Thursday, May 07, 2009

Do Your Homework About Publishers

Do your homework on where to send your work.  Sometimes you can send a piece out cold and get a deal, but that is the exception and not the rule.  A cold submission means that you haven’t really researched the magazine or publisher and just sent your work to them, hoping for the best.  This has worked for me, but for the one publisher who published it, there were many others who rejected it.  There have been pieces that I wrote specifically for a certain magazine and those pieces were accepted immediately.  And that is what you’re looking for - a perfect fit.  You want the right piece of writing in the right magazine.  You want a win-win situation for the work and publisher.  I’m not saying that you sell-out and write only for a magazine.  Write what is inside of you to write, but find the match for that work.  If there isn’t really a match, then try to cold submissions, but don’t get discouraged when the rejection slips come in.  It’s just part of the process.



Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Short Word About Dialogue

Dialogue has always been a strong point for me.  That’s why plays are easy for me to write.  I have an ear for how people talk and I can transfer that to paper.  Now, I struggle with description, which we’ll tackle another day.  You may be the opposite of me.  So, how can you get better at dialogue?  Here are some pointers:


Listen - When talking with people or in a crowded place, listen to people and how they talk.  How do they put their words together, phrases?  You may even write some of it down.  Once story I remember, now whether or not it’s true is beyond me, is about Quentin Terintino.  Before he made Pulp Fiction, he sat in a bathroom stall and wrote down a conversation he heard going on.  From that conversation came his most famous movie.

Transcribe - I talked about this above.  You have to sit down and write the conversations.  One thing you can do is record a conversation, then transcribe it in story form.  No, it may not make for a good story, but this is just for practice.


Practice - Practice.  Practice.  Practice.  You only get better at something by doing it.  If you know this is your weak spot, do more and learn more.  You may never be a playwright, but you will be a better write in your own right.


Any good writing resource can give you the rules for using quotation marks.  If you are a writer, you should already have at least one of these reference books in your writing space.



Tuesday, May 05, 2009

What's Happening

The picture is of me performing as Vanilla Swirl in “Sister Act” on March 27.  I wrote the skit as part of the Renaissance Rally to celebrate student achievement.  I also performed as Bret Michaels from Poison.  Maybe I’ll post a picture of that tomorrow.  


I’m completing a final revision of my novel The Sixth Commandment, which has I have now renamed.  Who knows if a novel title will stick all the way through the publication process.  I guess only time will tell.  I’ve also shifted the novel just slightly to match the locale of some of my other novels.  I thought I had finished this novel some time ago, but after being away from it for a time and coming back to it, I’ve found some errors and corrected them.  I really feel like there is little more I can do to this book, so hopefully someone will pick it up.


I am also working on some preliminary story ideas, but I can’t decide what form the story needs to take.  It may make a better play than novel.  Then again, I could write the novel, then base the play on it, or vice versa.  It would also make for a nice independent film.  I’m not really sure.  I’ll keep you updated on the progress.  If it comes in novel form, it will be more of a literary novel than a commercial one.


Tis the Season should be out for the Christmas.  It’s a collection of four Christmas plays that have been performed in the past and can now be purchased all in one.  The book even comes with reproduction rights, just in case your church group would like to perform one or all of them.  I think this is cost effective, because you don’t have to buy an entire package or the production rights.  All you need to do is give yours-truly a blurb in the program.


A Light in the Darkness and Other Stories is also in the early stages of the publication process.  This collection of short stories has the published stories “A Light in the Darkness,” “The Overpass,” “The Toymaker,” and “Faith of a Mustard Seed.”  The collection also includes some never-before-published stories.  The collection is broken into three sections:  The Spirit World; The Real World; and Other Tales.  Some of my favorite short work is in this collection.


Monday, May 04, 2009

The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl

THE POE SHADOW by Matthew Pearl is about a young lawyer trying to recreate the last days of author Edgar Allan Poe, which have always been clouded in mystery.  After being introduced to Pearl’s writings, I went out and bought this novel along with THE DANTE CLUB, which I look forward to starting.  I teach Poe’s stories in my high school classes and in my college literature class.  I know Poe’s biography and since I enjoy literary novels, I figured this was the perfect fit for me.  I appreciate the details and the references to Poe’s life.  Pearl has definitely done his homework.  In college I loved doing research and I loved researching Biblical stories and artifacts to write my plays.  There are historical time periods and people that interest me and this book gives me the idea that perhaps I, too, can combine my loves of writing and history and literature to create something amazing.


More about the book:

Baltimore, 1849. The body of Edgar Allan Poe has been buried in an unmarked grave. The public, the press, and even Poe’s own family and friends accept the conclusion that Poe was a second-rate writer who met a disgraceful end as a drunkard. Everyone, in fact, seems to believe this except a young Baltimore lawyer named Quentin Clark, an ardent admirer who puts his own career and reputation at risk in a passionate crusade to salvage Poe’s.

As Quentin explores the puzzling circumstances of Poe’s demise, he discovers that the writer’s last days are riddled with unanswered questions the police are possibly willfully ignoring. Just when Poe’s death seems destined to remain a mystery, and forever sealing his ignominy, inspiration strikes Quentin–in the form of Poe’s own stories. The young attorney realizes that he must find the one person who can solve the strange case of Poe’s death: the real-life model for Poe’s brilliant fictional detective character, C. Auguste Dupin, the hero of ingenious tales of crime and detection.
In short order, Quentin finds himself enmeshed in sinister machinations involving political agents, a female assassin, the corrupt Baltimore slave trade, and the lost secrets of Poe’s final hours. With his own future hanging in the balance, Quentin Clark must turn master investigator himself to unchain his now imperiled fate from that of Poe’s.

Following his phenomenal debut novel, The Dante Club, Matthew Pearl has once again crossed pitch-perfect literary history with innovative mystery to create a beautifully detailed, ingeniously plotted tale of suspense. Pearl’s groundbreaking research–featuring documented material never published before–opens a new window on the truth behind Poe’s demise, literary history’s most persistent enigma. The resulting novel is a publishing event that, through sublime craftsmanship, subtle wit, and devious twists, does honor to Poe himself

About the Author
Matthew Pearl is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dante Club and the editor of the Modern Library editions of Dante’s Inferno (translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue: The Dupin Tales. The Dante Club has been published in more than thirty languages and forty countries around the world. Pearl is a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School and has taught literature at Harvard and at Emerson College. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He can be reached via his website,


You can also purchase the book at: