I rarely got to do any of that this week. The only recreational writing I got to do were two chapters of my novel (and a novel is recreational writing unless a publisher has asked to see it). Almost all of the writing I’ve done this week has been for articles and my books (I’m working on three nonfiction titles and an E-Book). Any ideas I had for other writing were dutifully logged and set aside for later.

Still, another mantra I offer in my book is this: “Any writing is better than no writing.” And so, even as I could not do any recreational writing this week, I at least did SOME writing. And that’s more important. Each day of the week saw me writing SOMETHING: An essay for one nonfiction book, an article for a Web site, an article for a magazine, etc. It saw me doing some serious BIC each and every day.

So the week wasn’t all bad. I’ll get back to that novel, back to that script and back to that third collection of poems. I still managed to write every day this week. And that is, indeed, better than nothing.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Poetry Editor

When I became a Poetry Editor over at Skyline E-Magazine, I got all psyched about it. “I’m a poetry editor. Cool.” Then I started wading through submissions. And I started thinking, “I’m a Poetry Editor. Ugh.” And lately that thought still stands because my co-editor, Tom Sterner-howe, was recently let go. Up until then, it was nice to have someone on the level to help out. Even though his “helping out” came and went. But, still, it was nice. Then the Editor-in-Chief e-mails me to say “it’s just you and me now.” I think, naïve as I am, “Well, I can handle this alone.” (Yeah, right, just like I was able to handle editing and publishing a magazine alone – and that magazine is no longer around!) It has been a big job. Really big. Especially with Ed-in-Chief finishing ALL of the issues early. (As it is now, we’re wrapping up the Christmas issue.)

I just finished sending the Ed-in-Chief over 200 pages of poems I rejected. (I read EVERY ONE. BY MYSELF!) Plus 15 pages of poems I DID accept. Then I get a 63-page poetry book and the message from EIC saying “Help, pick one to nominate for Pushcart.” And I’m looking at that page count, dazedly mumbling, “I. Want. To. Scream.” So I start going through it, reading poems about bikers, horses and flying. One line I kept reading over and over again was “Please God some relief” because I’m sitting there praying, “Yeah, God, I could use some of that relief, too!” (On an interesting sidenote, I ended up choosing the same poem she did!)

Maybe I should let EIC know that sending out a call for another poetry editor would be a grand idea. It would help, at least.

But being a poetry editor has definitely been a learning experience, not so much in realizing how much editors have to put up with in wading through submissions but common mistakes that submitters make. I’ve pretty much seen enough of these mistakes to note them here. If you want to get a poem published anywhere, you would do well to follow these rules:

1. Always submit per instructions. If we ask for 6 poems max, don’t send more than 6. Also, that’s just the MOST you can send; you can send two or three, if you want to. You don’t HAVE to send 6. And if guidelines state you should use an online submission form, follow that rule. Submissions e-mailed to individual editors can get lost or deleted.

2. Send poetry that is the kind we read. We don’t publish lyrics/sheet music, religious poetry or prose poetry. Very rarely do we publish rhymed poetry. And most magazines tend to be neutral, so it’s a good idea to hold off on submitting poetry opposing/supporting the war. Unless it’s asked for.


4. Don’t send a cover letter promising the editor riches, fame, gold or even an island named after them in the event the work is accepted.

5. Always, ALWAYS address the editor with the proper title. If you can’t get their name, don’t address your submission with “To Whom It May Concern.” And I’ve seen so many “Dear Sir” salutations that I’m ready to have an identity crisis.

6. Please, please watch your language. There is no excuse for littering your poetry with nothing but foul language. And it won’t do your chances of getting accepted any favors, either.

7. Don’t be afraid to submit again if you get rejected. Just because your submission didn’t make it this time, it doesn’t mean the rest of them will. If you get rejected, submit again!!

Friday, October 15, 2004

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

You've probably seen them: E-zines, newsletters and E-mail subscriber columns of writers churning out something or other they’ve written each day, week, month or year. (And, yeah, it IS possible to have writer’s block THAT bad.) As I read these writings, I sometimes sadly shake my head over the fact that the good stuff being published in these forms can now no longer be offered as an original work. I have absolutely nothing against such things – after all, a friend and fellow writer has a weekly column I’ve been enjoying for many months – but I wonder, really wonder, how they are perceived by the publishing community. Or, should I say, the editing community. Can we really say that this is a valid clip? Even though we published it ourselves? Can we really say that we’re an essayist or columnist, even though this is all limited to the Internet and/or E-mail? I don’t know. It’s something I’ve been wondering about for some time.

But I’ve been wondering about this even more today because, on this day, my second short story has been published in my E-zine. My first one ran in my own print zine, American Bard, and now I’ve published another one. In my own publication. Again.

Not that I wanted to do this; I actually hoped to get SOMEBODY ELSE to toss me a short story for this E-zine. And given that I’m on an E-mailing basis with a lot of great writers out there, it could’ve been done. But I didn’t decide to run a short story until only a couple of days ago, and that’s not enough time. So I used one of mine, the shortest one I could find. It was actually previously rejected by an E-zine of flash fiction, so I’m bracing myself for the hate mail.

But, you know, I don’t say I’ve had any short stories published. It IS something I want to get in on, and there’s even a magazine waiting for a couple of my stories that the editor requested, but I don’t call myself the author of any short fiction yet. Because I really don’t know if it counts.

This reminds me of the time in middle school, where I didn’t call myself a writer because I wasn’t published yet. Oh, sure, I wrote a sci-fi book-length story (which I later gave to my teacher) and I was writing several stories, poems, essays, articles and plays, but I didn’t call myself a writer yet. Because I wasn’t published.

At this point, I would grab my younger self by the collar and screech, “OF COURSE you’re a writer!! You don’t need to be published to call yourself a writer, because you’re writing!!” But as far as having two short stories “published”? That kind of attitude isn’t kicking in, because they were published in MY stuff. I could say that I “write” short stories but I can’t say I’ve had any published. Because, according to the publishing/editing community, those clips don’t count.

Or do they? I look at it another way: Are the writers published in my E-zine able to count that as a clip? Some of them are paid for their articles, so why not? They can say “I’ve had an article published in the Burning the Midnight Oil Book Zine” just as I can say “I’ve had a short story published in the Burning the Midnight Oil Book Zine.” Besides, any original stuff I run in there that I have written I offer later on as a reprint, because it’s already been published. So, really, why not? It counts. It’s an E-zine. Sure, I may be the editor and publisher of this E-zine, but it is STILL an E-zine. It counts. At least, to me, it does.

Saturday, October 09, 2004


So I didn't post in here on a Friday. Deal with it.

Actually, the reason was because I was doing the same thing I've been wrestling with all week: Working out the kinks in a poetry book I have decided to self-publish. One would think I would be happy admitting this but, let me tell you, creating the documents and formatting them according to publication specs is NOT a day in the park. Seriously. I've spent all week playing e-mail tag with a printer because I decided to get the bright idea of using a cool, unique font for my book. I wanted to use this font because the book IS a horror poetry book AND it is being re-released in time for Halloween. I love the font (and the printer thought it was "awesome") but I'm ready to bid it adieu.

So many advocates of self-publishing have hammered it into my head: "Don't get cute with font." The rule is to either use Courier New or Arial font for your book. But I just have to be different. I just have to make life harder. Ugh.

The font I used for my poetry book is one I downloaded for free off of a site (you'll find that link in my book when it's out -- or on Google, if you know what words to enter). I immediately fell for it and promptly asked its creator for permission to use it (you will find his name with his link) (but you'll have to get his e-mail address yourself because I just don't toss those out to just anyone). Securing this, I set to work using it for the layout of my book. Problem 1 was in SEEING the dang font when it was at size 12. It was way too tiny, even for my bad eyesight. It started to appear visible at size 18, but I wasn't sure if what I saw on the screen would equal what I see on printed paper. I ended up having to use it at size 22. THEN I run into problem 2: The font does not cover quotation marks or apostrophes, though it seems to have no problem with semi-colons!! Ugh. I couldn't figure out how to solve this so I e-mailed my font guy to see what to do. He said he didn't create it for those particular punctuation marks so I had to use the next best thing. I was ready to scream, "How am I supposed to find out which one THAT is when I've got over 3 dozen fonts to choose from???" But, I didn't. I just said "OK, thanks" and started with a basic font. Arial Narrow seemed to work okay and it LOOKED okay so I went with it. That solved, I encountered Problem 3: Fitting the poems onto one page, no matter how long they were. Now, this problem was one I ended up wasting time over but I'll explain why later. What I did was change around some sizes. While the title was size 18, the font was size 16. The spaces between stanzas got shortened, too. Lines got cut off and stanzas ended up being put together. (I hated doing this, because it ruined the poem.) BUT later on, my Very Helpful Printer fixed the problem. Actually, she fixed the whole manuscript. She put it into a PDF document to show me exactly how we could get this font to work and how I didn't need to worry about putting the poems onto one page because she, as printer, would be able to recognize what went where in case a stanza from a poem ran on to the next page. (I am NOT a formatting wiz!! Which is why I tried to keep each poem on one page.)

I am happy to report that this Awesome Font will still be used for this book. (I was NOT looking forward to telling my font guy "sorry, changed my mind" because he seemed really happy about his font being used for a book). It looks really cool. I have YET to hold the printed proofs in my hands to see it in print, but so far, it looks just fine. I know the person I dedicated this book to will like it, too.

But, to say the least, from now on, I'm using good ol' Courier New or Arial for fonts in my books. Unless SOMEBODY ELSE has the patience and tech know-how to do the job for me.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Debut Post

Here's my very first post at my new blog! Whoo-hoo!

In truth, I should be WORKING, not setting up a blog. Or reading online articles. Or keeping one eye on the rest of the house to make sure not a single thing falls onto this freshly-cleaned carpet. (And then what? I'll jump up to pick it up, justifying NOT writing with this task??) But I think it'd be a good idea to get this blog search done and over with so I can approach it again on Friday with my usual bantering.

I've been trying to find a new blog and also trying to remember the name of a blog service that came highly recommended by another WAHM. Then I see that my publisher at Filbert had a blog here and I noticed the URL. I remembered reading some positive things about Blogspot so, of course, I signed up. Here's hoping it works out.

Not that it's a matter of life or death that I have a blog but I think it's been more therapeutic to me than anything else. I just can't get myself to write in a "diary" anymore and I don't think there's anything wrong with having an online journal. Heck, it's only weekly, which works for me since I'm not even a day-to-day journal writer. It helps me to unload all of the thoughts, ideas and ramblings filling up in my head each week and it also gives me a good chance to write about my weekly "writing life" experiences. Heh, my own column.

As for goings-on, my new book is out!! BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL: How We Survive as Writing Parents now has a sales page at Booklocker!! Yay!! Of course I'm thrilled about it, even though there are exactly THREE errors in this book (incorrect word in the Introduction that does not match the back cover blurb, a typo in the Acknowledgments and a broken sentence in one of the appendices). One of the writers said something like, "Only YOU would notice that." I wonder if he's right. ... I'm doubting it, but we will see. Hopefully I will be able to get this fixed before I get ostracized from the reading community. In the meantime, I owe it to myself to promote the heck out of this book! Errors and all! It's STILL a good book; everything else is fine. I am only hoping that will be enough to get by on for now.

Anyway, back to promoting. See ya Friday!