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SPAWNews, September, 2002

Mary Embree, Editor

This is your electronic version of SPAWNews. As a SPAWN member, you will be receiving this newsletter every month.

For questions, contributions to the newsletter, and Letters to the Editor, please e-mail the Editor of SPAWNews:


SPAWN offers members an opportunity to exhibit their books in SPAWN'S booth at the annual Santa Barbara Book & Author Festival on September 28. For more information, e-mail:


Check out September's SPAWN Member Area News and Market Update. This month, we've announced changes relating to over 30 publications, we introduce four great resource sites for writers, we tell you how/where to get your memoirs published, and we feature another successful professional writer. Go to the first page of the site, and click on the Visit Member Area button.

You will be asked to log in. All members have received their September login ID and password.

* * * * *


  • EDITOR'S NOTES: The Art of Simplicity
  • ARTICLE: Hunting Your Agent
  • LITERARY QUIZ: Prefixes
  • ARTICLE: With Little Talent, Celebrities Get Book Deals
  • ARTICLE: Overview of Online Marketing

* * * * *


The Art of Simplicity

The concept of simplicity is often misunderstood by writers. It doesn't mean "talking down" to the reader. And it doesn't indicate a lack of complexity. It means using words and crafting sentences that are easily understood. It slows down my reading when I see a string of four- and five-syllable words bunched together because I'm mentally pronouncing and defining them as I go along. And when I read a sentence that contains 50 or more words, I find myself gasping for breath. We need to give readers some breathing room. Besides, short sentences are usually more powerful than long ones. Smaller and simpler vocabularies help make the message clearer and more focused. And isn't it the message we want to get across, not our impressive vocabulary?

The principle of simplicity did not spring up with the birth of television and the public's shorter attention spans. It isn't a modern concept. In 1580 Michel Eyquem de Montaigne wrote, "I want to be seen here in my simple, natural, ordinary fashion, without straining or artifice; for it is myself that I portray…. I am myself the matter of my book." In the 19th century, Tolstoy stated, "there is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness and truth."

Maybe readers don't have as long attention spans as they once did but that's even more reason to embrace simplicity. The most powerful writing is that which flows naturally, expressing the thoughts and feelings of the author in a clear, direct, and honest way. Walt Whitman said it best when he wrote, "The art of art, the glory of expression, and the sunshine of the light of letters is simplicity."

-- Mary Embree, Editor

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The September Market Update is brimming with excitement and inspiration for writers at any stage of their passion. To date, we've reported changes relating to over 125 publications. We've brought you information about nearly 50 Internet resources for writers and we've interviewed over 25 writers, editors and publishers. All back issues of the Market Update are available in the Member's Only area of the SPAWN Web site ( Join now to get this important information.

Here's an excerpt from my interview with Lorin Oberweger, writer, editor, teacher, seminar leader and award-winning author.

I asked her what she would advise others who are trying to break into the writing business:

Lorin: I'd recommend that new writers or editors partner up with graphic designers, desktop publishing professionals, artists, and printers. Create a "network" so that you can offer clients access to all parts of a job, not just the writing. Know that cross-pollinating in this manner can be great for everyone. There's a saying that "all boats rise together." The most successful writing and editing professionals I know are those who support other people in the field, who give referrals (even to other writers and editors), who eschew the idea of competition for that of mutuality. It may sound Utopian, but in my experience it really works.

And isn't that what the concept of SPAWN is all about-networking?

-- Patricia Fry

* * * * *

ARTICLE: Hunting Your Agent

By Leah Tribolo

I am a writer but at conferences I moonlight as a huntress - my prey is an agent.

Very carefully, though I make it seem spur of the moment, I approach my unsuspecting victim. The agent does not know it but I have done my research. I know what is represented by her agency and that we would be a good fit. I know who her clients are and that this is an agent I would love to have represent me. Ideally this agent is a member of AAR and charges no fees, though some that do are reputable.

After doing my preliminary research, I gird myself with the weapons of a writer - words and knowledge. I have prepared a "log-line" to describe the essential plot of my book in 25 words or less. For my book "Inheritance" I wrote, "The story of an idealistic young man who seizes power and destroys his people's lives to ensure their survival during a 75-year arctic winter." I am prepared to answer any in-depth questions about my book and have five marketing ideas I can discuss. I also know who my competitors are in the bookstores: Herbert - Dune, Martins - Song of Ice and Fire, Rawn - Dragon Prince.

Donning my armor - good business casual - I am prepared to pursue my agent. I do this gently. They are people and get tired very quickly of being accosted in the hallways at conferences, by those just like me.

Find a discussion opener. Did you admire her presentation? Do you have a question about it? Then shift the topic and ask if she might have thirty seconds to spare for your log line. Most will say "yes" as they are always on the lookout for the next best-seller and since you have not made them feel hunted, they do not realize that they are well and truly caught. If she seems interested, offer to take her for a quick coffee (or cocktail) in the hotel bar to discuss your work further. If you get lucky she will say "yes." If not, you may still get a card and an invitation to submit ahead of the queue, which is an advantage the regular query approach rarely gets.

Good places to begin your research for the right agent are 2002 Writer's Market, online (literary agents) and by word of mouth with fellow writers. Check out:

Keep in mind that most reputable agents do not advertise in magazines or newspapers.

-- Leah Tribolo is a new member. Her short story, The Plum, will appear in the anthology Pronto! Writings from Rome edited by John Tullius, September 2002, Triple Tree Publishing.

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Katherine Poehlmann's new book, Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Infection Connection covers not just RA but a wide range of chronic illnesses caused by bacterial infection. A benign, naturopathic regimen can quash the infection while bolstering the immune system so that the body's systems are in balance. The book has garnered five-star reviews and is in its second printing since March 2002. See for full details, table of contents, ongoing research, and reviewers' comments. Order directly or through 440 pages, $14.95.

Russell Spencer will present a workshop at the Ventura College Community Education Writer's Workshop on Saturday, October 12. Russ' topic will be "Turning your interests into a nonfiction book and selling it." This course features methods of determining the marketability of your idea, and then turning your work into a marketable manuscript. Self-publishing, printing, marketing and distribution options will be explained. Russ has several self-published books which are currently available through major bookstores.

Mary Embree has just sold her third Literary Quiz to The Writer magazine. Look for them in upcoming issues.

* * * * *


by Mary Embree

The following is a list of frequently seen prefixes. Can you match the prefixes with their meanings? This quiz contains a trick. There are 15 prefixes but only 13 definitions. Why? Because three of the prefixes mean the same thing. The answers, which appear at the end of this newsletter, contain examples of words in which they appear.


1. exo-

2. acro-

3. amphi-

4. ana-

5. biblio-

6. logo-

7. crypto-

8. grapho-

9. holo-

10. homo-

11. hyper-

12. hypo-

13. paleo-

14. ecto-

15. extra-

MEANINGS (not in the same order as the above prefixes)

ancient, old

outside, external

above, excessive

both, around

under, below

again, upward, backward


word, speech


top, tip


whole, complete


* * * * *

ARTICLE: With Little Talent, Celebrities Get Book Deals

Struggling authors find themselves on publishing's fringe

By Wendy Dager

The American public has always been fascinated by fame, particularly when an unsuspecting soul is thrust into the spotlight. Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, is an example of this sort of celebrity. She married royalty, she was estranged from royalty, she had a much-publicized affair, she got fat, she got thin, she became a spokesperson for Weight Watchers, and she wrote a series of children's books.

Most folks aren't aware that it is her stint as an author that makes some of us real writers cringe. Admittedly, we're a teensy bit jealous. But the truth is anyone can write a book.

The trick is finding a literary agent who wants to represent your masterpiece, then a publishing house that thinks you're worth the ink. If I -- a writer with actual writing credits -- had submitted a book proposal about a talking helicopter, I would have received a polite form-letter rejection.

But Fergie is -- well, Fergie is Fergie, and lucky to be her, despite her past woes. Her successful "Budgie the Helicopter" book series proves it. If working writers had a fraction of the Duchess of York's cachet, there might not be so many of us still living in garrets.

Yet, it's not just the monarchy that has catapulted itself into the coveted 10 percent of the book-buying market. (The remaining 90 percent is taken up by prolific authors Stephen King, John Grisham, Danielle Steele, et al.). Actress Jamie Lee Curtis wrote her own children's book. Uma Thurman's squeeze, the hunky actor Ethan Hawke, is working on book No. 2. There are countless standup comics who've made the best-seller list as well. Among them: Tim Allen, Bill Cosby, Jerry Seinfeld and Paul Reiser. There are also numerous tell-all books by politicians, athletes and those who are famous for being infamous.

There's nothing we veritable unknowns can do about it. The flood of books by celebrities is unstoppable because the public eats it up. We who play by the rules of writing are constantly frustrated by those who reap the financial benefits -- simply by virtue of the fame and accompanying wealth -- they have already achieved.

In the publishing game, the next best thing to being a celeb is that old standby -- "knowing" someone. An example is 18-year-old Nick McDonell, whose first novel, "Twelve" was published this year. McDonell, touted by his promoters as "a voice of a new generation," has writers Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke as his godfathers, and writer-actor George Plimpton as a mentor. His mother, Joan McDonell, is a novelist. His father, Terry McDonell, is a magazine editor. You can bet the boy had some help polishing his prose.

The third criterion for a publishing contract is to have a saleable gimmick. "Bridget Jones' Diary," by Helen Fielding, had a quirky one with its journal format. There's also the topical content gimmick, as in the current best-selling novel "Emperor of Ocean Park." It likely would not have made its 650-plus page mark on the literary world had author Stephen L. Carter, a law professor and, formerly, a nonfiction writer, not capitalized on the heretofore untold story of African-American aristocracy. Carter raked in a nearly unheard of $4.2 million advance for the book, which received mixed reviews, but is selling very well.

So, what's a plain old Simi Valley housewife/writer to do?

Since I don't know anyone in the publishing business, don't have a gimmick, and am too old to start performing standup comedy, I'm packing up my manuscript and heading to England. I've heard the Duke of York is currently unattached.

-- Wendy Dager of Simi Valley, California, writes a biweekly column for the Star. Her article is used with permission from the Ventura County Star.

* * * * *


Iowa Publication Awards for Short Fiction

Deadline: September 30. No entry fee. Prize: publication. Submit collection of short stories, 150 or more pages. Iowa Writers Workshop, 102 Dey House, 507 N. Clinton Street, Iowa City, IA 52242. Web site:

The Journal Award in Poetry

Deadline: September 30. Prize: $1,500. Entry fee: $20. Submit mss of original unpublished poetry. Ohio State University Press, 1070 Carmack Rd., 180 Pressey Hall, Columbus, OH 43210. 614/292-6930. E-mail: Web site:

Santa Fe Performing Arts Playwright Competition

Deadline: September 30. Prize: $1,000. No entry fee. Submit synopsis and character breakdown of new, unpublished American plays. Full plays by request only. P.O. Box 22372, Santa Fe, NM 87502. 505/982-7992.

* * * * *

ARTICLE: Overview of Search Engine Marketing

By Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D.

I've just returned from the Search Engine Strategies 2002 Conference in San Jose, and I'm very excited about getting top-quality information on getting our Web sites listed well in search engines. My full overview is too long and technical to be included in this newsletter, but everyone who is interested can read the full article at:

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Santa Barbara Book & Author Festival - Santa Barbara, CA

Saturday, September 28; De La Guerra Plaza. FMI phone 805/962-9500, Fax 805/962-2612. E-mail: NOTE: SPAWN members may have their books displayed in the SPAWN booth. FMI e-mail

Ventura College Community Education Writer's Workshop - Ventura, CA

Saturdays, September 14 through October 26. Workshops include: Exciting Characters, Intriguing Plots, My Stories - Our Stories, Creating Time to Write, Once Upon a Lap -Writing Children's Picture Books and Your Own Voice: Cultivating the Writer in You. The cost of each workshop is $45.00 or any three for $125.00. For registration forms call (805) 654-6451, Class code ZW106.

StoryCon - Palm Springs, CA

September 26-29. Features top teachers of story from the worlds of screenwriting, myth, fiction, short story, journalism, game creation, television, psychology, corporate consulting. FMI contact StoryCon, 211 N. Sycamore Street, Newtown, PA 18940. 215/504-1700. E-mail: Web site:

Wisconsin Regional Writers Association Fall Conference and Book Fair - Cable, WI

September 28-29. FMI contact Don Derozier, 4850 Island View Dr., Oshkosh, WI 54901. 920/235-7905. E-mail:; Web site:

Writers and Readers Conference - Kansas City, MO

October 3-5. FMI contact Maple Woods Community College, 2601 NE Berry Rd., Kansas City, MO 64156. 816/437-3011. E-mail:

* * * * *


Hello Mary,

I read an article you wrote in 2000 titled Self-Publishing and Co-Publishing. Would you mind telling me where I can find more information about Co-Publishing? I find plenty of information about self-publishing but not co-publishing.

Thanks a bunch!

-- Danette Mitchell

* * *


Dear Danette,

I wish I could give you specific information about co-publishing but I can't. There are many ways to co-publish and many different kinds of agreements you can have with a co-publisher. At one point, I thought I would like to co-publish "The Author's Toolkit" and I contacted a small publisher I knew personally. We spent a daylong meeting discussing the project. He later decided after working the possible dollar figures that it would not be lucrative enough for his company. I ended up publishing the book myself and it turned out to be a moneymaker for me. I have since sold it to a larger publisher in New York (Allworth Press) and they will be publishing the revised edition next year. It turned out much better for me not to have co-published the book in the first place.

I do know one author who co-published and he is very happy with the arrangement. He is a mystery writer and the publisher specializes in that genre. I do not know the details of their agreement other than that they share the costs and the royalties.

You might want to contact small publishers who publish the sort of thing you are writing and explore the possibilities with them.

I hope this has been of some help.

Mary Embree

P.S.: I asked Patricia Fry for her suggestions and this is her reply:

Dear Dannette,

You can also partner with an established co-publishing company. You pay to have the book published and the company contributes the page layout work and sometimes editing as well as the printing, binding and, in some cases, limited promotion. Subsidy publishers are also considered co-publishers. You will find co-publishers and subsidy publishers listed in Literary Market Place (in the reference section of your library).

Patricia Fry

* * * * *


  1. exo- outside, external. Example: exorbitant, exceeding appropriate limits
  2. acro- top, tip. Example: acrophobia, abnormal fear of heights
  3. amphi- both, around. Example: amphitheater, arena surrounded by seats
  4. ana- again, upward, backward. Example: anagram, a word formed by rearranging letters of another word
  5. biblio- book. Examples: bibliophile, a book lover or collector; bibliophobia, abnormal fear of books
  6. logo- word, speech. Examples: logophile, a lover of words; logophobia, obsessive fear of words
  7. crypto- hidden. Example: cryptogram, something written code or cipher
  8. grapho- writing. Example: graphology, study of writing, esp. handwriting
  9. holo- whole, complete. Example: holograph, a document written in the handwriting of the person whose signature it bears
  10. homo- same. Example: homonym, a word the same as another in sound and spelling but different in meaning
  11. hyper- above, excessive. Examples: hyperbole, an exaggeration used as a figure of speech; hypermnesia, unusually vivid memory
  12. hypo- under, below. Example: hypocrisy, expressing feelings or virtues one does not possess
  13. paleo- ancient, old. Example: paleography, ancient forms of writing
  14. ecto- outside, external. Example: ectomorphic, outgoing, extroverted
  15. extra- outside, external. Example: extramural, occurring outside the boundaries

SCORE: 10 to 12 correct - good; 13 to 15 correct - excellent

* * * * *


September 2002

SPAWN is a nonprofit corporation. Donations are tax deductible.

Small Publishers, Artists & Writers Network

P.O. Box 2653

Ventura, CA 93002-2653


Telephone & Fax: 805-646-3045

Mary Embree

Executive Director

Wendy Dager

Membership and Database Coordinator


Virginia Lawrence

SPAWN Webmaster


Advisory Council

Carol Doering

Dallas Glenn

Rosalie Heacock

Literary Agent

Andora Hodgin

Writer, Editor, Publicist

Irwin Zucker

Book Publicist

Jim Lane


Marcia Grad-Powers


Melvin Powers


Dan Poynter

Author, Publisher

Jean Wade


Board of Directors

Mary Embree

Author, Editor, Literary Consultant

Founder of SPAWN

Patricia Fry

Author, Publisher

President of SPAWN

Virginia Lawrence, PhD

Writer, Editor, Webmaster

Secretary of SPAWN

Ruth Hibbard

Treasurer of SPAWN

Frances Halpern

Author, Columnist, Talk-show Host

Marsha Karpeles

Executive Director, Manuscript Libraries

Richard F.X. O'Connor

Author, Publisher, Editor, Consultant


To promote the literary arts and provide education, information, resources and a supportive networking environment for artists, writers, and other creative people interested in the publishing process.

Submission Guidelines

Members and Nonmembers: Please send your press releases, seminar information, and books for review to Mary Embree, Executive Directorr, SPAWNews, P.O. Box 2653, Ventura, CA 93002-2653 or email

SPAWN membership dues are $45 per year; spouses, half-price. Make your check payable to SPAWN and mail to P.O. Box 2653, Ventura, CA 93002-2653. Or click on Member Application to fill out the secure online form and pay your dues by credit card.

SPAWNews, Member Directory and Web site listings, and discounts for SPAWN events are included in membership.

SPAWN is a nonprofit corporation. Donations are tax deductible.

Small Publishers, Artists & Writers Network

P. O. Box 2653

Ventura, CA 93002-2653



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