SPAWNews Newsletter – February 2010


Sandra Murphy, Editor

For contributions to the newsletter and Letters to the Editor, please email the editor of SPAWNews:

Those of you who are SPAWN members, be sure to visit the Members Only Area to read this month’s Market Update. Go to and click Log In. You will be asked for your username and password.
If you are not a member, join now online:

From the President

Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!

I know quite a few members attended our recent teleseminar with Mark Levine, the author of the Fine Print of Self Publishing. I have to say, Mark is an amazing source of publishing information. If you missed the live call, you can download the audio recording from the member area of the SPAWN Web site.

We’re scheduling more teleseminars with a wide range of experts. You can see the list of upcoming events on this page:

As you can see, next up in February is Peter Bowerman, the author of the Well-Fed Writer and the Well-Fed Self-Publisher. He’ll be talking about how you can make money as a commercial freelancer. The call is February 11, the day before my birthday. Talking to Peter will be a great birthday present, since he’s always fun and offers great actionable advice.

Until next month, keep on creating!

Susan Daffron (
President & Webmaster, Small Publishers Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN)
President, Logical Expressions, Inc.

February Teleseminar Announcement!

Peter Bowerman to Present Teleseminar for SPAWN Members

Who: Author, The Well-Fed Writer
When: February 11, 1 p.m. Pacific Time
How: Members will receive email with call-in details

Editor’s Note

My friend Pat writes about food. She interviews local cooks and even tests and shares their recipes. This month she interviewed a man she met at her weekly network. He was the speaker.

He started out by saying each person has something that holds them back from achieving their dreams—but if you are willing to adapt, you can overcome a lot of those obstacles. He knows—he loves to cook, but he has no arms. He has learned to adapt.

You can read Pat’s article at:

Disability is No Handicap

I find that I’m doing a lot of adapting myself, but not nearly as well this man. I’m complaining and kicking all the way, wishing the boom days were here again instead of looking for new opportunities in the moment. I have to remind myself that we rarely change when things are going smoothly. We have to be shot out of a cannon to get out of a rut.

I sat here all week staring at the computer and not one new market came looking for me! Hard to believe, isn’t it? So I guess I’ll figure out some new ways to adapt and maybe even light the fuse.

If you hear a big boom, watch for me flying through the air, arms and legs flailing, hair frizzed out, and screaming all the way. I’m guessing the screams will be a combination of fear and joy—but at least I’ll be moving again.

What will light a fire under you?

— Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews,

100th Issue of the SPAWN Market Update

by Patricia Fry

The February 2010 issue of the SPAWN Market Update is the 100th. This meaty, one-of-a kind newsletter is compiled each month by the Executive Director of SPAWN, Patricia Fry. Every month for the last eight years, we have brought you the latest in industry news, resources for authors and writers and numbers of opportunities for authors, publishers, freelance writers and artists. If you have a book to promote, a manuscript to publish or you are seeking work as a freelance artist or writer, the SPAWN Market Update is designed specifically for you. Available in the member only area of the SPAWN Web site.

The 100th issue of the SPAWN Market Update (in the member area of the SPAWN Web site) features something for every member, including:

  • an index to 299 tools and bits of advice for book promotion
  • hundreds of leads for authors who speak on behalf of their books
  • new book festival directory for authors
  • new publisher directories
  • an article on how to become a magazine or newspaper columnist
  • an interview with a publisher of children’s and young adult books
  • an interview with an agent who thrills at “shining the light of success on authors”
  • tips from an agent—how to land an agent at a writer’s conference
  • and much more!

If you’re an author or a freelance writer and you’re not a member of SPAWN, you’re missing out on thousands of leads, opportunities, resources and more, many of which could mean the difference between your mediocre or your major success. Many members get a two-fold return (PLUS) on their membership dues after following the leads in just one issue of the SPAWN Market Update.

Make your smartest business investment of the year. Join SPAWN today at

Ask the Book Doctor:

About Punctuation, Dialect, Employing Writers, and Discovering the Dark Side

By Bobbie Christmas

Q: What is the correct punctuation for the following?

“You makin’ fun of my name, or you be callin’ me a buzzard?” Linus asked.

Kendra’s infuriating “Whatever” was followed by “If the buzzard-shoe

fits, lace it up.”

A: The punctuation is fine as is, as long as the sentence beginning “Kendra’s” starts a new paragraph, which didn’t seem to be the case in the e-mail, but that’s a format issue and not a punctuation issue.

Also not a punctuation issue is my concern about the use of dialect (makin’, callin’) which is not recommended, for quite a few reasons. Rarely can an author maintain the dialect throughout, and when one does, dialectical dialogue grows tedious for readers. Dialect is not only difficult to write but also difficult to read, and many publishers shun it. Instead of dropping letters to show dialect, rely on word choice to show the speaking style of characters, as was skillfully done in the last piece of dialogue, “If the buzzard-shoe fits, lace it up.”

Q:Where can I find an established writer to write my husband’s story?

A: Let’s first discuss the term “established,” because I want to be sure you are informed about the writing business. Most established authors and ghostwriters will not co-write a book without getting paid up-front, because their time is valuable, they know how difficult it is to sell a book to a publisher, and they know that even if a publisher buys the book, the royalties on it can be abysmal. For those reasons, established writers won’t “write on spec,” as we call it—a term that refers to the speculation that the book might sell, and if it does, the writer would participate in the royalties. Unless you have $10,000 to $25,000 to pay an established writer or ghostwriter, look for someone who is not yet established. For a writer willing to work on spec, call around to find a college with an MFA program in creative writing. Ask the professor how to get your request to students. Perhaps one of the students will take on your husband’s story as a writing project and use it toward getting a degree.

If, however, you have the funds to pay an established ghostwriter for your book, many are registered with writers’ organizations. Search the Internet, and be sure to get references on the person you choose.

Q: I’m usually good at creating characters, but I’m having a devil of a hard time with creating the protagonist for my novel. I don’t want him to drink or smoke, so on the face of it he’s picture perfect—too perfect. I’d like to give him vices, perhaps even a schism or an addiction, maybe even be self-destructive; however, drugs, sex, and alcohol just seem too cliché. Nothing really comes to mind or “feels right.” Do you have any suggestions or perhaps a method you can suggest?

A: You are correct that you don’t want any of your characters, even the good guys, to be all good or all bad. We all have our flaws, so your characters should have flaws as well.

Here’s a possible technique for adding flaws to your characters: Read the traits allegedly applied to various signs of the Zodiac. Most listings of traits give the good traits first and then the darker side of those traits, the ones that can go to extremes and become negative. Use one or two of those negative traits for your protagonist, to show his dark side. In this way you won’t use traits that are overused by other authors to make a character less than perfect.

When reading those personality traits, you’ll find realistic things that even good people can do when they allow their dark side to prevail on occasion. For example, I know a fine, intelligent man who is romantic, loving, generous, helpful, and kind. If someone doesn’t want his help though, or if he thinks his efforts are being rebuffed, he gets defensive and even sometimes shouts, slams down the phone, or says hurtful things.

As another example, I am a Virgo, and most horoscopes say I am organized, diligent, and a good communicator, which is all true; however, on the dark side, when things get disorganized, I can feel frustrated and defeated and get depressed, if I’m not careful.

Bobbie Christmas, book doctor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Visit Bobbie’s blog at Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at

Member News

Want to be part of the Member News? Send us your items and we’ll be glad to include your good news in the next issue. Want to be a Member Interview? It will give you a chance to plug your book, your business, yourself. Just email me and let me know you’d like to be included. The email is

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Thanks to Victory Crayne for the work she did on the membership roster. Helen Gallagher is the membership director who will be sending out renewals, so watch for her emails. You don’t want to miss out on even one issue of the SPAWN Market Update, our monthly teleseminars with experts in the world of publishing and book promotion, or any other benefits of SPAWN membership!

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Barbara Florio Graham from Simon Teakettle Ink told us, “I’m delighted to be quoted in an article in the February issue of Reader’s Digest. On page 162 of the Canadian edition, in the RD Work section, there’s an article by Helen Lammers-Helps called Tapping Into Your Creativity, which mentions my online creativity course and includes a side-bar with my suggestions.”

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Mari Barnes is happy to announce Parting River Jordan is now an e-book on Smashwords! She will describe her journey through the publishing maze in the March SPAWNews.

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Dallas Woodburn’s Write On! For Literacy is one of seven national finalists for a $5,000 grant from Glamour Magazine and Sally Hansen in the “Best of You” contest. Your vote will help them win. Here is the link to vote:

For every vote they receive, $1 will be donated to DKMS, the world’s largest bone marrow donation center. Just by voting, you make a difference!!

And thanks to everyone who generously donated books and time to Write On’s Eighth Annual Holiday Book Drive! The cumulative eight-year donation is now 11,117 new books, which have been given to disadvantaged and at-risk kids and teens

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Note: To have your announcements included in Member News, you must be a paid member of SPAWN. Please email your news to

Member Commentary

Word Usage

by Bonnie Myhrum

Today someone asked me about the word media, meaning more than one medium…we had been talking about artists and the variety of media they use–acrylics, oil, watercolor, etc. It wasn’t until I explained that media is the plural of that singular noun (medium) that I thought about how many different meanings the word medium has.

We hear about the media all the time, meaning the news media. We used to call it mass media, but it seems to have evolved into the media. In this case medium is a channel or system of communication, information or entertainment. When we refer to all of those, it becomes the media.

Then there’s the person (a medium) who is an intermediary between the earthly world and the spirit world. I wonder if a convention of mediums would be called a media convention? Hmm. But maybe mediums wouldn’t actually go to a convention, because really, they aren’t all that conventional, or at least it seems they aren’t. Maybe they are moderately conventional, which would make them medium mediums.

Which brings me to medium used as an adjective. I like my steak grilled medium-well done. Or the sky was a shade of medium blue. Or the movie was not wonderful, and it wasn’t terrible–it was just medium-okay. Medium could be tedium, couldn’t it? I supposed it depends on your personality.

And speaking of personality, everyone has his or her unique writing style, but beyond writing style, we all seem to make the same errors.

Just today I received an email saying (I will substitute names to protect the innocent): “George, Sally, Alice and myself did an audit.” (I would rather see “George, Sally, Alice and I did an audit.”)

Myself often is used to reflect to the subject of the sentence, as in “I gave myself a pat on the back…”, so its use in the first sentence (“George, Sally, etc.”) doesn’t seem correct. However, it is becoming more and more common to see myself used as a replacement for I or me, and before long it will be (if it isn’t already) acceptable.

As I proofread/edit, I use a dictionary and the Chicago Manual of Style a lot, just to be sure I make correct corrections. Probably the biggest thing I’ve learned is that our language is always evolving and that what I learned back in the day may no longer be correct. It’s always a surprise and continues to keep me humble, because I used to think I knew everything.

For more articles on writing, grammar, punctuation and spelling, visit my blog “Read/reed Write/rite” at

SPAWN member Bonnie Myhrum, editor/proofreader, proofreads SPAWNews and has edited and/or proofread numerous books, proposals, articles, flyers, Web sites, letters and other written (and sometimes spoken) words. See her Web site at, email her at or call 734.455.0987.

Book Review

by Dallas Woodburn

The I Love to Write Book: Ideas & Tips for Young Writers
by Mary-Lane Kamberg
Crickhollow Books, $16.95
136 pages—paperback
ISBN 978-1933987057

On November 15, 2002, John Riddle started “I Love To Write Day” —what he describes as “the world’s biggest party for writers” —to encourage people across the globe to put pen to paper in some form, whether that be writing a letter or finishing a novel. He says, “I believe that people need to be challenged, and writing is one of the many creative ways to express yourself.”

I Love To Write Day events have been held at thousands of schools and libraries, and nine state governors have even proclaimed November 15 as I Love To Write Day in their states. Pretty exciting stuff for writers and word-lovers of all ages!

Mary-Lane Kamberg is the author of eleven books and the director of a summer writing camp in Kansas for young writers. Inspired by I Love To Write Day, she wanted to do even more to encourage young people to discover the joy of writing. So she penned The I Love To Write Book as a “practical springboard” for writing enthusiasm.

The book is organized into three sections: Get Started; Write, Write, Write; and Revise, Edit, and Proofread. Each section is broken down into short chapters covering everything from how to get ideas and how to organize “the muddle in the middle,” to how to rewrite using a computer. One of my favorite aspects is the inspirational writing quotes sprinkled throughout, like this gem from Ray Bradbury: “We are cups … constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”

The final chapter features tips for sending your work out for publication—plus information about nine markets that specifically ask for work by young writers. Many young writers want to get published, but aren’t quite sure how the process works. This book breaks the query-and-submission process down into manageable steps. There is also a comprehensive glossary of terms and an appendix of additional resources.

The I Love to Write Book can also be used as a workbook or a self-motivated creative writing course, because each chapter features multiple “Try This!” activities, ranging from writing a haiku to writing a letter to the editor. This book would make a great gift not only for kids, but it would also be an interesting read for teachers who want to incorporate more fun writing activities into their lesson plans.

The I Love To Write Book is a practical and tip-filled writing handbook, but even more than that, it is a wonderful reminder to embrace the joy, discovery, and fulfillment that comes from expressing yourself through writing. Here’s hoping that in 2010, every day is I Love to Write Day!

Dallas Woodburn, the Youth Director of SPAWN, is also the founder of Write On! For Literacy. Dallas has published two collections of short stories, 3 a.m. and There’s a Huge Pimple On My Nose. Check out her Web site for more information.

Featured Members

Charlotte and Jon O’Brien

We first heard about SPAWN when Jon co-hosted with Frances Halpern and I produced a weekly two-hour radio show for NPR called BEYOND WORDS, which was radio’s first show for and about the creative process. As we interviewed authors and self-publishers, SPAWN was often referred to in glowing terms. Throughout the five years, we also talked to SPAWN leadership and were always impressed with their support of all things involving the arts and literature. They became our go-to interviewees for all things cutting edge and groundbreaking in self-publishing.

Although Jon is a notorious no-joiner, he remembers saying to himself: “If I ever do a book, I’m going to do three things: (1) Self-publish, (2) Buy Dan Poynter’s book and (3) join SPAWN.” We did all three and credit Poynter and SPAWN for much of the success we’ve had with our first book so far.

One of the pieces of advice we hear often is that an author should view a book as nothing more than a brochure to promote her/himself in the more lucrative fields of workshops and speaking engagements. We don’t completely buy into that. We worked hard to make the book one that would be readable, enjoyable, helpful, and in terms of marketing, address an unmet need in the nonprofit community for many years to come. For what it’s worth, these days when self-published books outnumber the total number of traditionally published books generated in a year, a constant compliment we get from readers and buyers is that they had no idea it was self-published.

Last year was our first year offering presentations and workshops, which totaled about a dozen. They are geared toward anyone who works for or with nonprofits, regardless of their track record, experience, or organizational budget. One workshop focus is how FUNdamental storytelling principles used by Hollywood’s top screenwriters can help better one’s writing by bettering one’s thinking. The other focus is to have fun and be different from all the other cookie-cutter workshops in this arena. One thing that has surprised us is the growing number of creative writers who attend the workshops to hear about JON’S ALMOST-WORLD-FAMOUS SEVEN Cs. When it comes down to it, it’s all about effectively telling a compelling story. This is why we strongly encourage the members of SPAWN to use their storytelling, creativity, and writing skills to help nonprofits win some grant money. Jon, who was a professional screenwriter and network executive a long time ago in a career far, far away, always contends that grant writing is a much more creative process than screenwriting—and definitely more rewarding.

Jon has been self-employed for more than 25 years. As he jokes, “I decided if I was going to work for a jerk I might as well be self-employed.” Self-employment is good if you like the idea of gambling on yourself; you’ve got to be willing to go all in, all the time. Since we met over 30 years ago, Jon’s and my preference has been to work together. That doesn’t mean we always see things the same way or agree on everything—but when we do come to a compromise—it’s really never a compromise; the final product is always better.  Instead of internalizing the creative process as most artists and writers do, we externalize it with each other. It’s a great luxury, really, providing each other with structure, honest insight and support of each other through the indefatigable belief one must have in what he/she produces.

In terms of breaking the rules, we abide by the Bizarro Code (thanks, DC Comics) which states “Us do opposite of all Earthly things!” The Bizarro way is taking the opposite approach to everything. And that’s just the way we took on the process of self-publishing our first book.  Whenever we caught ourselves doing something because “that is the way it has always been done,” we came up with a different approach. Although there is great financial and creative risk involved, we have found that it is those bold and bizarro choices that have made RIGHT BEFORE YOU WRITE and our workshops stand out from others in the category. Here’s an example from the first words of the ABOUT THE AUTHOR section of RBYW: “I consider Jon O’Brien uniquely unqualified to write a book about writing.” These are words supposedly written by Jon’s unpaid ghost writer.  This is a result of our abhorrence for glowing About the Author written in third person by the author.

When it stops being fun, we stop doing it. Our definition of success is to make a profit by making a difference. Not Fortune 500 thinking, we know. But we see success not in numbers, but just being fortunate enough to do our best at what we like to do best.

Charlotte O’Brien
President-Worldwide Operations
Sandy Point Ink
Good books for good people who do good things. (TM)

Home of RIGHT BEFORE YOU WRITE: The Groundbreaking Planning Process Used To Win More Than $385 Million In Competitive Grant Awards
Available at
Distributed by Independent Publishers Group
Expert distribution services for innovative publishers

“This is the funniest book about writing I’ve ever read — and also the most serious. … O’Brien covers the basics and the details with the same take-no-prisoners style, and turns a complicated topic into a learning adventure.” Independent Publisher Online

This and That

2010 Edgar Award Nominees were announced—we’ll find out the winner in April.

  • Best Novel—The Last Child by John Hart
  • Best First Novel—In the Shadow of Gotham by Stephanie Pintoff
  • Best Paperback Original—Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott
  • Best Fact Crime—Provenance by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo
  • Best Critical or Biographical Work—The Lineup edited by Otto Penzler
  • Best Young Adult Novel—If the Witness Lied by Caroline Cooney

Contests, Events and Opportunities

We have moved the Contests, Awards, Events, and Opportunities listings to the blog. Please use these links to get the latest information

Contests and Awards

Events and Opportunities


SPAWN is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. SPAWNews advises “caveat emptor” when dealing with venues, contests or promotions unknown to you. SPAWNews was proofread by Bonnie Myhrum, Professional Secretary, LLC. 734-455-0987.

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