Category Archives: Writing

get your publishing on!

I’ve been interested in establishing my own publishing house, which I know will be hard, but with this new wave of technology, it can be a bit easier now. In Baltimore, there is a small publishing house named Publishing Genius. The founder is Adam Robinson, a graduate student at the University of Baltimore who is studying creative writing and the publishing  arts (I’m not sure if he has already graduated or not). Anyway, Robison operates a small press where he publishes fiction and poems. I love the cover art of Robison’s books–it’s very artsy and modern. That is what I love about UB–it’s so full of creativity. UB’s writing program emphasizes not only writing, but also design. In most graduate writing programs, students only produce a manuscript, but at UB students design their own books. I have designed a couple of books myself, check them out! I made them by hand, which was extremely tedious. One of my books, Chocolate Dreams (2009), is featured in The Indiestry Magazine, Spring 2010, Writer’s Block Issue. In my article, “How to Hand Make a Hardcover Book,” I explain how I constructed my book; click here to read the article.

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is school for me?

I know a lot of writers are asking themselves the question, should I obtain a Masters or Masters of Fine Arts in writing? Well, I know for myself, I think going to graduate school has made me a better writer. Often times, writers don’t want to own the fact that they are writers; they might be unwilling to label themselves as a writer because they feel that they don’t have the necessary credentials. However, in grad school, you realize that you are a writer. You realize that you are an artist. You also establish bonds with your classmates. You discuss writing, and you begin to learn more about your classmates everyday. You see the same handful of people every year, which is cool. The only con about going to grad school is that it can be quite expensive. I recommend that prospective students apply for financial aid, but you have to earn at least six credits. Also, see if your school offers scholarships and assistantships (you work for the school and the school pays part of your tuition). Even if you can’t afford graduate school, I recommend that you attend local writing groups and conferences. Also, a subscription to Poets and Writers is also a useful resource. And, I’m pretty sure your local public library has literary events. Absorb as much creativity as you can, fellow writers.

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so you want to write, huh? (Part II)

As I was looking at my blog stats, it appeared that the previous post, “so you want to write, huh?,” was pretty popular. So, I decided to follow-up with more information to get you started on your writing career. As a beginner writer, you’re probably asking yourself, “Where do I submit my work?” A good place to start is a website called NewPages. This website is an invaluable tool for writers; everything a writer wants to know about can be found: submissions, contests, literary journals, writing conferences, and schools that have writing programs. Every month, I check out NewPages to see what literary publications are requesting submissions. Also, if you have a blog or website that you want to share with the world, then you can email newpages@newpages.com (place in the subject line “Blog Link”) to get your website/blog posted on a list. It took my blog, Writer’s Paradise, around two months to get listed.

Also, I suggest that you see about local writing groups in your area. If you’re from Maryland like myself there is the Maryland Writer’s Association. You have to pay $40 for annual dues. But the cool thing  about MWA is that the organization sponsors events that help writers develop their craft and learn the business. Also, within MWA, there are critique groups where you can meet other members and have your work workshopped.

Another thing that I suggest writers to do is to keep a writing journal. I know for myself, I can become inspired, and for whatever reason, a story begins to unfold in my head. Write it down. Also, read the newspapers. As the saying goes, life is stranger than fiction.

And the most important rule, read as much as you can. If you like a particular sentence, write it down and study it. What did the author do that made that sentence compelling?

If you have any other ideas as to how to become a better writer, feel free to share. Remember this website was developed to create a writing community. I would love to hear your advice.

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the fame game

Today, I received an email from my friend, Sherna, about the new edition of her online magazine, The Indiestry. And who was featured on it? Yours truly. On the site, I discuss how to make a hardcover book. Also, there is a posting of my short story, “Elvis,” which first appeared as a web-exclusive story for The Baltimore Urbanite, August 2009, Emerging Writers Issue. I must admit, it is exciting to see your work featured on a website or publication. To get published is such a high. It is a thrill that I don’t think I will ever tire of. Now, I see why some celebrities lose their minds. Fame must be a drug. The best drug out there.  Can you imagine entering a bookstore and seeing your book on display? Your book selected for The Barnes and Noble’s Discover Award? To get advances in the hundred of thousands? This is what every writer dreams of, even if he doesn’t want to admit it. Why else do we try so hard? Be willing to write for publications for free? Because at the end, we are hoping for a great payoff. Who knows? Maybe it can be you.    

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so you want to write, huh?

I just submitted  prose poetry to Tin House, and I was wondering how much writers are compensated get when their work is accepted. So, I google the term, Tin House submissions, and I found this awesome website entitled, Blue Mosaic Me: The Literary Blog of Jackson Bliss. I really enjoyed this website because the author, who is a PhD Literature and Creative Writing student at the University of Southern California, discusses the writing process. He mentions conversations with his professors at USC: Aimee Bender, Percival Everett, and T.C. Boyle. He includes the various rejections letters that he has received from literary magazines, email correspondence from New Yorker staff members, and authors like Junot Diaz. So if you want to get a realistic view about how hard it is to be an emerging writer, you should check this website out ASAP. You can thank me later. If you know of a website that is helpful for writers, please share.

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writing it down

I have been journaling ever since I was in 7th grade. My father gave me a green leather journal for my birthday. At first, my entries were very censored and guarded. No lie, my entries would only be a couple of lines about what happened during the day. I was afraid to really write down how I felt because that meant I had to be honest, and who wants to see your bare soul written down on paper? But by my second journal, I started to get real. Instead of a couple of sentences, my entries begin to be half pages. I wrote about who was getting on my nerves, what I wanted, my thoughts and feelings. Now, I’m 25 and I can’t imagine not journaling. Writing down your feelings forces you to confront your issues. It’s also very liberating. Sometimes it can be funny to read journals from your past; it’s funny to read about what you thought was so important was not that important for you to remember five years later. I encourage everyone to journal because it will make you understand yourself better. You are tracking your evolution. Trust me. It will alter your life.

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ways of seeing?

Right now, I’m in my second year of graduate school. I’ve been attending the University of Baltimore, which has helped my writing tremendously. UB’s MFA Creative Writing & Publishing Arts program helps you tap into your creative side. For example, there is class called, “Creativity: Ways of Seeing.” At the beginning of every course, we had to read Wallace Stevens’ poem,  “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” and for every reading we had to read it differently. One time, we read it in a made-up language, which I guess defeats the purpose of “reading” the poem, but it was fun and a bit embarrassing. I’ll admit, when I first took that class, I was like, “What the fudge?” For me, writing was about creating and all this observing crap was just some artsy stuff that I wasn’t into, but slowly but surely I found myself being transformed into an artist. After the semester, I approached writing completely differently. I wrote my first drafts by hand; whereas before, I would type directly into the computer, which for me limited my creativity. I begin to keep a writing journal, so whenever a thought or a couple of lines from a story would enter my mind, I would write it down. In hindsight, “Creativity: Ways of Seeing” was I course that I needed to become an artist. By the way, what are your 13 ways of seeing?

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the hardest writing woman

I have a story about how hard and tedious the writing process can be at times. Here it goes: I have been working on a short story entitled, “Testimony,” since May 2009. I submitted it as writing assignment and decided that I wanted to submit it to a literary magazine, The Interrobang. Well, needless to say, months after my submission I received  a letter (it really wasn’t a letter, more like a strip of typed paper) that stated how my story wasn’t selected, but to keep writing. I’ll admit I was disappointed that my story wasn’t accepted, but I wasn’t willing to “kill” my story. I got a friend to read my story, and I could tell he wasn’t really feeling it. He told me about parts that were confusing for him. So, I took an honest look at my story and saw that it could be improved. Ten months later, I’m still working on my short story, but it has undergone so many changes that the narration is different, the character narrating the story is different, but the plot line is the same. Originally, the narrator was a White woman; now the narrator is a Black woman. As you can see, revision is a tedious job, but keep writing, even if the bug has not bitten you yet.

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you ain’t been bit by the writing bug?

Have you ever felt like you aren’t in the writing mood? When the manuscript looks you dead in the eye saying, “Girl, you better finish me,” but instead of finishing it, your response is “Not now.” And “not now” turns into weeks, months, and even years. Here’s a solution: At the University of Baltimore, we have a philosophy called “plork.” It’s a play on the words, “play” and “work.” It’s a philosophy that asserts that the creative process is exactly that–a process–and it is something that must be honed everyday. Creativity doesn’t just fall out of the sky. Take these words from the Plork Humanifesto: “Creativity is a practice not a talent.” Try doing that and see what magic occurs. Sometimes, as writers we rely too much on feeling inspired to write. Yes, you should feel passionate about your subject matter, but there will be times when you aren’t particularly inspired, so you have to push yourself.  Remember artists create something from nothing. Creativity lies within all of us. Let her out and she will reward you.

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fellow writers, how you doin’?

Welcome to The Writing Zone! Initially, this website was created for a midterm project at the University of Baltimore, but when thinking about the assignment, I thought that this was a great way to promote my work as a writer to you, the world, my fellow comrades, my beautiful people…yes, I’m getting carried away. Not only will this be a place for my writing, this will be a place where we will discover the works of other writers, some known and others not as well-known (hey, I’m all about equal opportunity). I want you, the public, to feel that you are a member of this website, so if you read a blog that you want to comment on, then do it! In this blog, I will share my writing experiences with you, and please feel free to share your experiences, too. This website is about community, so let’s be kind and respectful of each other’s opinions. Now, sit back, relax…and join me for the literary ride!

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