Monday, January 25, 2010

resources for teen and other writers

Launched today by Harper Teen: An interactive site especially for teenagers. Offers feedback on their writing, encouragement, etc. Easily found by searching on the name of the site: inkpop.


Writing tools at the following site. They include an emotion thesaurus/ a setting thesaurus/ a color, texture, and shape thesaurus


Resources on the arts, including "writing and poetry" at:


Resources for writers, especially those writing about Scotland, at:




Tuesday, January 19, 2010

five-minute chocolate cake

My husband's Aunt Ev Jeck sent me this recipe a few months ago. It seems to have been forwarded many times on the Internet. It works. Note from me: If you don't want chocolate cake, try omitting the cocoa, increasing the flour by 2 tablespoons, and adding your alternate chosen flavoring.


4 tablespoons flour

4 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa

1 egg

3 tablespoons milk

3 tablespoons oil

3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)

dash of vanilla extract

1 mug or jar that holds 2 cups of liquid (slope-sided works well)


Add dry ingredients to mug and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again.


Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts (high). The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed. Allow to cool a little, and tip onto a plate.




Wednesday, January 13, 2010

querying an agent re: a novel

I'm no expert on query letters, but I can share some clues based on my research and experience.

1. The letter should be only a page long, about 250 words, even if you send it by e-mail.

2. The first paragraph should if possible indicate why you chose to approach this particular agent. This paragraph should also indicate what you're selling. A sentence like the following might be used: Since you represented THE MYSTERIOUS STRUDEL by Carol Ovenmitt, you may be interested in my 90,000 word literary novel CANDIED YAMS. [Use round numbers to indicate length of your novel, not some cumbersome number like 87,381. Capitalize book titles.] If you don't know of a suitable book the agent has represented, sometimes you can discover names of authors the agent admires. In that case you could use a sentence such as: Since you enjoy novels by Stanley Bloodletting, you may be interested in, etc.

3. The second paragraph should tell about the book. Try for a paragraph of no more than five sentences. Some experts recommend following a pattern something like this:

a. Tell what your main character wants.

b. Tell how the character tries to achieve the goal.

c. Present obstacles in the way of your main character reaching the goal.

d. End on a note of suspense, perhaps indicating a crucial choice the character must make.

e. Somewhere within this paragraph, if you can manage it, indicate something about the theme/s of your book. Themes typically relate to topics such as: overcoming fear, the power of love, the longing for home, the longing to leave home, following one's dream, taking responsibility for one's choices,.

4. The third paragraph should tell about you, especially as your education, experiences, and achievements relate to your writing of this book.

5. End by thanking the agent for his/her consideration. If you're querying by regular mail, include a self-addressed stamped envelope [SASE] and indicate you are doing this. Also include anything the agent requires in the submission guidelines; for example, a synopsis of the novel, the first chapter. [You can usually find a particular agent's submission guidelines on the Internet.]

Monday, January 11, 2010

Agnes moves to Moose Jaw

When I was growing up, Moose Jaw seemed like a big exciting city to me. It was a place where an adventuresome aunt or uncle might escape the limitations of our little community. Those memories inspired me to write the following short-short story. I'm not sure if I'm on Agnes's side, or if I sympathize more with her parents. What about you?


Agnes had a long face like her father’s. It contrasted oddly with her short-waisted figure but at twenty-one, she wasn't an unattractive woman. In fact, some people found her striking with her flaming hair and regal bearing. She was one of those women who know how to seem handsomer than they are.

            Though Agnes resembled her father, Doft, relations between them cooled in the autumn of 1945, when she announced her intention to marry Wren Wolford now that he was back from the war.

"Wren will never be a farmer,” Doft protested. “He’s only interested in hunting and fishing."

            “Wren’s not a Mennonite,” Agnes's mother pointed out. “I wonder if he’s even a Christian. Dad saw him come out of the beer parlor Saturday night.”

            After several stormy scenes, Agnes gave in. She wouldn't marry Wren. But a few days later, she packed her clothes and took the train to Moose Jaw. In the city she found the three things she wanted—a light-housekeeping room, a job, and a new boyfriend. The room was in the attic of a school friend’s cousin. The job was in the shoe department of the Army and Navy store. The boyfriend was a freight handler at the train station. In the years that followed, Agnes seldom came home, though her parents regularly brought borscht and jars of meatballs to her at the Army and Navy store.


postscript on computers and eyes

What I said in my previous post about adjusting refresh rate apparently applies only to CRT monitors [the big bulky ones], not to LCD monitors [the slim ones]. The technology of LCD monitors is different, though one can still adjust other things on them.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

reasons for rejection and kid lit contest

Some reasons why agents and editors reject manuscripts:

Children's literature contest here. Looks like they want the beginnings of novels and don't charge a fee:


Thursday, January 7, 2010

writers' confessions tonight

Friend and fellow author Ted Joslin drew the following to my attention: A group of writers gather to reveal, explore, and confess in the fourth television season of WRITERS’ CONFESSIONS. Featured this evening are authors Giles Blunt, Nino Ricci and Isabel Allende. Other authors to be included this season are Elizabeth Hay, Will Ferguson, Mia Kirshner, and Robert J. Sawyer. Thursday, January 7 at 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT. For more info:


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

publishing news & views

Tips on promoting your book signing:


National Post tips on getting 'Letter to the Editor' published. Much of this advice applies anywhere.


What's the difference between romance and women's fiction? Thoughts from an agent here:


Canadian non-fiction contest sponsored by Event magazine:


Canadian 3-day novel contest:


At Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, agent Stacey Glick has been named vice president. Rachel Oakley has joined the agency as Jane Dystel's assistant.


Monday, January 4, 2010

computer hard on your eyes?

Before you try changing the way your monitor displays things, it's a good idea to click "start, control panel, display." You should see a thing called "theme." This refers to the colors and sizes of things you see. It's a good idea to save the "theme" you currently have in case you want to go back to it later. You can save it like a normal file. Later when you click on it, the screen should return to looking the way it did before. Here are some of the changes you can make. [They may not work quite the same on your computer.] 1. Click "start, control panel, display, screen resolution." Then set the screen resolution to the lowest you can. Also set the color quality to about 16 bits. 2. Click "start, control panel, display, advanced." Set the DPI setting tolarge. While you're at the advanced screen, you'll see a button called "monitor." Click on this and set the screen refresh rate as high as it will go. This is important because it reduces flicker, one of the biggest causes of eye strain. 3. There are other things you can do via the "appearance" section of "display." Like change the sizes of icons, the fonts for message boxes, and similar, and the colors in which things are displayed. I think it's better to change the DPI before fooling around with this. It does take experimenting to get it the way you want it. Again what you can do is save various "themes" until you discover the one you prefer.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

reading, writing, & e-books

Interesting article here: "How E-books will Change Reading and Writing" by Lynn Neary:

gluten-free rice pancakes

Happy new year! Like a lot of people, I've become interested in gluten-free cooking. Here's a recipe I developed for gluten-free rice pancakes.

1 cup rice flour [brown or white rice]
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
¼ cup cooking oil
¾ cup buttermilk

Stir first 3 [dry] ingredients together. In separate container, stir second 3 [liquid] ingredients together till well mixed. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just until blended. Bake on an oiled or greased frying pan or griddle. Happy eating!