Friday, May 28, 2010

Creative Wanderlust by Smoky Trudeau

Creativity is not something that you have or you don’t have. Creativity is inherent in all of us. I don’t believe the word creative is synonymous with the word talent. Talent is something you have or don’t have. I love to sing, but you don’t want to be in the same room with me when I’m singing.

Creativity is a gift to be respected and nurtured, just as you respect and nurture your family, your pets, your houseplants, your health. It is as vital to life as the air you breathe and the food you eat. If you don’t nurture and respect your creativity, it will fail you, just like your body will fail you if you fail to nurture and respect it.

Creativity needs to be fed, just like your body needs to be fed. And just as your body cannot thrive on a single food, creativity cannot thrive when channeled into a single medium. You wouldn’t feed your body only carrots. Yes, carrots are good for you, but if you ate only carrots, you’d get sick (not to mention your skin would turn a really funny shade of orange). Creativity is no different. It needs a variety of foods to stay healthy.

For most creative people, this isn’t a problem, because most of us have a condition I call creative wanderlust. Creative wanderlust is the need to pursue a variety of artistic endeavors. Talent and artistic ability are optional. For people with creative wanderlust, bad art is just as fulfilling as good art. It’s not the end product, but rather the act of creating, that’s important.

You can’t ignore creative wanderlust. Nor can you cure it. It isn’t a disease. Rather, it is dis-ease, and the only way to relieve it is to grab a paintbrush, pick up a drum, put on your dancing shoes—whatever your heart tells you—and create.

For people with creative wanderlust, a blank canvas, a new sketchbook, or an unusual musical instrument from some faraway land is like an open road begging to be explored. It’s a fair analogy; people with creative wanderlust also tend to have the need to explore new places, often in search of new creative experiences. This is very true of me. I wander all over the place, sketchbooks, camera, and notebooks in hand. I play with clay, sculpting figures of bears, cats, or whatever else the clay tells me it wants to become.

If I did not honor my creative wanderlust, I could not be the writer I am. Pursuing other artistic pleasures is like taking writing vitamins. I write okay when all I do is write. But I create beautiful works of art, both written and visual, when I take my creative vitamins—when I feed my creative nature with picture taking or sculpting clay figures.

So today, pick up a sketch book, grab your kid’s box of crayon, or dig your old band instrument out of the closet. Take a long shower and sing your heart out. You’ll have fun, and you’ll be a better writer for it.

Smoky Trudeau is the author of the newly released Observations of an Earth Mage, a collection of photos, essays, and poems celebrating our beautiful planet earth. She is also the author of two novels, Redeeming Grace and The Cabin, as well as two books for writers, Front-Word, Back-Word, Insight Out: Lessons on Writing the Novel Lurking Inside Your From Start to Finish, and Left Brained, Write Brained: 366 Writing Prompts and Exercises, all from Vanilla Heart Publishing. You can learn more about Smoky at, or at her blog on Xanga, You can also look her up on Facebook.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Social Networking 101 by Collin Kelley

This past Saturday, I sat on the social networking panel at Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans with Michele Karlsberg, Cecilia Tan, Jess Wells and Gregory Gerard. The 70 minute session could have gone on for hours – probably days – and was one of the most well-attended panels of the weekend. Michele and I suggested to the powers that be that next year's session be a two-hour event with Powerpoint and interactivity.

Here are some of the social network sites we discussed and the ones that I use to promote, connect and interact with other writers and fans.

Blogs: I joined Blogger in 2003 and it is now my primary home on the Internet. There are an estimated 113 million blogs now on every topic imaginable (and maybe a few unimaginable). Besides Blogger, other popular blog platforms are WordPress, Typepad and Tumblr (all free to set up and use) and Squarespace (which costs $8 to $50 per month). If you don't want to go to the expense of building a website, a blog is an easy and effective way to reach an audience. The publishing platforms are allowing for more customization (I recently gave Collin Kelley: Modern Confessional a big overhaul) and the addition of pages (such as the About Collin, Books, Poetry tabs on my site) can give a blog a website appearance. Unlike a static website, a blog requires the author to keep it active. Try to post at least three times a week. Make sure to follow other bloggers in your blogroll and keep up with them using Google Reader, which allows you to see who has recently updated their blog and sample the posts.

Facebook: With more than 400 million users and growing, Facebook has come under fire lately because of privacy concerns. Facebook's main problem is that it can't stop trying to "make it better." From interface, to design to privacy, it seems Facebook is constantly making changes and upsetting its global user-base. There's even a movement afoot for users to quit Facebook on May 31. The chances of any mass decampment is highly unlikely because Facebook -- in just six years -- has ingrained itself into the public consciousness. It's free, easy to use and can instantly connect you to readers and other authors. You can invite people to your readings and signings, post links, videos, news items and photos for all your friends to see. If you're a writer, I believe a "fan page" is essential. It gives you a space to shamelessly self-promote your book. Those who want that kind of information can "like" your fan page, while your main Facebook page can be for keeping up with friends and family and play Mafia Wars to your heart's content. As for they hysteria over privacy issues, it is simple to protect yourself when you set up the account. Block the new open sharing option, register your Facebook page so it recognizes your computer to prevent hacking and be mindful of the applications you allow to access your information.

Twitter: As of January, there were an estimated 75 million users of the micro-blogging platform. Twitter allows you to post 140 character "tweets" on your homepage, which can be seen by your followers. I had a Twitter account for nearly a year before I fully understood why it's important. The world figured it out last summer during the Iran election protests, when Twitter became one of the few ways to get news out of the embattled country. Twitter is basically Facebook reduced to status updates, but, I believe, the most important function of Twitter is sharing links and "re-tweeting" your followers messages to help create a dialogue and exchange of information. I actively look for tweets about poetry, publishing, books, films, music and gay rights issues -- all important subjects to me. I use Hootsuite, a Twitter application that makes tweeting and keeping up with your followers a breeze. Hootsuite's two best functions are that it easily allows you to reduce long URL links for embedding in your tweet and the calendar function that allows you to set up tweets hours, days or months in advance.

YouTube: I set up my own YouTube channel a couple of years ago to host videos shot by my pal Jackie Sheeler during my reading at Cornelia Street Cafe in New York. Since then, more readings are posted there, the book trailer for Conquering Venus lives there and in April I created my first poetry video using the iMovie software on my MacBook. Like any other social networking site, YouTube allows you to follow other users, favorite videos and easily share your own work. It's a quick and easy way to share your work and reading events to the masses. If you don't want to write a blog, you can "vlog," recording videos of your thoughts, rants and raves and posting them at your blog.

Goodreads: It's Facebook for literature lovers. Goodreads is focused strictly on books and giving authors and fans opportunities to interact. Goodreads is an amazing source of reviews, book club groups and recommending books (including your own) to other potential readers. Ingram automatically populates titles it distributes to Goodreads or you can add your own. Goodreads allows you to catalogue your personal library online and offer up star-ratings or long reviews. It really is a must for authors who have a book to promote or folks who are just looking for something new to read.

Red Room: This social site (which used to be free, but is now charging $30 a month) offers a one-stop shop for authors to blog, post their reviews, videos, interviews and links for purchasing your titles. I was an early adopter of the site, and they haven't started charging me (yet!). Jess Wells has been using Red Room as her main site for awhile now and has seen a lot of traffic. I've been pretty impressed with the thousands who have found me there as well. Sadly, I can't afford $30 extra a month, but if you want an easy to use, no-nonsense type of site, you might find Red Room worth the expense.

Bookbuzzr and fReado: This is a new service that allows authors and publishers to upload sample chapters of their books for readers to view. At Bookbuzzr, you can create a widget, which allows readers to virtually flip through the pages of your book. Boobuzzr connects to fReado, where you can set up a profile section to link websites, reviews, retail outlets and more. All free!

Flickr: Make sure to get pictures of your readings and other events and share them with the world. Flickr allows you to upload and share with just a few clicks. You can create an online photo album and make widgets for your blog or website with a rotating photo gallery.

Yahoo Groups: Maybe a little old fashioned in the new social media driven world, but Yahoo Groups are easy to navigate and allow authors and readers to instantly share news, reviews, readings, tips and more with a group of people. One ping to rule them all, is a site that allows you to update all your social networking sites from one easy to use dashboard. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Xanga, Blogger and just about every other major site is available. This will save you the hassle of signing in to every site and posting similar messages. Give it a try!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Twitter Me by Chelle Cordero

Twitter is a social networking and micro blogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author's profile page and delivered to the author's subscribers who are known as followers.” (from Wikipedia) …or is it just another time consuming drain on my creative time?

I’ve heard a lot of folks stating they will never use Twitter, not just writers, but folks in other businesses as well. The biggest complaint seems to be “I don’t have the time to waste…”

While TV commercials have made fun of Twitter and like applications, such as the daughter complaining that dad doesn’t need to post every time he goes to the refrigerator, there are also commercials that take a humorous look at its widespread use. The truth is that many newspaper journalists are watching Twitter for late-breaking news; did you know that when Sully successfully
landed the airplane on the Hudson River, Twitter was there first? Twitter is an instant broadcast service for products and services – and it’s FREE.

It’s learning to use Twitter that frustrates most. It’s not that hard, so buckle your seat belts for a quick crash course:

Start out by going to and registering for a site – use your pen name (or close), business name, or some catchy service-identifiable name as your User Name. You have room for a very BRIEF bio; you can link your website to your profile so folks can find out more about you. There are several pleasant backgrounds to use for your Twitter page or you can upload one that is more personal. Okay, now you are on your way…

You have 140 characters to “tweet” messages – that includes spaces and punctuation. If you want to tweet about a blog or website, go to sites like and shorten the URL (web address) and save your characters for a brief message. My URL for my VHP author’s page is approximately 65 characters; after using is only 20 characters– saving 45 characters; that’s about eight words more to deliver my message. Make your message brief and direct, it’s almost like writing headlines.

Start building your community by following others – use the “Find people” function, use someone’s real name, an email address or a word that might be in their profile. Follow the ones who look interesting to you by clicking on the buttons to the right of their names (hold the cursor over the buttons to see which one says FOLLOW). You can also use the little box (right hand side) that says “search” by putting in keyword or trending phrase (current event or discussion) and follow those folks as well. Most people will follow you back within a day or so. Make sure that your privacy settings are set to accept for ease. You can always UNfollow if you see the person is sending something offensive.

Tweet regularly (once or twice a day is ideal) and mix up the topics. Yes, DO promote your books, products or services, but promo should really be no more than one-third of your total tweets. Re-tweet other tweeters’ worthy messages (hold the cursor over the lower right of the tweet box), reply to tweets (once again, hold the cursor over the lower right of the tweet box – click reply and you will see your message box with @UserName, just type your message), pass along occasional TASTEFUL humor, tweet interesting blogs (see above) and add to popular discussions (like “what did you think of the Yankees last night?”)

It won’t take long before you are tweeting comfortably and broadcasting your message to numerous people with just a few key strokes.

Still not convinced? Fellow VHP author Collin Kelley talks about Twitter and other social media in an interview here

Ready to tweet? Add me and I’ll follow you back.

Chelle Cordero is blessed to be a full-time writer and a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic. She has eight novels published with Vanilla Heart Publishing, short stories in three anthologies and numerous articles in various North American newspapers and magazines. Chelle also teaches an online writing course available through Kindle subscription.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Submission Etiquette by Smoky Trudeau

You’ve written the next Great American Novel—congratulations! But your work isn’t over. Now, you have to present your work to prospective publishers, and there is a right way and a wrong way to do that.

The first step to submitting your work is to study the submission guidelines for each publisher. Some might ask for a query letter and a one-page synopsis. Others may ask for a query letter and the first three chapters, or a one-page synopsis and the first chapter. Every publisher will want something different, and it is important that you send exactly what each requests—no more, no less.

One thing you always will need when making a submission is a query letter. Your query letter should be crafted with as much care as your novel itself, because this is the first example of your writing a publisher will see. Mess up your query letter and your manuscript won’t even be given a glance.

Open your query with a short teaser about your novel. Take a look at the back cover or front flap of any book in your library where the story is described. This is the sort of thing you are looking for—just enough information about the story to make the reader want to read more. Then, if you have any writing experience, say a few words about that. Include any other relevant information as well. For example, if you have a degree in ancient Roman history and your novel is set in ancient Rome, mention your expertise. If your novel is set in some exotic foreign land and you lived there for a year, mention that. This type of information gives your novel credibility. Say what genre the book is, and give the word count.

Whether you’re submitting your query packet or responding to a publisher’s request to see your whole manuscript, watch out for these Really Stupid Things Authors Do To Screw Themselves:

Really Stupid Thing #1: Trusting Your Spell Checker: If ewe think yore spell checker will fined awl yore miss steaks, u r wrong.

Spell checkers are handy, and a useful place to start your proofread. But they’re not infallible, as the above sentence makes clear. That sentence made it through my spell checker just fine.

Then again, you should never trust your own eyes to catch all your mistakes, either. Authors are notorious for being able to catch spelling errors in other writers’ work, but not in their own. This is because the author sees what a sentence is supposed to say, not necessarily what it does say. It’s always a good idea to have someone else read your manuscript before you submit it for publication. Preferably someone you know can spell.

Really Stupid Thing #2: Admitting You Are Clueless. I’ve seen query letter where the author wrote, “I don’t have any experience, but I think my book is very good and know you will too.” Why would you admit you didn’t have any experience? If your book is good, it won’t matter. If your book is awful, it will matter even less. Never, ever give out negative information about yourself this way. If you consider yourself inexperienced, the publisher will, too. Also, don’t presume to know a publisher will like your book. Of course, you hope they will. But you don’t say that. You wouldn’t be submitting your manuscript to them if you didn’t think it was a good match.

Really Stupid Thing #3: Displaying an Over-Inflated Ego. You may think your YA fantasy novel is great, but that doesn’t mean you write “My book is the next Harry Potter and will make me as famous as J.K. Rowling” in your query letter. Book critics decide whether you’re the next Rowling, or Hemmingway, or Faulkner—not authors.

Really Stupid Thing #4: Making Unrealistic Demands. My publisher once got a query letter where the author wrote, “I will require at least a $10,000 cash advance.” Needless to say, that letter got pitched before the publisher got to the next sentence. Yes, some publishers offer cash advances. But certainly not all of them do, especially when you’re talking about independent presses. Even when they do offer advances, they are likely to be a few hundred dollars, not thousands of dollars. This is especially true for unpublished authors. Advances are just that—advance payment of anticipated royalties. Publishers can’t risk shelling out big bucks on an untried author and then not be able to recoup their losses.

Smoky Trudeau is the author of the newly released Observations of an Earth Mage, a collection of photos, essays, and poems celebrating our beautiful planet earth. She is also the author of two novels, Redeeming Grace and The Cabin, as well as two books for writers, Front-Word, Back-Word, Insight Out: Lessons on Writing the Novel Lurking Inside Your From Start to Finish, and Left Brained, Write Brained: 366 Writing Prompts and Exercises, all from Vanilla Heart Publishing. You can learn more about Smoky at, or at her blog on Xanga, You can also look her up on Facebook.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Real Fiction Characters by Charmaine Gordon

Her name is Diane. She’s beautiful and she’s fat. She’s also the nurse and receptionist at my family doctor’s office. When I signed in this morning for a follow-up visit, after the usual happy exchange, Diane beckoned me to lean in close. “Please write a book about fat women. All the books have thin pretty women who attract stud-handsome men. And we,” her blue eyes filled with tears, “sorry, but why can’t we be loved for who we are?” She closed the little glass door. Intimacy shut down.

As I waited and began writing a story noodling around in my head, I wrote, “the woman laid her built-for-action body on the beach towel.” I reread my words, pictured Diane’s lovely face—her words, “Why can’t we be loved for who we are. . .” I drew a line through built-for-action and wrote built-for-comfort.

The question is why not? How come every character has to be the stereotype. Heroine-at least pretty with a great shape, Hero-at least attractive, tall, built well and so on. What about the greater population who make up our world; people in wheelchairs, ones who need walkers or braces on legs or arms. Most of us have redeeming features, if not on our facades, then inside.

I will write a story about an overweight woman. She’ll be feisty, funny, smart, and sometimes sad. Maybe a guy will trip over her as she dozes on the beach, half buried by heavy wet sand by a band of little kids who wanted to cover the sleeping lady.

The dance of life continues with all steps forward-no slip sliding as in the past. I am excited,over-joyed,ecstatic. Get the picture? This author is one happy woman. To Be Continued, my first book with Vanilla Heart Publishing, has gotten good reviews. Women write that they cheer when the straying husband gets what's coming to him. My latest novel, Starting Over, romance/suspense will be released in print in just a few days. Both books are also available in ebook format, Kindle, and Nook.

This is where you can find me:
Vanilla Heart Publishing Author Page