In Search of Great American Writers

Happy Tuesday, AWers! This press release just arrived in my inbox, and I thought some of you might be interested:

Saturday Evening Post logo




Indianapolis (February 6, 2012) — On the eve of the 110th birthday of John Steinbeck, a contributor to The Saturday Evening Post and the acclaimed author of classic novels including The Grapes of Wrath—the Post announces its first ever “Great American Fiction Contest.” The competition offers aspiring novelists the opportunity to join the ranks of other renowned Post contributors including F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, Louis L’Amour, Sinclair Lewis, Jack London and Edgar Allan Poe.

“Good writers help us understand who we are. And The Saturday Evening Post believes that supporting and encouraging writing is all the more vital in a universe where media is evolving so rapidly,” said Editorial Director Steven Slon.

Sponsored by the nonprofit the Saturday Evening Post Society, the contest is designed to promote fiction and creative writing, while seeking America’s next great, unpublished voices. The winning story will be published in the January/February 2013 issue of The Saturday Evening Post and on the magazine’s website. The winner will also be awarded $500, while five runners-up will receive $100 each and have their stories published on the Post’s website.

Entries must be character- or plot-driven stories in any genre of fiction that falls within the Post’s broad range of interests. Entrants must be previously unpublished authors (excluding personal websites and blogs) and stories must be 1,500-5,000 words in length. All submissions should be made electronically in Microsoft Word format with the author’s name, address, telephone number and email address on the first page. The Saturday Evening Post editorial staff in consultation with the magazine’s fiction advisory board will judge the stories. There is a $10 entry fee and all entries must be postmarked by July 1, 2012.

For more information, or to submit a story, please visit

Remember: Write hard. Write true. And write on!


Hey there AWers, don’t miss a good basic introduction to copyright and what it is, from an attorney specializing in literary law, guest-posted at

As a policy matter, circulating ideas is considered more important than encouraging creative expression, so if there is a risk that an idea will be suppressed because the only way to explain it is copyrighted, the courts will find that the explanation can’t be copyrighted.

(Via Brainstorms & Bylines, another terrific site for aspiring and practicing freelance writers.)


Odyssey banner ad

About Odyssey (from their press release):


About Odyssey
Since its founding in 1996, Odyssey has become one of the most respected workshops in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror writing community. Odyssey is for developing writers whose work is approaching publication quality and for published writers who want to improve their work. The six-week workshop combines advanced lectures, exercises, extensive writing, and in-depth feedback on student manuscripts. Top authors, editors, and agents have served as guest lecturers, including George R. R. Martin, Harlan Ellison, Jane Yolen, Terry Brooks, Robert J. Sawyer, Ben Bova, Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Hand, Jeff VanderMeer, Donald Maass, Sheila Williams, Shawna McCarthy, Carrie Vaughn, and Dan Simmons. Fifty-six percent of Odyssey graduates go on to professional publication.

The program is held every summer on Saint Anselm College’s beautiful campus in Manchester, NH. Saint Anselm is one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the country, dedicated to excellence in education, and its campus provides a peaceful setting and state-of-the-art facilities for Odyssey students. College credit is available upon request.

Jeanne Cavelos, Odyssey’s director and primary instructor, is a best-selling author and a former senior editor at Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing, where she won the World Fantasy Award for her work. As an editor, Cavelos gained a reputation for discovering and nurturing new writers. She provides students with detailed, concrete, constructive critiques of their work. Cavelos said, “I’ve worked with many different writers, and I know that each writer thinks and works differently. We limit attendance at Odyssey to sixteen, so I can become deeply familiar with the work of each student and provide assessments of strengths and weaknesses. I work individually with each student, helping each one to find the best writing process for him, suggesting specific tools to target weaknesses, and charting progress over the six weeks,” Cavelos said. Her typewritten critiques average over 1,200 words, and her handwritten line edits on manuscripts are extensive.

Odyssey class time is split between workshopping sessions and lectures. An advanced, comprehensive curriculum covers the elements of fiction writing in depth. While feedback reveals the weaknesses in students’ manuscripts, lectures teach the tools and techniques necessary to strengthen them.

The workshop runs from June 11 to July 20, 2012. Class meets for four hours in the morning, five days a week. Students spend about eight hours more per day writing and critiquing each other’s work. Prospective students, aged eighteen and up, apply from all over the world. The early admission application deadline is JANUARY 31, and the regular admission deadline is APRIL 7. Tuition is $1920, and housing is $790 for a double room in a campus apartment and $1580 for a single room.

Meet Our 2012 Writer-in-Residence
Odyssey’s 2012 writer-in-residence, Jeanne Kalogridis, is the New York Times best-selling author of more than thirty books ranging from historical novels to dark fantasy to novelizations. She has written in many different genres, and has even written several nonfiction titles. Her novels are renowned for their detail and evocativeness. Her The Diaries of the Family Dracul trilogy was described as “authentically arresting” by the New York Times and “terrifying” by Robert Bloch, the author of Psycho. Kalogridis is also an amazing teacher and mentor, who has taught at the American University in Washington, D.C.

Other Guest Lecturers
Lecturers for the 2012 workshop include some of the best teachers in the field: acclaimed authors Paul Park, Elaine Isaak, Barbara Ashford, and Craig Shaw Gardner; and top agent Jennifer Jackson.

Odyssey Graduates
Graduates of the Odyssey Writing Workshop have been published in the top fiction magazines and by the top book publishers in the field. Their stories have appeared in Realms of Fantasy, Analog, Asimov’s, Weird Tales, Lightspeed, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Fantasy Magazine. Some of the recent novels published by Odyssey graduates are Kitty’s Big Trouble by Carrie Vaughn, published by Tor Books; Spellcast by Barbara Ashford, published by DAW; Jane and the Raven King by Stephen Chambers, published by Sourcebooks; and Sword of Fire and Sea, by Erin Hoffman, published by Pyr Books.

Martin Larsson, from the class of 2011, had this to say about his Odyssey experience: “The six weeks of Odyssey were a roller-coaster ride of inspiration, inadequacy issues, laughter, tears, learning and despair. Somehow, with Jeanne at the helm, we navigated through all this and came out the other side, forever changed into better writers and better people. I came away from Odyssey with knowledge I didn’t know existed and inspiration I’ve never felt before. Apply. Apply now.”

Comments from the Class of 2011
“I have a bachelor’s in Spanish literature, an M.F.A. in writing, and a Ph.D. in linguistics, but nobody has ever taught me about writing the way I’ve been taught at Odyssey.” –Donna Glee Williams

“The Odyssey course is amazing! What a privilege to be able to experience this level of teaching! The incredible amount of progress that each participant made during this course speaks for itself. Fantastic, inspiring teaching in a supportive and encouraging environment!” –K. V. Lavers

Other Odyssey Resources and Services
The Odyssey Web site,, offers many resources for writers, including online classes, a critique service, free podcasts, writing and publishing tips, and a monthly LiveJournal, as well as more information about how to apply. Those interested in applying to the workshop should visit the Web site, phone (603) 673-6234, or e-mail

Workshop Critiques: Four Ways To Convey Constructive Criticism

By Michele R. Bardsley

Writers who seek out critique workshops want to improve their writing. They must. Why else would they allow their works to be judged by other writers?

While writers who offer their manuscripts to the group must be mentally prepared to accept criticism, it is the group’s responsibility to make sure opinions are conveyed in a positive and encouraging manner. Yet is that always possible? Some manuscripts need a little fine-tuning, but others need a match and some kerosene. How can you, as a critique group member, impart constructive criticism to another writer?

Start With Positive Comments

No matter how badly written a manuscript is, there is always a little nugget of goodness nestled in it. Even if it’s only a word or phrase, point it out before expounding on the manuscript’s problems.

“Writers should convey criticism honestly, but with tact,” says Judy Snavely, an award-winning writer who recently finished her first novel. “I have experienced something very close to ridicule a time or two from my fellow writers. It’s unnecessary and unprofessional.”

Your choice of words can help or hinder a fellow writer. Blurting out, “This is awful,” is not helpful. In one classroom workshop I participated in, a beginning writer turned in 40 pages of his mainstream novel. I disliked the protagonist, the love scene offended me, and the writing was, well, awful. I found one beautifully written sentence that I complimented him on and then I picked one or two aspects—out of the hundreds I wanted to say—to tactfully criticize.

Positive comments cushion the forthcoming criticisms and the writer will probably be more receptive to your ideas. If you can’t find a single good thing about the work, do as your mother told you, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Use The Phrase “It’s Your Story.” Then Believe It

End your commentary with, “This is my opinion, but it’s your story.”

Using this phrase will reassure the writer that you’re trying to help him or her and it also reminds you not to try and change the story to fit your ideals. Always remember that you are trying to help the author first. As writers, we automatically think of additions or plots or twists, but we can’t impose our ideas. Unless a writer wants a brainstorming session, focus comments on your initial reactions to the work. Offer suggestions for changes–but only go into detail if asked.

Offer Your Ear, Not Your Pen

Unless you’re getting paid, be careful about offering editing services to group members. A writer can easily become dependent upon someone willing to line edit and critique a manuscript. For example, a writer in one of my critique groups relied heavily on members to fix her manuscript’s problems. We happily helped her by taking chapters home and spending hours on them instead of our own writing. Finally, we had to stop “helping” her and suggested she rewrite the chapters before bringing them to critique.

The purpose of a critique group is to help the writer improve. Critique members should learn from each other. If a writer is taking advantage of the group’s skills without infusing the knowledge into his or her writing, then the group’s effort is wasted.

A Writer Doesn’t Have To Listen

No matter how right you believe your comments are or how well you think you can help, the writer doesn’t have to listen to you. Writers should choose the information they feel will best help them. However, there are some members who refuse to listen to anyone. Just as the writer has the right not to listen, you have the right not to comment. If you feel your input is always ignored, then pass when your turn comes to critique.

A few years ago, I took a Novel I class. We were all novices, except for one gentleman who had completed two novels. He submitted his chapters for our approval, but we all had difficulty with his plot. He didn’t want to listen to our reactions, he only wanted to hear about his wonderful writing. No matter how we put our comments, he had an answer, a jibe or a blithe quip. Eventually, we gave up trying to help him. While giving critiques is sometimes a difficult task, it is usually worth the effort.

Think of a critique group as a flower bed. Seeds are planted, fertilizer is added (we are writers after all), and after a lot of sunshine and pruning, the writer grows. Nurturing a blossom is not the same as holding a wilting plant up with wires. Encourage growth, but if it doesn’t happen, concentrate on the writers who are blooming.

© Copyright by Michele R. Bardsley

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Michele Bardsley lives in Las Vegas with her husband and two children. Visit her at

BookWish Foundation Essay Contest

Happy Holidays, AWers! I thought some of you might be interested in this:

Win a literary agent or acclaimed author’s feedback on your unpublished manuscript for young adult or middle grade readers. This rare opportunity is being offered to the six winners of an essay contest recently announced by the literacy charity Book Wish Foundation. See for full details.

What You Wish For

You could win a manuscript critique from:

Laura Langlie, literary agent for Meg Cabot

Nancy Gallt, literary agent for Jeanne DuPrau

Brenda Bowen, literary agent and editor of Karen Hesse’s Newbery Medal winner Out of the Dust

Ann M. Martin, winner of the Newbery Honor for A Corner of the Universe

Francisco X. Stork, winner of the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award for The Last Summer of the Death Warriors

Cynthia Voigt, winner of the Newbery Medal for Dicey’s Song and the Newbery Honor for A Solitary Blue

All that separates you from this prize is a 500-word essay about a short story in Book Wish Foundation’s new anthology, What You Wish For. Essays are due Feb. 1, 2012 and winners will be announced around Mar. 1, 2012. If you win, you will have six months to submit the first 50 pages of your manuscript for critique (which means you can enter the contest even if you haven’t finished, or started, your manuscript). You can even enter multiple times, with essays about more than one of the contest stories, for a chance to win up to six critiques.

If you dream of being a published author, this is an opportunity you should not miss. To enter, follow the instructions at

Good luck and best wishes,

Logan Kleinwaks
President, Book Wish Foundation

What You Wish For (ISBN 9780399254543, Putnam Juvenile, Sep. 15, 2011) is a collection of short stories and poems about wishes from 18 all-star writers: Meg Cabot, Jeanne DuPrau, Cornelia Funke, Nikki Giovanni, John Green, Karen Hesse, Ann M. Martin, Alexander McCall Smith, Marilyn Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye, Joyce Carol Oates, Nate Powell, Sofia Quintero, Gary Soto, R.L. Stine, Francisco X. Stork, Cynthia Voigt, Jane Yolen. With a Foreword by Mia Farrow. Book Wish Foundation is donating 100% of its proceeds from the book to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, to fund the development of libraries in Darfuri refugee camps in eastern Chad.


2012 BlueCat Screenplay Competition

Final DEADLINE: November 15th

Every screenplay entered is read by two readers and receives two written analyses
We provide each writer who enters BlueCat two written analyses, ensuring each entry is reviewed by two readers, while supporting screenwriters of all levels and stages of development with the constructive feedback all writers require.

“How great to get these analyses — and from astute and careful readers. Their comments both encourage and challenge me to really examine how to make this script as good as it can be. Thanks again! – Cornelia R., 2012 Entrant

BlueCat is an international community that has been discovering and developing writers since 1998. Our Winners and Finalists have been signed by major talent agencies like UTA, CAA and WME, sold their work to studios like Warner Bros., Paramount and Universal, and won major awards at the Sundance, Berlin and Tribeca Film Festivals, all after being discovered by and winning BlueCat. 
Judged by award winning Screenwriter and Director, Gordy Hoffman.

Winner of the 2012 Competition will receive $10,000.
Four Finalists will receive $2000 each.
Best Screenplay from the UK: $1000.
Best Screenplay from outside the USA, Canada and UK: $1000.

One writer will be awarded a live, staged reading with professional local actors at Screenplay Live in Rochester, New York, as part of the 360|365 George Eastman House Film Festival.

BlueCat Alumni News
BlueCat Winner The Man in the Rearview Mirror sells for low six figures.

Michael Fassbender (X-MEN: FIRST CLASS) attaches to BlueCat finalist Aaron Guzikowski’s Blacklist Script.

Jim Beggarly BlueCat Finalist (2005) currently has two feature films in post-production; FREE SAMPLES which stars Jesse Eisenberg (THE SOCIAL NETWORK) and Jason Ritter (Oliver Stone’s W.) and THE KITCHEN, which stars Laura Prepon (THAT 70s SHOW).


BlueCat Screenplay Competition

November, NaNo, and Taking Inspiration

Hey AWers!

Welcome to November—and writers everywhere know that November means NaNoWriMo. Do you NaNo? If you are, swing by the NaNoWriMo and Beyond room on the AW Forums, and say howdy to all the other masochists.

I’ll confess that I’m already seven days behind. I’m currently putting together our first AW Anthology, and that’s definitely eaten into my available time. NaNo just isn’t happening for me, this year.

But whether you’re attempting a November Novel or not, you might take a look around the NaNo site, and you investigate the associated specials, check out NaNo swag, or look into shiny new writing tools like Scrivener (it’s flexible and friendly software for writers, available for NaNo at a significant discount).

If NaNo is just a little too ambitious for you, but you’d still like to set some achievable goals and find some support, check out the AW Forums Write One/Sub One room. At the very least, consider November a great time to let yourself be re-inspired about your own writing goals, whatever they may be!

Writing about Family: A Sacred Cow or Smorgasbord?

By Holly Cardamone

Family is undoubtedly the richest source of inspiration for a writer, nonfiction or otherwise. Things happen in families. Families ritualistically dance together joyously at a child’s twenty-first birthday party and behave abominably towards each other during Christmas lunch. We become both witnesses to and participants in family-specific rites of passage, emblematic characteristics and dialogue, and ongoing domestic drama. A loved one may display mannerisms and affects that when captured vividly in writing creates a powerful presence within text.

However, the ability to use elements of a loved one’s personal life is dependent upon the writer’s level of comfort in manipulating aspects of a parent or a sibling’s personality and behavior for the sake of the writing. The cantankerous squabbling of elderly grandparents can make for fascinating and funny dialogue within a text, yet in the back of a writer’s mind may lay anxiety in an uncomfortably accurate portrayal or representation of a family member, who within a text becomes a character.

When using family as a subject when writing I often struggle with an almost tangible tension between revealing and concealing. My mother sits on one shoulder with an angelic look of “please don’t,” while my father sits on the other, grinning devilishly, telling me to go for it. This tension can actually be quite disabling; for fear of disapproval, for misrepresentation or perhaps even a fear of betrayal. Australian writer Helen Garner concedes “I tried hard to be irresponsible, to vanish, to be swallowed up by the texture of the writing. Because the one who records will never be forgiven. Endured, yes; tolerated, put up with, borne, and still loved; but not forgiven.” This is a frightening concept. Who wants to alienate herself from her own family? Or to reveal a family’s perceived shame or embarrassment to the public sphere?

My grandmother was recently admitted into an aged care facility, against her will. The day she was admitted, I sat at my mother’s table with her two sisters and her brother as, red-eyed and traumatized by Nana’s distress, they reminisced about their childhood when their mother was a strong, independent presence in their lives. They could’t share all of their recollections; my mother, sixteen years younger than her brother, had a different set of memories about her mother as a young woman. That day I reflected on the struggle within families about who owns families, about who has the most accurate portrayal of a loved one. It struck me that if I were to write about my grandmother’s life, it is a very real possibility that my extended family, my aunts, my cousins, may not cope with or accept my representation of their loved one.

Writing represents our opinions about experiences, people, personalities, and events. Reconstructions subsequently arise from our memory, our imagination, and are written and recreated in the manner in which we consciously create them. To write about one’s family honestly and openly is a courageous act, and one with which this writer struggles. However, my family is made up of an array of characters that deserve immortalizing through text, particularly through my representation of the characters. Christmas lunches may continue to be interesting.


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