An Evening with Publicist Jennifer Abbotts

"Creativity is, quite simply, a genuine interest combined with initiative."
Scott Belsky

Making connections, coming up with a plan, and setting goals are only part of what a publicist does, according to our New Mexico Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators March Shop Talk guest speaker, Jennifer Abbotts. Jennifer is a PR, marketing, and communications professional. She has worked with book festivals, award-winning authors, and major publishers. She previously worked in the publicity departments at Scholastic, J. Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, Little, Brown Books, and HarperCollins. Presently, she is freelancing.

What Exactly Does a Publicist Do?
Large publishing houses may have a publicity department, or publicity may be part of marketing. Most of these houses have at least one publicist.

First, the publicist takes into consideration where the author is in her career. From there, a plan is hatched locally, regionally and nationally. Services run the gamut, from sending books out to media, acquiring author interviews, making connections on social media, and setting up events and tours. When the paperback comes out, the publicity wheels spin once again.

What a Publicist Needs from You, the Author
In a word: goals. What are your goals? What do you want to accomplish with the publication of your book? What makes you unique? What do you have that no one else has to peak readers’ interest? If you’re an educator and you want to present yourself as such, then that’s your focus. Whatever you decide is your pitch, it needs to feel real, be at a level of comfort for yourself. That’s the best way to connect with your audience.

Jennifer pointed out that it is not always necessary to hire a publicist, but if you have a project moving forward and you’d like to get in touch with one, unfortunately there is no data base. The best way to find one is to talk to your agent and editor. Or google an author and look for their press release to get a name. Ideally, lead time is 6-9 months. The cost varies according to the project. We are fortunate that Jennifer graciously shared her expertise with us.

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Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter and is working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Tips for Journal Writing

We push forward to reach our writing goals, experience the pains, and grow through the struggle.  Let’s journal to settle in, put thoughts in order, and explore ideas that can springboard into article, essay or story—stepping closer to our milestones. In addition, journal writing relieves stress and provides a private place to work out issues.

Nine Tips:
• Write for yourself. Write daily, even just a little.
• A digital or handwritten journal is great for recording your thoughts, experiences and observations.
• Journaling helps develop your writer’s voice, write more conversationally, and practice.
• Continue from where you are right now. Capture the myriad of thoughts by free writing, working a book outline, or resolving what your character does next.
• Explore new ideas for promoting your business, your website or your blog. 
• Consider writing a series of posts to connect with your readers.
• Break down goal expectations and schedule milestones in doable pieces, baby steps too.
• I recommend, “The Story Within” by Laura Oliver. Chapter 9 titled “Journal to Freedom”. I find her book and particularly this chapter meaningful in my quest to enlarge my journaling experience and writing practice.
• You might find idea sparks at Creative Writing Now:

Steinbeck was a champion of journaling.
Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath Paperback – December 1, 1990
“John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath during an astonishing burst of activity between June and October of 1938. Throughout the time he was creating his greatest work, Steinbeck faithfully kept a journal revealing his arduous journey toward its completion."

How do you use journal writing and what tip would you add to the list?

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.
Visit her web-blog: Deborah Lyn Stanley : MyWriter's Life

Find Mentors for Your Writing

Where do you get help for your writing?

By W. Terry Whalin

Who are you listening to and then applying that information into your life? Whether you call them mentors or not, whatever feeds into your life are voices where you are listening to information. It can affect the results of your life and work.  

As I think about my own writing life, it is built on a foundation of great lessons and teaching from other writers. In the early days of my freelance writing, I wrote many personality profiles of bestselling authors. I wrote these articles for different magazines but it gave me the opportunity to spend time with each of these authors on the phone or in person. I would quiz these authors about the details of how they practiced their craft and connected to their audience. My hour-long conversation contained a lot of information which never made it into my 1,000 word magazine article—yet built experience and lessons into my personal life.

In this article, I want to provide several resources which I use daily for inspiration, learning and mentoring in my life. The first one is from Darren Hardy, the former publisher of Success magazine. Some time ago, Hardy began the Darren Daily which is a short five day inspirational thought which comes via email. It's free and I listen to it early in the day when it arrives. You can begin getting it in your mailbox and listening to it.

The various books that I read is another way that I discover mentors. Last year I completed 2 Chairs (Worthy Publishing). The overall message of 2 Chairs is to make time every day to meet with God and listen to the Holy Spirit. For many years, I've been having a daily quiet time in the Scriptures. Each year I select a different version of the Bible and read it cover to cover in this time. While I thought 2 Chairs had a “different” title, I love the insight and wisdom contained in this book and recommend it. If you don't have this daily pattern of reading in your own life, I recommend it.

My third method of teaching and insight is to read my twitter feed. Maybe you go by once a day or several times a week and check the various articles. I read the various articles and information that I post—and I apply it to my writing and marketing efforts.  You will gain from it as well if you feed this information into your routine.

One of the keys to continued growth and learning is a personal commitment, then an attempt to find balance in your life.  There are days when I'm not learning and out of balance but it's something that I have as a continue force in my life. I hope these three ideas will help you find the mentors for your writing life.


Who are your mentors in your writing life? Get some new ideas here: (ClickToTweet)

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  One of his books for writers is Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success. One of Terry's most popular free ebooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. He lives in Colorado and has over 205,000 twitter followers

When Naming Your Characters, Use the Whole Alphabet

I recently read a book where eight significant characters (which was a good percentage of the significant characters) had names that began with the letter A.  To make matters more confusing, it was a fantasy book, so many of the names were not familiar to us.  The worst combo was Avem and Avarum.   I constantly had to stop and think about who was who.

My mom was just telling me about a book where almost all the main characters had names four letters long, including Lena, Luna, and Lisa.

We, as writers, know our characters very well.  We know who they are and how they fit in and we would never confuse Avem with Avarum or Lena with Luna.  But our readers don't know our characters so well.  They may have only spent a few hours with them, not weeks and months and even years.   And trust me, some of our readers WILL confuse Zola and Zora or Fur'langye and F'galen.

So, here's my challenge:

1)  Sit down with any short story or novel you're writing and make a list of all the significant characters.  Bonus points if you also list any minor character who appears more than once.

2)  Analyze the list.  Look for names that start with the same letter, names that rhyme, and other similar-sounding or similar-looking names.

3)  If you find two names that are too similar, change one.  "Wait!" you may protest, "I can't change their names.  That's like changing who they are!"  I know it's hard, but do it anyway.   You do NOT want your readers to have to stop and think about who is who every time a character comes into a scene.  You want them to stop and think about your mysteries or your characters' inner struggles or that particularly beautiful piece of writing they just read.  The sooner you change the name, the sooner you'll get used to the new one.  It sounds hard, but it'll be okay in the end.

4)  In your next novel or short story, use the list as you start naming your characters, so you don't have to go back and change anything later.

So, when can you let similar names slide?

-If it's really important to the plot or characterization

-If the names are distinct enough.  For example, you might leave Dr. Turgenev and Tom alone, because they're quite different, but if you have Trent and Trevor or Carol and Cheryl, change one.

Melinda Brasher's fiction appears most recently in Leading Edge (Volume 73) and Deep Magic (Spring 2019).  Her newest non-fiction book, Hiking Alaska from Cruise Ports is available for pre-order on Amazon.    

She loves hiking and taking photographs of nature's small miracles.  

Visit her online at

One Way to Build Your Freelance Writing Career

Many people think they'd love to write for major magazines.

The trouble is, most of these people never spend the time, energy, and even money learning HOW to break in with these markets.

Here are a few tips to help you write for magazines and build a lucrative freelance writing career:

• Learn how to write a winning query.

You may think you know how to write a great query, but if your queries are not landing you at least a few writing assignments, then you're definitely missing the mark somewhere.

A winning query does more than let the editor know your idea for an article.

You need to hook the editor with your query the same way you will hook his/her readers with your article.

• Learn how to study the magazine markets.

There is so much more to studying the markets than merely looking up the entry for a particular magazine in a current market guide.

Find out how to effectively study the markets.

• Provide editors with information and contacts they cannot easily find on their own.

This is not as difficult as it might seem, and it's one way to prove to an editor that YOU are the perfect writer for the particular piece you are offering.

• Be persistent.

Don't expect to break in with a major magazine on the first try.

It could happen.

But it probably won't.

Prove to the editor that you are serious about wanting to write for his/her magazine by being persistent.

Keep sending out queries to a particular publication until you begin to get some favorable and encouraging comments.

Note: This will start to happen once you learn the other tips here, even if you don't get an acceptance letter for one of your queries yet.

• Limit your queries to just a few specific publications.

It takes too much time and energy to carefully study more than just a few publications at a time.

Pick ONLY the ones you really, really wish to write for at first.

Study those publications and query those editors on a consistent basis.

• Don't try to sell your article ideas to just ANY publication.

Too often, beginning writers simply want to make a sale, so they query anyone and everyone.

Editors want to feel that you're trying to help them fill a need for their magazine, not merely make a sale.

Target your queries carefully.

Strive to help editors, and they will love you for it!

Writing for magazines isn't difficult once you know how to do it, and it's a great way to start building your freelance writing career.

Try it!

Before you get started, find out if writing for magazines is the perfect job for you!

Suzanne Lieurance is an author, freelance writer, certified professional life coach and writing coach, speaker and workshop presenter.

She has written over 35 published books and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and other publications. She lives and writes by the sea in Jensen Beach, Florida.

Get your free subscription to her daily mailing, The Morning Nudge, at

Social Media SOS

Whether  you love social media - or you view it as a necessary evil to promote your business products and services - some times it takes on a life of its own. 

Take today, for example. Facebook and Instagram were down for most of the day. There was widespread panic on the social platforms. I do some work in social media, and have many friends in that realm, so I probably know more affected people than most. 

Here's the thing. Like any actual - or non-emergent - emergency, there are a few things you can do to stay calm and stay in touch with your clients and prospects in the event of a social media shutdown.

1. Don't panic. If social media management is your business, email or call your clients and let them know what's up. Being proactive - and reminding them that technology isn't always perfect and sometimes, there are glitches out of your control - is much better than ignoring the problem and hoping your clients don't notice. You may even want to remind them that it's likely everyone is affected - including their clients, prospects, readers - so you are all in this together. Treat yourself to a cup of coffee by facing the problem up front.

2. Be present on other social media networks. Seize this opportunity to step up your skills on other social media platforms. For instance, Facebook and Instagram may have had issues today, but Twitter and LinkedIn were doing just fine. A good social-media strategy is a well-balance social media strategy; that means utilizing multiple platforms. If you are not already posting on the main four, use this reminder to step up your game.

3. Unplug. Frustrated by social media? Walk away from it. The problem isn't going away quick enough, so move away from the problem. Here's an idea: Take the time away from social media to embrace being offline. Write an actual on-pen-and-paper thank you note to your clients, jot a note to an old friend. Use the time wisely and surprise someone with a thoughtful act of kindness.

For more on the power of social media platforms, check out the recap from my #GoalChat on this topic.

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How do you balance your social media efforts? Please share in the comments.

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Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of The D*E*B Method: Goal Setting Simplified and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. Like the Write On Online Facebook Page and join the Facebook Group.  She is author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages, and host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat. Debra is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Learning to Love Passive Construction

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers including the winningest in the series, The Frugal Editor

Writers of fiction are often told to avoid passive sentences. Nonfiction writers sometimes get the same advice.

The reasons for such admonitions are many. After all, they tend to tug on the forward momentum we are usually after. But passive construction can be used effectively, too. When we sense that there would probably be no passive constructions, we should listen. Our writing may improve if we force ourselves to accept passives regardless of their ugliness. We can utilize what they’re good at in our writing and—at the same time—recognize their flaws so we can avoid them when they are just plain ugly.

Luckily, good editors are here to help. Yours may help you avoid passive constructions by making suggestions to “activate” them. There are times, however, when you must do your own editing. Here are some examples to try your hand at.

1. "I was offended by the President's proclamation." (Some argue that this isn’t a true passive because the hidden subject is evident, but when you pick up the object of the preposition, “the President’s proclamation,” put it up front, and ditch the helping verb, you’ll see how the sentence comes alive.) Scroll down a bit to see the magic this makes!

2. "Catherine was being watched."
~Your edit:

3. "Catherine was being silly."
~Your edit:

Here is your cheat sheet:

For the first you would, of course, make it "The President's proclamation offended me."

For the second, you'll have to provide the intended subject. It might look like this:

"The fuzz watched Catherine."
(So, maybe you'd be more formal and call them "coppers!")

The third example might throw you a curve. That's because it isn't a passive sentence according to the strictest of definitions. Here's the thing. We tend to assume a construction is passive when we see helper verbs and "ing" words. But these are not always passive indicators. That's one more thing for you to figure out in addition to deciding whether you want to avoid a passive construction. You’ll find a complete discussion of the dreaded “ing” words in my The Frugal Editor.

You can still avoid the not-so-active sounding helper verb with a mini rewrite:
“Gracie thought Catherine was being silly.”

You might ask, “So, if these slowpoke constructions stall the forward motion of my prose, what are the good reasons for using them?”

Few, if any, etymologists argue that language usually doesn’t develop or change unless there is need. When we recognize what passive construction and its copycats can do for us, we may grow to love it. Here are reasons you might want to intentionally use passive verbs:

1.    You want to slow down the movement in a saga sent in the 19th century. I do some of that (very judiciously!) in myThis Land Divided now being shopped by my agent. That the first chapter of that book won’s Scintillating Starts contest proves that passive is pretty—sometimes.

2.    You need to set one character’s dialogue apart from another to avoid overworked, fussy dialogue tags or because the tenor of that voice suits that character’s personality better than strong active verbs.

3.    You’re writing political copy and you want to avoid pointing a finger at, say, the FBI because you don’t want to get put on the dreaded US No-Fly list. So instead of saying “The FBI is watching Carolyn.” You say, “Carolyn is being watched.” It’s a device that lets you avoid pointing a blaming finger at the perpetrator.

4.    If you write copy for pharmaceutical TV ads, your career could depend on knowing how to use passive voice. I watch TV commercials carefully because I do some acting and the voiceovers behind all those happy, healthy faces make me cringe. The use of passive voice clearly avoids assigning any responsibility for all those side effects and deaths. One actually says, “Deaths have happened.”

We need to know how to make verbs active, when to leave them alone, and, yep. When to use them to our advantage. That way, we can take a red pen to them when they are likely to brand us as amateurs, occasionally put them to very good use, and even learn to love them. 


Carolyn Howard-Johnson is an award-winning novelist, poet, and author of the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers. She taught editing and marketing classes at UCLA Extension’s world-renowned Writers’ Program for nearly a decade and carefully chooses one novel she believes in a year to edit. The Frugal Editor ( award-winner as well as the winner of Reader View's Literary Award in the publishing category. She is the recipient of both the California Legislature's Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award and the coveted Irwin award. She appears in commercials for the likes of Blue Shield, Disney Cruises (Japan), and Time-Life CDs and is a popular speaker at writers’ conferences. Her website is

Don't Let Your Reader Get Disengaged

As an author it’s your job to create an engaging, compelling, suspenseful, intriguing, romantic, or other type of story content that will lure readers in and keep them turning the pages. But the key word for a successful story is ‘engaging.’

Engagement, according to, means to have an emotional involvement or commitment. Based on this, no matter what genre you write in the story must hold or engage the reader.

In an article in the Writer's Digest January 2011 issue, Steven James takes a look at aspects of “great storytelling.”

The first rule to a successful story is, according to James, “cause and effect.” In children’s writing this is the same as an obstacle and its solution - there must be a circumstance that leads the protagonist to an action in an effort to find a solution. I do like the wording James uses though, because it’s more in line with multiple writing genres.

In its simplest form, something happens (the cause) that creates or motivates an action or reaction (the effect).

James goes on to explain that along with cause and effect, the order in which an event unfolds or how it’s written will also make a difference between keeping a reader engaged and allowing for disengagement.

“As a fiction writer, you want your reader to always be emotionally present in the story,” explains James. If the sequence of an event causes the reader to stop and wonder why something is happening, even if just for a moment, you’ve left room for disengagement.

As an example, suppose you write:

She fell to her knees, dropped her head, and wept uncontrollably. Her husband was dead.

While in just eight words, the reader learns why the woman is crying, it could very well leave enough time for her to pause and wonder: Why did she fall to her knees?

This can lead to disengagement.

To create a cause and effect scenario that keeps the reader in the loop, you might write:

Her husband was dead; the words echoed through the room. She fell to her knees, dropped her head, and wept uncontrollably.

The second aspect of writing James touches upon is creating and maintaining a believable story. Even if writing a fantasy or science fiction, consistency is needed, along with believable actions, reactions, observations, conclusions, and so on within the boundaries of the story.

A basic example of this might be if you write about a character with brown eyes, then somewhere within the story you accidently mention the eyes are blue. This little slip creates a believability gap.

Any gap in the believability of the story or its characters has the potential to cause the reader to pause, question, and very possibly become disengaged.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children.

Check out the DIY Page!

And, get your copy of Walking Through Walls (a middle-grade fantasy adventure set in 16th century China. Honored with the Children’s Literary Classics Silver Award).


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