Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, August 28, 2009

Some news

Time for some news. Yay!

1. I FINISHED MY SHORT STORY!!! Whoo-hoo!! But it's not really a "short" story. The first draft comes in at 17 1/3 pages! (Or, if you wanna count both sides, it's 34 1/3 pages.) Gah! I'll do a word count later. LOL I know it will be longer when I type it up. If I can't sell it as-is, I can try to make it a two-parter or turn it into a minibook/novella.

Now if only I can come up with a title for it. I don't think "The Angry Ghost" is the one to use. Ha.

I started writing this story on Monday and finished it today. Though I had A LOT of interruptions while I was trying to write it today. This is why so many writers go hide away in a cabin far from the civilized world in order to write books! Stephen King was onto something right around the time he got the idea for The Shining!

But as a writing parent with small children, I know I have to get used to writing this way. At one point, though, I started carrying the notebook around with me. LOL I had to do that, anyway. I REALLY got into the story and kept furiously scribbling it all down as it came to life in my head. I got so deep in the zone, in fact, I ended up calling one of my children by the wrong name! If the baby could say the words, he would have probably said, "Uh, Mom. I'm not Jennifer."

I'm happy the story is done, especially since I was really struggling with one element of the story in the last part of the writing. I knew how the story ended, but not how we get to that ending. I had 3 possibilities and I kept mulling over which one to use. But I just decided, you know, keep writing it. Let the story lead me where it will. And it did!

Now, speaking of short stories....

2. I have a new short story published!

And this one is REALLY a short story.

In the latest issue of the magazine, Tales of the Talisman, you will find my short story, "Friends to the End." This story was actually inspired by a real event. I was driving to my parents' house one evening when I lost control of the car and it went off the road. Somehow or another, the car righted itself. I watched as the steering wheel moved on its own, and the car ended up back on the road, almost driving itself! This changed when I put my hands back on the wheel, but that experience left me inspired with a story idea (if not grateful that I didn't get into an accident!).

The result is "Friends to the End" and I'm especially excited about the publication of this story, because it's my first magazine publication of a short story! WOOT!!

Today, Tales of the Talisman. Tomorrow....who knows! ;)

A big thanks to David Lee Summers, editor, for selecting my story to include in his magazine. Thanks, David! You rock!

Check it out here:

3. Another new thing going on with my writing is that I am writing for SIGNews again! Yay! I took a break from that a couple of years ago but I'm back now, baby, and I'm very excited to be a part of this AWESOME newspaper again! I really feel it's a valuable contribution to the deaf/HOH community. Not just saying that, either. :)

4. I am also back to writing for EduBook.com. Took a bit of a break from there, too, but getting back on track with writing articles for them again.

5. And, finally, the latest issue of my newsletter is now online! Find it here:

The blog post titles are a lil different now, though.

So that wraps up my news! It's been a crazy week but I'm grateful so much has gotten done and that I'm making progress with the writing, particularly with my current book projects.

Now I'm off to write some poetry.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A story within a story

Something very strange happened last night while I was working on my short story. I was sitting at the kitchen table, writing. It was late. The kids were asleep. I was the only adult in the house. My dog was sleeping peacefully on the floor.

Then my cell phone went off. I had it on the table nearby and it's set to vibrate. It started going off and I just thought, Okay, I have a new message. I'll get to it soon. I was busy writing and didn't want to stop.

But it kept going off. Usually, when I get a message, it goes off for a few minutes, then stops flashing the little red light and the screen goes dark.

This time, however, as I kept writing, I noticed that didn't happen. The little red light continued to pulse and the screen stayed lit up.

So I decided to just look at it. I pushed aside my notebook and picked up the phone to push the button that unlocks the keyguard. But before my finger hit the button, I noticed a lot of words covering the screen. Before I had a chance to read them, though, my finger hit the button and they disappeared. GAH!

I only saw one word, though: "Top."

Very strange! Usually, when I get a new message, it just says "1 New Text Message." Not a bunch of words!

That was weird. And the fact that my story is a GHOST story made it creepier. I was too scared to keep writing after that!

But it gets me thinking....hmmm, all of those words on the screen. Kinda like I had all of those words on a piece of paper.

It made me think of how some writers have written "text novels." Or...something like that. As far as I know, it's all the rage in Japan. I have absolutely no idea what those kinds of books are all about, as far as writing style is concerned (I mean, are words like "you" spelled as "u"??), but, apparently, the writers wrote the books using text on their cell phones.

I have suggested to writing parents in the past that, if you don't have something to write with when inspiration strikes, use your phone. Text yourself or email yourself what you want to write.

But using a cell phone to text a whole novel. A WHOLE BOOK? Egads, I'll end up with carpal tunnel syndrome or premature arthritis trying to text myself a whole book! *faints*

I have thought about it, though. I even saw a web page of a publishing company soliciting cell phone novels.

So with my phone doing that last night, I started thinking about it. It's something to consider doing one day, I suppose. When I have the wiggle room for that sort of thing.

Or maybe it was just trying to tell me to stop writing, already! Go to sleep! It's after midnight and you need to get up early!

And maybe this is something I can use in the short story. Hmm. The wheels are turning!

Anyway, it's back to work on the short story today. I've slowed down on answering emails, etc., while I try to finish it. I am also going to keep my cell phone somewhere else while I'm working on it!

But the thing is, I no longer have a deadline on this story.

Apparently, I got confused!

I checked the web site for the anthology submission this morning, just to see if they were still accepting submissions. Yes, they are. The new deadline is the 31st. Woot!

But...it's not for short stories. Actually, she wants poetry.


I don't know how I got poetry confused with short stories. Sheesh.

Well, that's definitely a can-do. And much easier to write quicker! The poems have to be no longer than 20 lines. Faster for me to write, revise, and type up to submit.

I'm still going to finish my short story, though. Still want to keep at it. I'm almost done and I want to find out what happens! But not what happens at the end. I know what happens at the end. Thinking about the ending gives me goosebumps and I can't wait to write it!

I guess I'll just have to hold on to it until I can find somewhere to send it. At least now I will have another short story to send out there. Somewhere.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Busy writing day

Had quite a busy day with the writing today. Here's a checklist of today's tasks (now say those last two words ten times really fast!):

Work on the RGT book -- Check!

Work on the Revisions book -- Check!

Revise and send off the "how I became deaf" story -- Check!

Get some editing work done -- Check!

Look for more publishers for the haunted houses book -- Check!

Now I REALLY, REALLY have to finish writing my short story. Just four days left to send it in! Have to finish writing it ASAP then I have to type it. Type like the wind!

But first I have to finish writing it. Have to. Have to. Have to. Have to.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Lessons in networking

As a writer, networking is important. It's important for us to network because it helps us to:

  • Learn about other writers out there. I have known many for years and consider a great deal of them to be my friends.

  • Hear about other publishing opportunities. A lot of my work has found a home because of networking with editors, agents and publishers.

  • Get clued in about news and events related to writing and publishing. Whether it's through Facebook, MySpace, a newsletter or blog post, there's bound to be some relevant writing or publishing related news that I was grateful to learn about.

  • Spread the word about you and your work. This can be done by mentioning what you write, announcing a recent clip, or how you know about something thanks to writing about it in your book.

  • Build up an audience. Every single person you meet can be a future reader of your article or book.

Of course, there are other benefits of networking. You can network in person and through the Internet. (A majority of the networking I do is through the Internet.) But the above are major contributors to building a successful and long-lasting writing career. I have learned many tips and lessons as a writer thanks to networking, but it's only recently that I discovered how networking can even teach me a thing or two about networking.

Specifically, how it's important to NEVER STOP NETWORKING!

With two books keeping me busy (and the occasional short story, essay or article), I've started to prioritize my activities in order to allow for more time to work on the books. One of the things I slowed down on was networking. I naively thought, 'I can always get back to networking later.' I figured that everyone out there would understand (since, after all, a lot of them are writers, too!) and that I could pick up where I left off after the books were done.

It wasn't long before I discovered that nothing could be further from the truth! Sure I can get back to networking after I had more time, but I have learned that there's no way I can just STOP networking.

Actually, networking itself was pulling me (kicking and screaming, reaching madly for my unfinished manuscript!) back into the system before I even had a chance to step out. There were publishing opportunities! There were interview opportunities! There were writers talking about some REALLY important topics I just had to throw in my comments about!

In essence, I was trying to leave behind a "job" before I was even "finished" with it. I thought taking a sabbatical was allowed when it came to this particular "job" but, actually, if you want to keep your name out there, you have to keep your name out there!

You need to always grab those opportunities and those "promotional windows" and stay a part of it all. Don't sacrifice your networking even when your plate is full or deadlines are looming.

Because after all is said and done, you'll have to wonder, where do I go from here?

By keeping up the networking, chances are good there will be an answer.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Using the elevator pitch to come up with a subtitle

In the July/August issue of Writer's Digest Magazine, Patricia Holt discusses creating a sales pitch for your book, as part of her "Your Publishing Survival Guide" article. In this section, she noted a pet peeve:

"I'd like to throttle whoever started calling this effort [creating a sales pitch] an "elevator pitch." Writing conferences and a lot of lousy books are very big on this. An elevator pitch is that 30-second description of your book you're supposed to have ready if you find yourself in an elevator with a potential agent, editor or booker of the "Today" show. The idea is, you pin them back by their lapels and yammer your pitch quickly and loudly before the elevator gets to their floor. They're supposed to stumble out in love with your book -- but instead they regard you as a mentally ill escapee. So none of that."

As much as she dislikes the 30-second "elevator pitch," it still comes in handy for some writers. Mainly, writers trying to get a grasp on what exactly their book should be about and/or what exactly it should offer readers.

I have a new title for the Revisions book. I call it the "Revisions book" even though the word "revisions" is not in the title! Haha. But I call it that to get it across what kind of book I am talking about here. Hey, at least I'm not calling it "the TTF book" anymore. (Just a heads-up: TTF=Trimming the Fat. That's the book's OLD title. It just sounded too much like a dieting book rather than a writing book. And for future reference, RGT is "Real Ghost Towns." But that title is getting a makeover, as well.) Anyway, this new title is one I am a little unsure of, but something tells me it's catchy enough to grab interest and maybe (hopefully!) invite a browsing bookstore customer to at least pick it up, check it out and see what it's about. The title kinda makes me chuckle and blush, even though it comes from a song title, but people might think something differently when they see it. But again, my instincts are saying, "KEEP IT! It works!"

So, the title thing was not the problem.

But the SUBTITLE was! AAH!!

Not every single nonfiction book out there has a subtitle (The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking, Gem Trails of California by James R. Mitchell), but the subtitle does come in handy. The subtitle sort of acts as the anal version of that snappy title that caught a browsing customer's eye in the first place. After all, A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer is a title that made me do a double take. It caught my attention. I see that title and think, Huh? What's THAT about? And then I read the subtitle to find out: One Child's Courage to Survive. That got me interested in reading this true story. (And I read the whole book the very day I bought it!)

Now even as I had a TITLE for the Revisions book, I didn't have a good subtitle. The subtitle can be the "anal version" of your main title, but it still has to stand out just as the title stands out. It needs to be interesting. It needs to invite readers further. It needs to get a reader thinking, "Wow, I could use that info!"

So I had to REALLY come up with something good. A subtitle that would "work" just as well as my title did.

I sat down with my notebook and started to think. My muse was busying herself with this obstacle, so it was a challenge I had to tackle NOW! You cannot keep the muse waiting. And if she must wait, don't make her wait for too long!

With that little rant on elevator pitches stuck in my mind, I decided to use it to my advantage. If I was in an elevator with an editor, what would I say to grab their interest in my book? (A publishing house already has expressed interest in seeing this book once complete, but for the purposes of coming up with a subtitle, I had to imagine I was trying to "pitch" it all over again.)

Hmmmm. Let me see...what EXACTLY will this book do for readers? What does it have to offer them? What is THE main thing they will take away from this book? What will this book give them that others don't?

I started writing ideas down:

How to Take Your First Draft to Polished Piece with Editing and Revision Tips from the Pros

Hm. That one kind of put me to sleep. And it's too sloppy. I was tripping over words by mid-sentence.

From First Draft to Polished Piece

Hm. Not enough information there. And I think I'm getting too attached to that whole "polished piece" pairing. (Gah! Somebody stop me!!)

How to Turn Your First Draft into a Polished Masterpiece with Editing and Revision Tips from the Pros

Note how I stroked the writer's ego in claiming they'll be able to turn their writing into a "masterpiece"? It helps to do that, but I need to be wary of making promises I can't be sure I'll be able to keep. I WANT to help writers create a "masterpiece" out of their work, but I need to be careful that my mouth doesn't write any checks my butt can't cash.

Also, it's too long.

How to Supercharge Your Revising Skills with Tips From the Pros

I wasn't sure if "revising skills" worked better than "revision skills." (Yay! I got the word "revision" in there somewhere! Woot woot!) And the whole "Tips" thing makes it look like some repeat or knock-off of my 365 Tips for Writers book. This book is NOT similar to that book!

How to Revise Your Writing Like a Pro with Advice from the Pros

Hmmmm.....maybe? I don't like the repetition of the word "pro."

How to Revise Your Writing Like a Pro

Maybe that will work.

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Friday, August 07, 2009


Today I wanted to write a poem called "Watching the Door." But the minute I sat down to write it, I turned to see the baby start to climb over the baby gate that blocks his access to the kitchen. I rolled my eyes, shook my head and jokingly muttered, "Instead of watching the door, I should be watching HIM!" I laughed at this joke as I got up to get him down.

Then I tried sitting at the table to write this poem. Baby climbed up on a nearby chair to constantly pat at my arm to babble something to me in baby talk. I kept stopping my attempt to start the poem to "talk" with him and have a little conversation going. Every time he had something to say, he was patting at my arm.

THEN after THAT....when he decided we had enough of that small talk....he stood on the gate near where I was, in the same room, and flicked the light on and off. On and off. On. Off. On. Off.

The room was not dark but it was hard to concentrate and write with the light going on...off...on...off...

I could only laugh at this newest interruption. Not so frustrated. All of this combined that stopped me from writing my poem was just too funny. One thing...after another...after another.

Sometimes, we have to laugh at these moments.

But, eventually, I did write my poem. Wasn't satisfied with that first draft, of course, but I got the title and the words onto paper. I got it all down and out of my head.

The writing does get done eventually, despite interruptions, if we just hang in there a little bit longer!

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Saturday, August 01, 2009


Yesterday, something happened that threw me into a very deep depression last night. I know they say you need to hit rock bottom before you can get to the top. Maybe this was not literally "rock bottom" but it sure was a huge wake-up call. Something like getting knocked upside the head with a Reality Paddle. So, what happened, exactly?

I got my royalty statement for the Tips book.

Why is this so terrible? Because on that statement, it showed that not one copy of that book has sold since December. Not one. In all of these seven months of the year so far, nobody, NOBODY, has bought one copy of that book. At all.

The news was really hard for me to bear. I got upset over it at first. When I told my husband, he commented, "Well, if you quit writing now, it's not like anybody is going to notice."

"I know," I sadly agreed.

But I'm not going to quit writing. I CAN'T! It's like I told my daughter: Writing is in my blood. By that, I don't mean my ancestors were all writers. (Maybe some of them were.) But by that, I mean that writing comes as naturally to me as breathing. It is something I CANNOT just turn off. Writing is a very big part of me and a part of my life. It's like I was "born to write," so to speak.

Still, the fact that my books are not selling at all this year (and yes, I mean "books" plural) still hangs over me and pulls me down. I have only sold one copy of all of my books this year so far and that's it. As far as I know, anyway.

Sometimes, it feels like I'm fighting against some invisible force that does not want me to succeed as a writer. I have not been able to get into the glossies. The one literary agent I did have was not a very good agent. Rejections kept coming in. I kept being turned away by the major publishing houses. Told "no" by a lot of people. Forgotten about by a lot of other people. My newsletter has less than 100 subscribers. When I was publishing an E-zine, I got submissions from the regular writers who contributed to it and barely anything from A LOT of other writers. No one sent in any tips to share, either. People were ignoring my emails. And some people who did answer emails from me said things like:

"Who are you?"

"I don't know who you are. I've never heard of you before."

"I can't find this so-called book of yours anywhere on the Internet."

"I've never heard of your publisher."

"I think you're some kind of poser or fake."

And my books are not selling!

It was enough to just drive me to tears last night.

But I didn't cry at first. First I got upset about it. Then I tried to be proactive about it.

For some time, I've had an idea for an article to write, but just haven't gotten around to putting together an outline for it or do research for it. It's basically about how to sell a seasonal book all year. Things you can do to make something like a Christmas book appeal to buyers in April, you know? And I always thought the Tips book was seasonal. I mean, I put the muscle into promoting the book every fall and winter. Not much else.

So maybe I can try out what I do to promote this book all year as what ideas and suggestions to put into my article. Let my book be the guinea pig! (The article might have greater appeal if I have that kind of success story to go with it.)

But maybe my book isn't "seasonal." Just because it has 365 writing tips for every day of the year. Maybe I can find a way to KEEP promoting it day after day, month after month. That might change things. Heck, somebody might even buy it in March or June! And find it useful, too.

I can try that. And use books on book promotion to help that, too. (I just bought a copy of Patricia Fry's book, Over 75 Good Ideas For Promoting Your Book.)

The bottom line is, I was trying to tell myself that my book is not a bad book. I've heard comments from people who have bought it telling me how much they liked it, how it helped them and inspired them. And Carolyn Howard-Johnson called this book "the I Ching for writers." That's a really big compliment. So, it's not like this book just...sucks.

I used all of that internal pep talk to try to cheer myself up. And true to my resolve NOT to quit writing, I worked my tail off on the RGT book yesterday. And I made plans to work on it today and get the ball rolling with Phase Two of getting this book together to send off. I have a deadline, after all! I will honor that deadline.

But by day's end...after the kids were asleep and I was puttering about the house and tidying up....I was sad all over again. Not sad. Depressed. Angst-ridden. Despondent. I was going around in the kitchen, crying as I clattered the dishes and pans together. Crying and cleaning at the same time! I didn't care if my neighbors saw me crying like that. I was just so sad.

And later, as I sat on the couch staring at that royalty statement and seeing those figures, I just kept crying about it. I just stared at it and felt like everything I have done for all these years in trying to be a successful author has gone down the tubes. Like I wasted all that time. I felt like I was a waste of print. That I wasted every editor's time. Every other writer's time. Like everything I ever write should never again be read. By anyone.

Yes, I was THAT depressed. I was just...in a dark pit. Feeling sorry for myself and everything.

But I'm glad that it got as bad as it did. I'm glad I had that good cry and got through my "pity me party." You know why?

Because now I am able to get back up again and keep going. Now I have a newfound sense of determination to achieve my goals and make my dreams come true. I had that low point. I had that smack of reality. Now it is time to get back on that horse and keep moving forward. I will survive. I will keep going. I will persevere and NEVER give up. It's time to pick myself up by my bootstraps and keep on keeping on.

I just can't stop writing. I love to write. And I love writing books. That is the heart of everything that I do as a writer. I do this for the love of it. Not for the money. Not for the fame. Not to sell a bazillion copies of my book every year.

Because it's what I love to do. And I have to keep that in mind no matter what my royalty statements say. True, I do indeed need to take from this a newfound dedication to promoting my books for all part of the year. True this means I need to pay more attention to getting the word out that these books exist. And make sure ALL of them are available everywhere and in every way to everybody. But the point is, I write books because I love to write books. This is my passion. This is what I do. And I need to stay true to what it is that I want to do in life.

No matter what happens and what people say, I will keep writing and keep getting books out there. Even if I don't have anyone standing behind me or offering support, I will have to give myself my own support. I'll have to be my own cheerleading team.

Maybe it's "just a dream" but all dreams are worth fighting for. All dreams are worth putting in the effort to make them come true. Maybe this dreamer isn't exactly a very popular one, but this dreamer isn't going to give up and let her dreams die.

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