SPAWN Market Update – September 2003

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SPAWN Market Update – September, 2003

By Patricia L. Fry

Contents:

Going, Going, Gone

These magazines have gone out of business.

Country Music

Go-Go Magazine

Mixer Magazine

Here’s What’s New

2004 edition of Writer’s Market will be out this month. I haven’t received the copy I ordered several weeks ago, but I’m sure it is available someplace. I’ve been relying on Writer’s Market for 30 years. But did you know that it has been around for 50 years longer than that? Yes, Writer’s Market celebrates its 80th year in 2004.

AlienSkin Magazine

Mockingbird Journal

Fast Company

The new Address for Good Housekeeping Magazine is 250 West 55th St., NY 10019

Opportunities for Writers

Peace of the Valley

Contests for women writers. A Woman’s Write operates writing contests each month. Check it out at http://www.awomanswrite.com

Research/Reference Site of the Month

U.S. Census Bureau is on the Web and has a plethora of facts and statistics about America. http://www.census.gov

Sites for Writers

Are you ready to hire a printer for that almost completed book you’ve been working on for years? Here’s a good place to start. The SPAWN Web site has a page devoted to printers with links to their sites. http://www.spawn.org/printers.htm

And be sure to check out the printer discounts available to SPAWN members at http://www.spawn.org/private/discounts.htm and http://www.spawn.org/private/pub_print_discounts.htm.

Featured Writer

This month, I interviewed Meg Weaver, founder and director of Wooden Horse Publishing a Web site featuring the Web’s largest magazine database for freelance writers.

Q: Meg, please tell us about your unique Web site for writers. When did you start it? What do you offer that others do not?

A: Wooden Horse has been on the web since 2000. Our primary goal is to cover US and Canadian print magazines for anyone who wants to place material with them. That includes writers but also publicists and photographers. We also have a lot of researchers using the site.

On our home page, http://www.woodenhorsepub.com, we offer on-going news about magazines, such as launches, closings, editor changes, etc – for free. Our Magazines Database is available by subscription for as little as 1.99 for 24 hours. It contains continually updated information on over 2,000 magazines. A subscriber would get not only contact information but editorial concept, reader demographics, editorial calendars and writer’s guidelines – more information than any other media directory, even those costing thousands of dollars a year.

We also offer a free newsletter that reports on news in the magazine world – and offers advice to writers. We concentrate on the business side of writing, especially how to be successful writing for publications in today’s competitive world.

Q: What led you down this path? Tell us how you came up with the idea for the Wooden Horse Publishing site and — hey why “Wooden Horse Publishing” and not “Markets for Writers” or something like that?

A: Wooden Horse grew out of my own need as an article writer. In the 1990s the magazine industry changed. Publications became more competitive and more of a “product” with very clearly defined targeting. It used to be enough for writers to know that Family Circle and Ladies’ Home Journal were “women’s magazines.” They pretty much accepted the same kind of articles.

Now, each magazine is a little different, with its own unique marketing position, and writers (and publicists) must know – and write to – these differing positions.

Just look at the editorial concept of those magazines today:

Family Circle: “This magazine strives to be a source of information for women whose lives are inextricably linked to those of their families.”

Ladies’ Home Journal: “For active, empowered women who are evolving in new directions.”

You just can’t send the same articles to those two magazines any more. And that’s just one example.

When I named the company I wanted a generic name because I suspected – and I was right – that not all our customers would be writers. The name comes from a little plaything that family legend tells was my first toy. I don’t know if this is really true but I still have it and it’s become sort of a mascot.

Q: What is your background in the world of writing/publishing?

A: I had my first article published in a general interest magazine when I was twelve years old and I was hooked. I have written articles ever since – both full-time and as a part-timer.

My “day-job” was as a marketing executive, especially for hi-tech companies (I have a BS in electronic engineering) and that has allowed me to understand the marketing strategies of publications and I try to share that with our readers and visitors.

Q: Who uses your Web site. What is the most popular aspect of it?

A: The website is used by a lot of people; Obviously many are freelance writers but others are editors, publishers, researchers, PR professionals, and just about anyone who are interested in magazines. I am continually surprised recognizing well-known e-mail addresses among our customers and newsletter subscribers.

The Magazines Database is the “meat” of the site and, besides the home page, is the most visited. We offer subscriptions to the Database from 24 hours to 1 year and access is by password. Subscribers can access the information 24/7, whenever it is convenient for them and they get the latest possible information, as we continually update the data.

Q: I get your newsletter and subscribe on and off to your database. I am always amazed at how much you know about what’s going on within the industry. What is your secret?

A: It’s all about experience. I’ve been involved with the magazine industry for so long that I know where the information is.

Q: Is Wooden Horse Publishing also a true publishing company? Tell us about the books that you publish.

A: In these days of electronic publishing, we publish the Magazines Database online and an e-book I wrote called Writing for Magazines: Twelve New Things Writers Must Do Today to Make Money. It explains this whole new phenomena of marketing in detail and the steps writers should take to take advantage of it. We also publish a series of practical how-to “Special Reports” about query letters, secrets of full-time writers, how to ensure you get paid and how to use editorial calendars.

All of these are available on the site, http://www.woodenhorsepub.com.

Q: The research and updates for your site must keep you busy practically 24/7. What is your work schedule? How do you manage your time between the Web site, your own writing, etc.? Have you established a balance?

A: First of all, I don’t have a life <laughs>.

As anyone who starts up a small business knows, you give everything you have to it. I am very lucky in that I live in a beautiful California coastal redwood area and just taking a walk is a treat.

I do try to take two hours every day to write something “for myself.” Sometimes – to stay in touch with the magazine world – it’s a query letter or an article I have an assignment for but I usually prefer to work on my bestseller. No, it’s not a bestseller yet – it’s still in progress – but that’s what I tell people when they ask me what I’m writing.

Q: Do you have help there at Wooden Horse Publishing or are you a one woman show?

A: There are quite a few people working at the Wooden Horse because of the complexity of the website and the information we publish. But I’m the editor, publisher and chief bottle washer.

Q: What would you advise someone wanting to start a Web site or other service for writers/publishers?

A: Like with everything else, ask yourself what you want to accomplish with it because it is a lot of work. Especially, if you plan to accept money from people. They deserve to get value from your products and that takes energy, dedication and a whole lot of stamina.

Q: Please add anything you feel is important.

A: Writing for magazines is so much fun, but it is very competitive and writers need all the advantages they can get – and that’s what we try to provide. We hope that every writer will check us out.

Wooden Horse Publishing, http://www.woodenhorsepub.com

Bonus Item

Many of you belong to a critique group or are thinking about joining one. I receive questions fairly often about critique groups. I decided to devote the bonus item in this issue to your questions. I’ve asked the experts. I hope you find this enlightening.

Here’s my interview with Anne Peterson of NightWriters Writing Group in San Luis Obispo, CA.

 

Q: Tell us about your organization and critique groups.

A: NightWriters has been a flourishing writers’ club for 15 years. Although we started modestly, we’ve grown to 140 members, now. We hold monthly general meetings for the membership and public, featuring informative speakers and representative readings from our critique groups. The number of our critique groups varies as new ones form and inactive ones drop out, but we generally have about 14 groups going. These critique groups average about 8 writers and meet in the leaders’ homes, usually twice monthly. Many of the groups deal with all kinds of prose, but some specialize, as Writing for Children, Articles and Non-fiction, Inspirational, Novels…and we also have a flourishing Poetry Group. Some of our groups have been at it for more than 12 years. A bonding friendship develops in the groups so that when they become unworkably large, it’s tough to break them up into smaller groups. We follow a protocol for critiquing in our groups which involves rules to make the process fair, supportive, sharp, kind, and honest. It also helps to make the critiquing flow without getting snagged on cross-talk and endless explanations of the work. We have mostly experienced writers in our group, many of whom regularly publish in local or national publications and many of whom have published novels. The quality of the writing is amazingly good.

 

Q: Do you find that many writers have a love/hate attitude about writing critique groups –they want feedback but fear feedback at the same time? Please talk about this.

A: No. I haven’t found that to be true in any of the groups, and because I’m Workshop Coordinator, I make it a practice to visit the groups at least once a year so I can keep a finger on the pulse. I have found that all the groups are disciplined and serious, although of course, they have lots of fun, too. But on the whole, most of our writers are dedicated to improving their skills, so they treasure the kind of supportive but honest criticism they get. I have heard many positive comments, but no negative ones.

 

That said, I can report that once in a great while we get a super-sensitive person in a group who simply can’t take any comments that aren’t in the “Oh, that’s so nice, dear” category. They usually drop out because they just don’t fit. We’re serious writers.

 

Q: I know people who are afraid to join a critique group for fear their inspiration will be squashed. How do you help writers overcome this fear?

A: I guess we work with a bolder group than most, I dunno. Nobody has expressed that kind of anxiety that I’ve ever heard. Our critiques are so kind and so obviously sincerely devoted to helping that nobody feels threatened. The material is never under attack, or the writer; we focus on style and tone and technical accuracy. Our suggestions are always designed to be helpful.

 

Q: What do you do in your critique groups to help keep the feedback positive and helpful?

A: We have an understanding going in that we get from the Protocol that the whole purpose of the exercise is to be helpful and supportive. Maybe we’re all kind, I dunno. We had a guy in our group who was a sort of curmudgeon and he could be pretty scathing at times, but after the group started calling him “Acid Tongue,” he backed off and became a really sweet human being. It’s amazing how positive we all are. It seems to be contagious. But we aren’t that sickeningly sweet find-no-fault-with-anything kind of old ladies’ tea party bunch. We tell it as we see it, but in a way that is helpful and strengthening, often with suggestions about how it could be said better, but not always.

 

Q: Do you have rules? How do you regulate the comments?

A: Yes, indeed we have rules, as I’ve said. Without them, we’d be sunk. We are very disciplined and stick to the Protocol. That’s the job of our leaders: to keep us on track. It’s spelled out in the Protocol that there’s to be no talking when a critiquer has his/her turn. No questions are asked of the writer during the critique and he/she’s not to say a peep. After everyone has had a turn critiquing, if the writer wants to ask a brief question, he/she asks permission. There is to be absolutely no cross-talk among critiquers while each critique is going on. This helps a lot. We all respect the rules and on the rare occasions when we get rowdy, our leaders reign us in. We gladly obey. We know how crucial it is to follow the rules.

 

Q: Would you give me an example of a critique occurring in your group. How would the group work with someone who comes there for feedback?

A: The assumption is that you wouldn’t be there if you didn’t want feedback. To begin with, the reader must not make lengthy explanations about what he’s about to read. He may identify the genre or give a title, but the work is expected to explain itself, and if it doesn’t, it needs reworking. The reader reads for about fifteen minutes, more if there are few people reading. There is absolute silence from the group. Some take notes. I, personally, concentrate on listening and happen to have a great memory for what I hear. When the reader finishes, the person to his right makes observations. Each critique is usually fairly brief, but sometimes more comments are called for. Each person in turn around the circle gives his/her critique without interruption from the reader or other critiquers. (This is very, very important.) When all the critiques are done, if the reader has any questions, he asks permission to ask them. But it must be kept brief.

 

Q: What do you do if a writer gets emotional or defensive?

A: We once had a visitor who wanted to join the group and she couldn’t take the criticism and got emotional and defensive. That stuff just doesn’t fit into our group psyche, so we told her we had a personality conflict (which we did) and she might be happier with another group. She tried other groups and got the same kind of response, except for the group that reluctantly took her in and later had to disband as the only face-saving way of getting rid of her. I have channeled such misfits into starting their own groups, which sometimes works. But this situation, although it happens once in a while, hardly ever occurs. As I say, we’re serious about learning.

 

Q: I know people who take every comment about their project to heart and make every change any suggests. Pretty soon his or her work is not even recognizable as their own. What would you say to a writer like this?

A: We always warn people in advance to take what sounds valid to them and discard the rest. This becomes easier to do when the critiquers disagree, which they sometimes do. I’ve seen people change to incorporate everything that was told to them. Sometimes their work improves dramatically and they learn a lot and go on from there. Other times they lose themselves and their style and say so. We encourage independence and freedom of choice. One of our really good novelists got a publisher in the UK to publish one of her books and the publisher tore into all the stuff that the critique group had had her change. So she went back to the way she’d written it originally and everybody was happy. Critiquers aren’t always right. Sometimes they misunderstand or make bad judgments. It’s up to the writer to sort out what’s helpful, use it, and discard the rest. We emphasize this.

 

Q: What would you suggest to others who would like to start a writers’ critique group?

A: I have a file of protocols and suggestions about starting critique groups. I pass this file along to anyone who makes noises about wanting to start a group. We then discuss the material. Hopefully the new leader has been in a group or has visited enough groups to get the picture. If not, he’s encouraged to do so. Once the group is organized, I sit in on the first couple of meetings as a mentor. It seems to work.

 

Q: Please add anything you would like.

A: I think I’ve pretty well said it all. If anybody wants more info from me or is interested in looking into NightWriters, they can email me or phone: 805-481-3013. I’m the newsletter editor, too, and I’m happy to send out informative newsletters to anyone who’s interested. And BTW, I put out a special edition of the newsletter devoted to critiquing. It contains the Protocol, which is also sent out in a New Members’ Packet (with other stuff) to everybody who signs on.

 

Anne Peterson, NightWriters, 805-481-3013

 

 

Q: Tell us a little about your organization and the critique group(s) you have going.

A: We call our critique group “Northern Kentucky Writers’ Critique Group.” There are five of us: one essayist, two fiction writers, one nonfiction writer and one children’s book author/nonfiction writer (me)–all at different levels of skill and experience. Our group is fairly new; our first meeting was in February. I set out to find or start a group in January right after I got a contract from Collector Books to publish my nonfiction book, Contemporary American Doll Artists and Their Dolls, with its spring 2004 line. I felt I needed (and wanted) some writerly feedback and I contacted my former features editor who is now a freelance writer and, as it turned out, she was looking for a writers’ critique group herself.

 

Q: Do you find that many writers have a love/hate attitude about writing critique groups—they want feedback but fear feedback at the same time? Please talk about this.

A: Yes, we discussed this issue in our group. One thing we do is, if someone has a negative criticism, she must explain herself. She cannot simply blast the material, but must offer reasoned, constructive criticism and her thoughts on how it could be improved. This is our goal anyway.

 

Q: I know people who are afraid to join a critique group for fear their inspiration will be squashed. How do you help writers overcome this fear?

A: We established some ground rules for our group. Our intent is not to squash any writer’s inspiration, but to get a piece into publishable shape through a respectful exchange of ideas. We ask a lot of questions: who are the readers? is the dialect an accurate reflection of the character? what are good markets for the article or story? We discuss words, phrases and ideas in the piece that struck us and why. This is not to say we don’t give a thorough critique; we share our thoughts on what could be improved and what needs to be improved in order to get the piece into a salable format.

Q: Do you have rules? How do you regulate comments?

A: We do have rules. A week before our monthly meeting, we send our pieces to the group to give everyone time to read and write their thoughts and comments. At the meeting, each writer presents her piece in turn and the other members each have an opportunity to share their reaction to the piece. We begin with what we liked and what we thought worked and then ask questions about the writer’s goals for that particular piece. So far, this format has worked for us.

Q: Would you give me an example of a critique occurring in your group. How would the group work with someone who comes there for feedback?

A: We have a fairly novice writer in the group and everyone has been very sensitive to this while working with her and her material. She is writing a novel, which is very good, and we have focused on the elements of the piece that we feel are working and are asking lots of questions about the direction in which the novel is moving, how she has developed her characters, etc. She has a very good ear for dialect and that has resulted in some very positive feedback from everyone.

Q: What do you do if a writer gets emotional or defensive?

A: Actually, I came close to getting a bit defensive at our June meeting. One of our members has shown up for several consecutive months with nothing to share with the group, yet is the most vocal in her critiques of the other writers’ material. One of our ground rules is that everyone presents material at each meeting with the goal of getting published–and paid. This situation–when one member critiques everyone else’s writing but doesn’t share her own–is an unfair one and needs to be addressed by every critique group. In this particular case, a more seasoned writer stepped in and returned the focus of the critique to a more positive tone.

 

Q: I know people who take every comment about their project to heart and make every change anyone suggests. Pretty soon his or her work is not even recognizable as their own. What would you say to a writer like this?

A: Remember these are opinions and they are subjective. Believe in yourself and your work. Include the changes you truly feel will help the piece but don’t feel obligated to include every change–or any change for that matter–or to second guess yourself with every comment.
Q: What would you suggest to others who would like to start a writers’ critique group?

A: In our particular group, we enjoy and respect the mix of new, intermediate and seasoned writers as well as the mix of genres. Everyone brings a unique perspective and level of experience to the group and we are learning from each other’s strengths. Our members feel these are important considerations for anyone thinking about starting or joining a writers’ critique group.
Q: Please add anything you would like to add.

A: One fun thing we’re currently planning for our group is a query letter writing boot camp. A couple of our members feel intimidated by the query writing process and the rest of us want to sharpen our skills and see what new things our presenter can share with us. We found an expert through a contact at our local university and she also happens to be writing on this topic for Writer’s Digest Magazine. We’d like to set up other writing programs that would benefit our members.

 

Q: Include any contact information you want published.

A: Our group is the Northern Kentucky Writers’ Critique Group and our slogan is “verbiage for coinage.” Our email address is Nkywriters@yahoogroups.com.

 

Contact:

Kathy Witt, kwitt@insightbb.com
859.363.7265
859.356.4414-fax

 

Mary Ann Diorio is Founder/Director of the New Jersey Society of Christian Writers.

Q: Tell us a little about your organization and the critique group(s) you have going.
A: The New Jersey Society of Christian Writers (NJSCW) is dedicated to training Christian writers in the State of New Jersey, although membership is open to those outside of our State as well. We have an online critique group available to members only.

Q: Do you find that many writers have a love/hate attitude about writing critique groups–they want feedback but fear feedback at the same time? Please talk about this.
A: It is not unusual for writers to experience apprehension at the thought of having their work critiqued. This is due to the fact that we all too often look on our writing as an extension of ourselves, much as a mother does her baby. When, however, writers present their work in a nurturing and caring environment, much of this apprehension is dissipated. A word of caution, however: a nurturing environment does not mean a mutual admiration society. The NJSCW Online Critique Group “speaks the truth in love,” as the Scriptures command (Ephesians 4:15). Members understand that unless we speak the truth about our piece of writing, we will not grow and our piece will not be published. Our members know that they are deeply loved and valued as people, and that their writing is not a reflection of their worth as people. This is something I continually stress to our members.

Q: I know people who are afraid to join a critique group for fear their inspiration will be squashed. How do you help writers overcome this fear?
A: I do not believe that inspiration can be squashed, but only that motivation can. Again, referring to my answer to Question #2, the attitude of the critique group is paramount. Christians understand that we are all a part of the Body of Christ. As a result, great unity and love prevail among us.

Q: What do you do in your critique groups to help keep the feedback positive and helpful?
A: I encourage the use of “sandwich psychology,” an approach where we first look for the positive points in a manuscript, then we deal with areas that need improvement, then we close with another positive aspect.

Q: How do you regulate comments?
A: When each new member joins, he receives a handout of tips for critique groups.

Q: Would you give me an example of a critique occurring in your group. How would the group work with someone who comes there for feedback?
A: At each meeting, we review 3-4 manuscripts of no more than 1500 words each, usually of about 500 words. Often we critique poetry. Each person who wants a manuscript critiqued brings several copies to the meeting. We try to post the manuscripts online two weeks before the meeting so that members will have a chance to review them in advance, but this does not always happen. Following our critique guidelines, we work our way through the manuscript, from title, to hook, to body, to close, commenting along the way.

Q: What do you do if a writer gets emotional or defensive?
A: I can recall only one incident of a writer getting teary-eyed, but this was due to the fact that she had had a particularly bad day and was overly sensitive, as she herself admitted. We have never had a case of a defensive writer.

Q: I know people who take every comment about their project to heart and make every change anyone suggests. Pretty soon his or her work is not even recognizable as their own. What would you say to a writer like this?
A: I emphasize regularly that member comments are just that: comments, and that each writer must make the final decision as to what he uses and what he discards.

Q: What would you suggest to others who would like to start a writers’ critique group?
A: Make sure that you have at least one, or preferably more, published and experienced writers who know what they are doing. The worst case scenario is that of the blind leading the blind.

Dr. Mary Ann Diorio, Founder/Director
The New Jersey Society of Christian Writers
PO Box 405
Millville, NJ 08332-0405
Email: daystar405@aol.com
http://www.njscw.com

Kathy Witt tells us about Northern Kentucky Writers’ Critique Group is the name of a new magazine launching in August of 2004 in PA. Paula Cochran is the editor and she is looking for freelance writers for several departments. She will pay $25 on acceptance. Are you interested in writing about volunteer and nonprofit issues, friendship, inner peace, the meaning of money in our lives, simplifying life or culture? If so, this may be a market for you. Contact Paula at paula4mail@evenlink.com. Or write to her at 73 East Market Street, Middleburg, PA 17842. has moved to 375 Lexington Ave., 8th Fl, NY 10017. is a southern regional magazine. They pay a generous $500 for a good fiction piece, $10 – $50 for poetry and anywhere from 10 cents to $1 per word for a 1500 – 2000-word feature. http://www.mockingbirdjournal.com
Who says there are no fiction markets? This one-year-old science fiction, fantasy and horror magazine is in the market for short stories. In fact their most urgent need right now is short, short flash fiction pieces of 1,000 words or less. They also publish nonfiction articles. The pay isn’t great, but it could be a foot-in-the-door for those of you interested in breaking into the science fiction market. http://www.alienskinmag.com

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