Our Mission Statement:

The mission of Pens & Pages Writers Guild is to facilitate and encourage writers of all genres, to share resources and tips about the writing process and, most of all, to provide a positive and productive forum that will encourage and support each writer in his or her creative endeavors.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Author platforms and self-marketing... oh my!

Three years ago I decided I wanted to self-publish a novel. I'd heard all the chatter about how difficult a process it could be, but I felt like I wanted it because I didn't want to just get published. I wanted to share stories with others, stories that I hoped they would want to read, and I thought that was the best way to go about it. Easy enough right?

I was wrong. There is nothing easy about self-publishing, and there shouldn't be. When I delved further into the mess that is being an indie author I immediately thought, holy crap! What've I gotten myself into? Not only did I need to have a completed project to put out there, but I also needed to learn the ins and outs of self-marketing, and building an author's platform. Both of which by the way can be very daunting.

What have I learned in three years? You have to be willing to put the time and energy not only into your writing but also into learning to build your author's platform. It doesn't happen overnight, and neither,unfortunately, does self-marketing. 

Where am I going with all of this? Well, today I managed to stick my neck out there and start building my newsletter list. Do I have that elusive finished project? No. But, I realized that I'm closer now to my goal than I was three years ago. So, I started plugging away at my platform. 

For me, making myself accountable to my writing isn't just about consistently writing. It's about putting ALL of the efforts that I can into it, to make it work. So that my writing is something I can do and hopefully share with a fan base for years to come. 

Will this make me the next Stephenie Meyer (god I hope not) or J.K. Rowling? No, but it will help me attain my goal, and in the end, that's all that really matters. 

So, don't let yourself get bogged down with the overwhelming sense of it all. Make small attainable goals, and step by step, smash them into whimpering little bits!

-Write on! 

Friday, September 9, 2016


Writing seems to draw me in with intriguing temptations to explore on paper. Writers groups call my name. Pens and Pages Writers Guild (http://pensandpages.blogspot.com/) has held me captive for over eight years. People ask me what I write, but I have no answer. It always seems like something I will do in the future. Maybe when I’m sixty-five, like Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House on the Prairie), I’ll publish my first set of books. Until then, this blog will be a fine start.
Dealing with issues like depression, anxiety or ADHD have always been a challenge. These, and other mental issues, prevail across all boundaries of human beings regardless of gender, race or economic status. Successful and well known people are no exception. Often creative types suffer needlessly today.

Juhie Bhatia writes,"Television journalist Jane Pauley made her network debut on NBC's Today Show at the age of 25. She went on to work for the network's Dateline and later had her own talk show. At the age of 50, Pauley began experiencing episodes of depression and mania. It is thought that steroids used to treat hives kick-started her symptoms, which were diagnosed as bipolar disorder. She describes her experiences in her bestselling memoir, Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue.

'If we're lucky, the next generation won't drag around that personal stigma,' she tells bp Magazine. 'They also are going to grow up with a wider array of medications that addresses whatever causes this malady of ours.'
Pauley shows that mental challenges do not have to keep a person from living life to its fullest. Receiving professional help is a blessing that makes it easier. Through the years, famous authors have told of their struggles," (http://www.everydayhealth.com/bipolar-disorder-pictures/famous-people-with-bipolar-disorder.aspx#12).

You would think that fame would calm some of the anxiety issues but Julie Zelinger tells, “Rowling, one of the most successful authors of all time, has spoken about the clinical depression that consumed her while she wrote the first Harry Potter book, even creating a fictional representation of her struggle in the form of Dementers — evil creatures that feed off of human happiness. But it was her rise to fame that prompted her to continue treatment despite her great success. Rowling told the Daily Mail in 2012: You don’t expect the kind of problems that [fame] brings with it. I felt that I had to solve everyone’s problems. I was hit by this tsunami of demands. I felt overwhelmed. And I was really worried that I would mess up ... I had to do it [therapy] again when my life was changing so suddenly — and it really helped. I’m a big fan of it, it helped me a lot.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/31/famous-women-therapy_n_3683419.html).

Thankfully, Rowling sought help for her difficulties. Many readers, young and old, would be awfully upset if there was not a follow to “Harry Potter: Chamber of Secrets.” The world will never know the deep and thought provoking poetry it missed when Sylvia Plath took her own life, as she suffered greatly from mental issues as displayed in her character’s breakdown in, “The Bell Jar.” Point being, reaching out for help is a good thing. Sometimes a life-saving thing.

Making the first move to ask for help can feel like the biggest leap ever taken. The first phone call was more than important in my life, it was critical. This was a call I needed to make. It was a call for help.

Listen to the internal dialogue from that call.

I want help! I need help. I want to make the call. I’m so afraid.

Should I? Is it okay? Am I defiling or betraying the people I will talk about by talking to a counselor? My heart is beating out of my chest. I feel like it is wrong. Like it is even wrong to look up the number. I feel so guilty. But I need help.

What will she be like? Will she be friendly? Will she know I am scared out of my wits?

Can I afford it? What if I offer to pay cash?

This is too hard! But I need help. I have wanted this for years and years. I have tried to make the call many times before.
Just make the call. You do not have to spill your guts on the phone, right here, right now. Things will not get better if you do not make the call. It will be okay.

Heart pounding, palms sweating, feeling light-headed, I pick up the phone and dial the number I’d tried to dial a hundred times.

“Hello. Hi. Uh . . . this is Brenda . . . I . . . need to, want to see if I can . . . no, I need to set up an appointment. I would like to pay cash and not go through insurance. Is that possible?

The appointment was made with ease with the therapist’s kind-hearted approach.

As difficult as writing a synopsis or making your first pitch to a New York editor you met at a conference, connecting with a counselor and asking for help was my first step in being a better me and so, a better writer. As soon as I ended the call, my breathing returned to normal, oxygen began to flow to my brain and calm returned to heart. I had lived through the experience of making a most important phone call of my life. I didn’t die. In fact, hope began to stir from deep within. I was going to change my life and it all began with a simple phone call.

Was I anxious on that first meeting with the counselor? Check back soon for the next blog post! See you then.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Query Letter Blues

The dreaded Query Letter…

We’ve all been there— staring at the screen, reading then re-reading our attempts at the dreaded query letter. Every writer has to write them, and every writer seems to hate them. I myself loathed my recent foray into the seventh circle of query letter hell.

My journey started simple enough: a homework assignment from an RL writing group. My mission: to write a first draft query letter for critique. No problem right? Wrong. Many problems, and drafts later (I think I got up to version 9.2) the query letter had me beat (500) to my (0). I was lost.

Miss Conceptions

It’s not that a query letter is confusing. It’s not. No, really— it’s not. The problem with query letters is that they are subjective. There is no right, or wrong way to write a query letter. There are good query letters and bad query letters. Mine fell into the latter category for many reasons.

Thanks to Writer’s Digest resources which can be found HERE I had lots of advice on how to craft my query. But something was still missing. What I had was a lifeless letter that didn’t represent my voice, the tone of my novel, or even its characters. My problem was that my query letter lacked the punch my novel had, but why?


In a query letter, you have one page to sell your writing, and your novel idea to an agent, or editor. The piece I decided to do my letter on wasn’t even a completed project! I realized that I had to boil my query letter, and my project down to the bones, then pick the bigger plot question, and that would become the basis for my query letter. Sounds easy right?

Then why did it take me four days to figure that out? Because I got so tied up in trying to find the right way to do it, that I forgot to step back and look at the bigger picture.
Query letters are a pain in the neck. There is no magical way around that, but knowing what I now know, I would strongly recommend authors write a query letter regardless of where they are with their particular work in progress. 

If you’re looking for a place to workshop your query letter, there are several online forums that were of great help to me. The first is WritingForums, I’ve been a member here for years, the people are polite and extremely helpful. Kevin Hearne also recommends AbsoluteWrite’s water cooler forum.

I hope this post helps fellow writers remember to take a step back (and a deep breath) before the query letter blues get to you!  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where Writers Get Their Ideas

Given Carol's question at our last meeting, I thought some she and maybe some others might be interested in this post on the Books And Such blog.  The comments section is as good as the article itself.

How Do You Get Your Book Ideas?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Useful Blog - Books and Such Literary Agency

I've recently started following the Books and Such Literary Agency's blog.  Different agents take turns blogging, and it's giving me a lot of insight into how the publishing industry works.  I thought it might interest some of you all, too.

Books and Such Blog

Monday, October 22, 2012

Final Blog Homework Found!

Okay, I went back to Bernice Simpson's blog and came across the one post I couldn't find last time I was there:

 Manuscript Format for Critiques.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Links to Bernice Simpson Blog "Homework"

Here are links to the blog articles that Bernice Simpson wanted us to read before next week's meeting. Since I had to find them I thought I'd save everyone else from having to do it the hard way.

 How to Keep Writing Momentum

Manuscript Format for Critique (I couldn't find this one)

 Don't Shout at Me

Hang Tough

 How to Deliver a Thoughtful Critique

Another Way to Use My Nook

Thought this might be helpful to those with E-readers (I assume something similar could be done with a Kindle). Before I start the line-by-line editing on Queen's Mouser, my 2010 Nanowrimo novel, I want to read the whole thing and find the large structural things that need fixed. Then I can fix them in Liquid Story Binder, and print out the chapters one by one when I'm ready to start line editing. To avoid printing the whole thing out, and also avoid reading it on my computer, I built a manuscript in Liquid Story Binder that had all the chapters, and exported it as a rtf file. Then I used Open Office (my free alternative to MS Word) to convert it to PDF, and downloaded the PDF to my Nook. It all seems rather complicated (it wouldn't be so bad if I could export as PDF from LSB, but that's not an option) but it saves a lot of paper, and will allow me to do the initial read-through without being sidetracked. I will be unable to fix the glaring typos even if I want to. I'll just keep my notebook with me to note the structural things that need fixed so I can go back to them. If you write your first drafts entirely in Word (since most of you don't use LSB), it would be even easier, since you wouldn't have the whole first step of building a manuscript, etc. There are some real inconveniences in the way LSB is set up for that, which I won't go into.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Poetic Asides -- April 1 -- Plan On It!

You think you can't write poetry. Think again! Poetry is not always perfect verse and rhyme. Poetry can take many forms. I wrote one and mentioned this might not be a form but was fun to do. Another poet said, "It is now!"

Try this April Poetry Challenge by Robert Brewer found at

You will be amazed at what comes out in your poetry!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011