Indie Blow-Out at the Indiepalooza Conference

by Monica Shaughnessy

chairs-1442847If you’re an indie author (or thinking about becoming one) and live in the Greater Houston Area, then you should definitely go to Houston Writers Guild’s Indiepalooza on September 26th at the Crown Plaza (Galleria area). I will be speaking during the first break-out session on “Adding Art to Your Words.” I’ll talk about spicing up your indie works with illustration and building digital picture books and bonus books (for adults) using the Kindle Kid’s Book Creator.

Here’s a summary of my talk:

Images, whether photos or sketches, take your project to a professional level. During this workshop, learn how to jazz up your novel’s interior with illustrations and graphics. You’ll also discover how to work with programs like Kindle Kids’ Book Creator to take your picture book from idea to digital reality. Then we’ll dive into graphic “bonus books” that push creative limits and package extra content for your fans. Lastly, you’ll get an overview of the tools you’ll need to make it happen. Find out why indie publishing doesn’t have to be black and white anymore.

If art isn’t your thing, there are lots of other break-out sessions to choose from. Take a look:

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For those wanting an extra networking opportunity, there’s also a kick-off cocktail party the night before with the Pulpwood Queen’s founder, Kathy L. Murphy. She’ll offer insight on the relationship between book clubs and authors.

If you’re on the fence about coming, don’t be. I went to a HWG conference last year, and it was a great opportunity to meet fellow Houston writers. And I learned a few things to boot! What are you waiting for? Sign up now!

Flesh and Blood Angels

by Monica Shaughnessy

angel-1406127I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by angels. No, no, not the kind with wings and trumpets. The flesh and blood kind.

When a writing injury side-lined me (repetitive motion is a killer, folks!), many, many friends offered assistance. “Can I help you type? Can I help you format? Can I help you with errands? Can I help you with…anything?” they asked. I won’t embarrass them by naming them (they know who they are!), but I am grateful for their kindness. Some of the offers I humbly accepted, some I didn’t. But even the ones I didn’t made me feel like help was just an email away should I need it – a comforting thought.

My husband will most likely be canonized at some point for his role in my recovery. Without him, the house would’ve fallen apart. Then there is my doctor, the miracle worker who fixed me. I’d like to give a big THANK YOU to them all.

And since they’re angels, they don’t really expect anything in return. Well, except my doctor (cash, check or charge)! So I decided that instead of paying the help back, I would pay it forward and be someone else’s angel. But don’t let me have all the fun. You can do it, too.

Here are some small ways to start today:

  • The next time someone holds a door for you, hold a door for someone else later that day.
  • If someone lets you cut in line, give someone else a break on your next shopping trip.
  • Get a friendly smile and ‘good morning’ on the street? Give one out to someone least expecting it.

Well, you get the idea.

Really want to earn your wings? Be the FIRST person to hold the door, offer a cut, give a smile. If you’ve read this far into my post, you probably don’t need convincing. But if you do, I’ll leave you with this quote:

“We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.”

– Lucretius

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For those who want to know more about repetitive motion injuries caused by writing, read my full post here.

Would You Date this Protagonist?

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By Ellen Leventhal

I love character driven stories. Great characters become your friends. They hit a chord in your heart. You don’t have to like them, but they should evoke some type of emotion. Are they kind? Funny? Quirky? Certain characters stay with us forever. Is it weird that I wanted to name my first born either Scout or Atticus? As a writer, there are hundreds of ways to develop characters, and I’ve used a bunch. They were all good, but now I’d like to share a new one with you. Match.com. Stay with me on this.

I have been happily married for close to 44 years, but for some reason I get match.com emails almost weekly. I’ve now also been introduced to the ranks of eHarmony and my new favorite, OurTime.com (for mature couples). Obviously, the internet knows I’m old. It just doesn’t know I’m married. Or doesn’t care.  My inbox is a virtual cornucopia of “singles in my area.” One day last week, being of curious mind and wanting to put off real work, I decided to look around a little. You know, just for fun. And then it hit me. The Constant Contact gods did not want me to leave my husband and troll the internet for people looking for love in all the wrong places. They sent these lovelorn souls to me for something much more interesting. Character development! You want to know a character? Read the online dating profiles and then write one of your own. I’d like to introduce you to three characters you may meet in some of my stories.

Ms. Magnificent is a 5’10” (6’ in her Jimmy Choos) Texan with a heart bigger than Southfork. She has been hurt, yet she doesn’t let that stop her from trying to find love. She believes that everyone is basically good, and she is kind to everyone. Those Prada sunglasses she sports may keep out UV rays, but they are rose colored and has caused her some disappointment. But don’t worry. She bounces back for more! She wears her heart on her her Stella McCartney dress sleeves, and when she is upset, y’all will know it. She feels sure that her Prince Charming is right around the corner. Could it be you? Ms. M. likes mocha frappacinos (sugarfree, no fat) arugala salad (dressing on the side), and long walks. (But not in the rain because her hair has a tendency towards frizzing). Ms. Magnificent is an animal lover. She rescues puppies and kittens, and her favorite farm animal is a unicorn. She doesn’t eat carbs, but she’s a wonderful baker. That’s not the only reason they call her Cup Cake. Call to find out more.

Mr. Macho is 6’2” and muscular. He has been divorced for five years, and he enjoys life to the utmost. His luxurious hair is almost to his shoulders because he doesn’t care that it’s not 1969 anymore. He’s a people lover and wants to love as many people as possible. He sometimes gets sad when he thinks of his ex-wife because she is really pretty and rich. They only divorced because she took advantage of his good nature and had a crazy idea that their relationship should be monogamous. He’s too much of a giver to only give to one person. He is also too much of a man to be told what to do. He believes women should be treated like ladies all the time. He opens doors and makes decisions for them. He doesn’t want “his girls” to work too hard. If you want to have fun, and you have very low self-esteem, call him. He’ll answer if he feels like it.

Ms. March wants you to know that’s her name, not her title. And it will be Dr. March as soon as she finished her PhD. She is a biology professor at a prestigious university. She’s never been married because her career comes first. Although she spurns the institution of marriage, she’d like someone to spend time with and possibly travel with her to third world countries. She likes politics, but is open minded. As long as you agree with her. Ms. March does not want to be categorized by political party, race, or religion, but she will not date a Republican. If you don’t recycle, don’t call her. She will have to clear her chakras after being with you, and who has time for that? A perfect date would be margaritas on the beach and an anti-war demonstration. Call and find out why they call her Top Shelf.

So there you have it. Put any of these people together and watch what happens. Thanks, match.com! Research comes in all forms.

 

 

Organize Your Writing Life in 2015 – Five Strategies for Success

by Monica Shaughnessy

a-good-time-to-start-something-270663-mIf you’re like me (and most of the world), you want to make a fresh start in the new year. In fact, as soon as I write this post, I’m going to clean my office. It’s crammed with stuff from the holidays. Starting in October, my personal writing space becomes a cornucopia of crap – glitter, spider stickers, leftover fabric, Christmas bows, pinecones, paper pilgrim hats…you get the idea.

So once the decks are cleared, I’m going to look to the following list to help me get organized this year. It’s not your usual “use Evernote more” kind of list. It goes a bit deeper. It may get you thinking, too, about your own strategies for 2015.

1. Tame the Social Media dragon – I’m going to develop a social media calendar at the beginning of each month and stick to it. And each month, I’ll use my platform to support one book and/or promotion and not get too bogged down with minutia and side stuff. I’m also going to put off social media until the end of the day after I’ve done my writing (or during lunch breaks/weekends). This is a biggie. I’ve wasted too many hours fiddling around on Twitter and Facebook when I could be moving my plot along. Books first, platform a close second (but still a second). I know a lot of writers who put platform first and writing second (and it shows). I don’t want to be one of those writers.

2. Develop a High-Yield Income Strategy – I spent time last year experimenting with different speaking gigs, side projects, books signing, etc. Realistically, I can’t write more books and do ALL of the above. So I’m going to scale back and do only the things that a) yield the highest income or b) significantly develop my platform (which leads to higher income). This may sound harsh to those who write only for the love of writing. But for me, writing is also a business. The good thing about doing all that in 2014 is that I now know what works and what doesn’t. I’m also going to develop more of those high-yeild projects.

3. Get Serious About Genre – This is a biggie for me. If you look at my backlist, I’ve got children’s projects, historicals, thrillers, and more. But unless I stay put in one spot, fans don’t know where to find me. I’m finally gaining a following with my historical mysteries, so instead of writing a sci-fi book next, I will probably follow up with a new book in this genre to capitalize on my foothold. But I can’t resist releasing a few modern-day short stories in the meantime (hey, they’re already written). Throughout 2015, I will keep my eye on one genre and try NOT to get distracted by shiny things.

4. Write Like My Pants Are On Fire – Oh, how I agonize over words! In 2015, I will stop striving for PERFECTION and strive for finishing as many projects as I can as quickly as I can (without sacrificing quality). I’ve got to write like every day is NaNoWriMo. It really helped to have this mentality when finishing The Black Cats (now on sale!), and it can help this year, too. I’m going to develop a REALISTIC publishing schedule and bet against fellow author, Mandy Broughton, that I can finish it.

5. Try New Things – I know, I know. I said in #2 that I’m only going to do stuff that yields a wheelbarrow of money (or at least a Starbucks cup worth). But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try more things. Never know, right? A few things on my hit list for 2015: sell books from my website, create an app for at least one book, ratchet up my editing business with giveaways, lectures, and digital content, make another “graphic-centric” book project, and try a new branding strategy.

Well, this little chat has been nice. But as you can see, I’ve got SO much to do. Until next time!

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How about you, dear readers? Have any tips for writing success in 2015? I’d love to hear them!

Heard & Overheard During NaNoWriMo

by Mandy Broughton

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In case you live in a cave or have been kipnapped by the Fae-Mer-folk, it’s NaNoWriMo. What is this bizarre acronym? It’s just a fancy way of saying National Novel Writing Month.

For one crazy-fun-filled month, November, writers from around the galaxy, commit to writing a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. All output, no editing. No deleting. No lamenting, “I shall write a novel one day.” That day is now. And we’re in the midst of it.

I personally believe that NaNoWriMo is better than sliced bread. For a numbers gal, who never got praised for being creative in ANYTHING, I get the chance to cast aside all responsibility and to create. It is a wonderful and exhausting experience.

As with any of casting aside of responsibilities, there have been some interesting conversations overheard in my particular NaNoWriMo quarantined household. I’d like to share just a few.

  1. “Mom lets us watch as much TV as we want but we also have to scrounge for food.”

From December to October, media time is severely limited for my kids but I do reward them with lots of home-cooked meals. But in November, they catch up on all their missed media and out-Netflix the most devoted Netflixers.

I disagree with peanut butter sandwiches being considered as scrounging for food. It’s like a fast, only with peanut for thirty days.

  1. “Would a tree spirit in human form be healed if she were planted in soil and watered?”

Yes, I asked this question. What do you think?

  1. “I can’t find the Apache name for a Dryad—a tree spirit? If I can’t find the name, then what am I supposed to call her?!”

“What about ‘tree spirit?’”

Okay, this happened in writing group. I get so caught up in my research that I forget maybe sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  1. “Outta my way, it’s NaNoBaTi. I’ve got three minutes.”

NaNo word sprints are the greatest thing ever. Tweets from my phone set me to typing as fast as I can. I make Clark Kent look like a slacker. Only problem is that sometimes they don’t call the National Novel Bathroom Time often enough. Especially when I’ve been downing caffeine like a camel on water after a long journey through the dessert.

  1. “I sorry, I can’t come in to volunteer today.”

I really hope the organizations where I volunteer don’t read this blog.

  1. “Taking notes on the bulletin about the sermon today?”

“Uh… no.”

I do not NaNo during church. I promise. Just because I jot down a few ideas doesn’t mean I wasn’t listening to the sermon. I promise!

  1. “You killed off the horse I named?!”

Sorry, kid. Yes, I needed a name of a horse. And, yes, the werewolves got him. I’ll write another horse one day. And let him live. Maybe.

  1. “Maybe if the house were cleaner, the kids would enjoy going to school more.”

The house gets messy. The kids get cranky. And my husband gets desperate. I promise I’ll clean… December 1. But wait, I might be doing National Novel Editing Month then…

  1. “What are you doing for lunch?”

“Mining silver.”

Did you know YouTube has videos of mining silver? And smelting silver from ore? And one lady has an entire blog series on the making of silver bullets? You can’t melt silver over any old campfire.

10. “I just finished the first draft of my new novel.”

I haven’t said this one yet this year. But I will. I love NaNoWriMo. If you haven’t done it, try it. If you love it, please consider donating. It’s a wonderful cause. And we always need a little more creativity—and fun—in this part of the galaxy.

Okay, my phone is calling. The new NaNoWordSprints leader is ready to sprint. I’m off to finish my novel.

Why Social Media Will Never Replace a Warm Puppy

by Ellen Rothberg

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I was going to write about the amazing anthology recently published by Space City Scribes when a funny thing happened. My granddaughter spent the night with us last Saturday and like many grandparents, we believe that her mere being is cause to celebrate on my Facebook page. So, at approximately 9:20 P.M. on Saturday night I posted the picture you see here to my page. My experience with posting important things to Facebook like the book signing for our anthology on November 8 from 2-4 P.M. at Katy Budget Books has been a bit underwhelming. After all, I posted the absolutely stunning cover art from the anthology about two weeks ago and sat back, contentedly to watch the “LIKE”s roll in. I waited and waited . . . and waited. After about two hours, I had six “LIKE”s. And, one didn’t even count because it was from my mom’s cousin and she “LIKE”s everything. On this particular Saturday night; however, there must have been a lack of good tv because twenty minutes after posting, my little granddaughter and I had twenty-two “LIKE”s!

Well, you can imagine my confusion. The Anthology has action, drama, tension, history and criminal activity. My granddaughter has a little under four years of daycare to boast about. By 10:55 we were looking at thirty-five “LIKE”s and six comments. Of course by that time my granddaughter had gone to sleep and most normal people had turned their clocks back and also prepared for bed. Oh no, the “LIKE”s kept pouring in. By Sunday morning we were at fifty-eight and they were circling the country. We had “LIKE”s from my childhood pals in Brooklyn and “LIKE”s from school friends and colleagues; there were “LIKE”s from relatives and from people who hadn’t given me the time of day in high school; “LIKE”s from fellow writers and “LIKE”s from friends I didn’t even know I had. It was amazing.

My granddaughter is really cute and precocious and I wouldn’t trade her for the world, but how does she rank so well when Space City scribes has written a terrific anthology of Houston based stories to entertain and entice you. Surely a good read should measure more acknowledgement than a picture of a cute kid having a sleepover with her nana. That’s why social media will never be taken seriously as a marketing tool. Now, if I could just figure out a way to write my next book about a darling little shih tzu!

And just to make my point, Space City Scribe authors are presenting a workshop on Saturday morning at 10:00 A.M. at the Maud Marks library in Katy. The scribes will talk about everything Indie Publishing, from how to format ebooks to Indie publishing illustrated children’s books; from marketing plans to best practices for Indies. Don’t miss it.

Bird by Bird

 By Ellen Leventhal

Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.

What a simple and brilliant statement. Anne Lamott (my new pretend BFF whom I have never met) tells a story of a time when her brother was overwhelmed with the enormity of a task before him. He had to write a report on birds that was due the next day, and he was far from ready to tackle that task. This young man was surrounded with books and paper, but had no idea how to get started. The task was huge, but his wise father put his arms around the boy and gave him some sage advice. “Bird by bird, buddy,” he said. “Just take it bird by bird.” So simple. So brilliant.

That statement is the basis for Anne Lamott’s bestseller, Bird by Bird; Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Ms. Lamott (Oh, since she’s my pretend BFF, I’m going to call her Anne).. Anne starts her book on writing talking about reading. She came from a family where reading was a priority and going to the library was a weekly event. Her father was both a reader and a writer. Makes sense to me. In my world, reading and writing are two sides of the same coin. I read about writing, and I write about reading. And writing.  They can’t really be split. In fact, according to Anne, “Becoming a better writer is going to help you become a better reader, and that is the real payoff.” She’s really smart, that imaginary pal of mine.

As a teacher, I encourage my kids to mark up their books. Read, think, and write. I want to see notes and highlighting and question marks all over their books. Of course, there is the question of the ownership of said books, so I hand out scads of sticky notes in the beginning of the school year. I wouldn’t want the kids to deface someone else’s property. I admit that I’ve seen my share of body parts drawn on these notes, but I have also seen lots of great notes. One of my favorite things is when a sticky note (or a margin) has a comment relating a passage to another book. One of my favorite notes was “Like when Leslie dies in Bridge to Terabithia, but this guy didn’t do something stupid.” This was a real sticky note comment. To be honest, that remark took about five sticky notes, but still, I like it. The next thing that happened almost brought tears to my eyes. Not because I was still mourning Leslie Burke (although every time I read that book I keep hoping for a different ending), but because this child then said, “Look at the poem I wrote about it.” Reading and writing intertwined again.

Bird by Bird has great advice for life in general, but I started reading it to get me through some sticky patches in my writing life. Anne’s insight has gotten me unstuck when writer’s block was my constant companion. Her small assignments helped me find focus in my manuscripts. And her tip of looking at first drafts as Polaroid pictures has validated my writing.  She says that writing a first draft is like a watching a Polaroid picture develop. You’re not really supposed to know what it will look like until it finishes developing. Since I’m not always sure where my characters will take me, this is comforting. Sometimes once the Polaroid is developed, I find a minor character lurking behind a major one and decide his life story is the one begging to be told.

Reading, writing, and life in general can be difficult at times. Anne Lamott talks about “Sh*&^y first drafts.” (Only she spells the whole word out. This is a G rated blog.) Let’s think about writing as life. Just like first drafts, we should be allowed do overs in life. And if we take life challenges one step at a time, bird by bird, maybe they won’t seem insurmountable.

Thanks, pretend BFF. Whereas some “self-help” books, tell the reader to get up off her chair and just do something, this book, filled with humor and insight has encouraged me to get back in my chair and write. And just take it bird by bird.

 

 

 

 

How to Create Your Own Anthology (without losing your mind)

by Monica Shaughnessy

FINAL Cover_no sixOn October 8th, the Space City Scribes released an anthology. In case we haven’t talked about it quite enough, here are the particulars. It’s a loose collection of stories about Houston, ranging from literary fiction to sci-fi to fantasy. The ebook sells for $2.99 at Amazon and other major etailers.

Okay? Okay.

Now on to the “how to” portion of my post…

How To Create Your Own Anthology

There are a lot of reasons to create an anthology. Chief among them is exposure. If someone already loves, say, Mandy Broughton and buys the anthology to read her story, then that same person may read my story, like it just as much, and go on to buy one of my books. It’s also a way to build excitement for local events – signings are always more fun and “busy” when you have a group of authors. Lastly, my friend Artemis Greenleaf likened the anthology to a super-deluxe business card, and she’s right. It’s a great way to get our content “sampled” by as many people possible, especially since we’re pricing it low. Visibility is an author’s greatest challenge, whether indie or trad published, and the more people who’ve heard of us, the better.

What follows below are my tips for creating a homegrown anthology with a group of friends – not the kind of anthology where you welcome submissions from strangers and pay them. Those are good, too, but outside the scope of my discussion.

Now on to the show…

1. Find Your Writers: If you’re in an author collective like me, then your circle is already formed. If not, you might be in a critique group or a professional writers’ organization. Ask around to see if anyone’s interested in putting an anthology together, but I strongly caution you to pick writers you know and trust. If you want to work with people you don’t know as well, be prepared to draft legal documents to protect yourself. Another reason to pick people you know: you can choose writers whose work you admire and whose publishing skills compliment and/or supplement your own. This becomes very important when the “easy” work of writing is done and the hard work of “book creation” begins.

2. Decide on a Cost/Payment Structure: Our anthology was a no-pay structure where individual writers submitted freely without expectation of royalty or advance. This is a little harder to pull off with “strangers.” We also decided to keep overhead low by designing the cover ourselves, formatting ourselves, etc. We are lucky enough to have two educators in our group who have a meticulous command of the English language (thanks, Ellen Leventhal and Ellen Rothberg!). They did all the proofreading for the project. As for payment, we decided to funnel any profits from group signings back to Space City Scribes. We’ll use the money to sign up for festival booths, book advertisements, etc. If, however, we buy and sell the books as individuals, then the profits are ours to keep.

3. Put Someone in Charge: Things run more smoothly when you have someone keeping the schedule, checking on work, and sending update emails. For this project, I acted as editor. I won’t lie. The anthology was a lot of work. But I’m really proud of it.

4. Decide on a Theme: Since we’re a diverse group of writers, we found a common core in our hometown: Houston. Using this as a starting point, we all wrote stories set in Space City, hence the title of the anthology. If you’ve assembled a genre-based group, then you’ve got a built in theme already, say, horror or middle grade. But go further… Do you want to do a middle-grade collection of holiday stories? A science fiction anthology of space opera? There are a lot of ways to segment your content.

5. Assign the Work Fairly: Some of our members are very tech-savvy. They took the project pieces that required certain skills, like ebook formatting and paperback creation. Some members are awesome editors and proofers, so they took these pieces. Or some, like K.C. Maguire, happened to have experience with certain kinds of blogging and promotion. That’s the beauty of working with a diverse team – we all bring something to the table. When you’re choosing writers, be thinking not just about the stories you’ll need but the skills you’ll need after the words are on paper.

6. Get ready for a ton of email. Just deciding on our cover? I think we sent and replied to around fifty or more emails. No joke. And this was just one small piece of the project.

7. Remember That Friendships Come Before Business: If things get a little crazy or if there are disagreements (think there won’t be? ha!), take a step back and remember that this is supposed to be FUN or, at the very least, a good use of your time. Not the gateway to an ulcer. With so many cooks in the kitchen, the final recipe may not turn out like the one in the cookbook – do they ever? – but you’ll end up with something new and exciting if you give in to the process.

8. Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor: When it’s all done, and your glorious new book is for sale, it will stand as a testament to your hard work and friendship. This, really, is what makes your anthology worthwhile.

You can also go a second route: assemble your friends and acquaintances, offer them exposure, do all the work yourself (ask nothing of anyone, except for a little social media at the end), and reap all the profits yourself. This would be a good choice if you have the skills you need to produce a book or if you’ve got a particular vision you want to see through (and like to be the only cook in the kitchen). But I would recommend drafting a content release form that gives you first printing rights and having your authors sign it. When money is involved, people get funny. And I don’t mean “funny ha, ha.” I mean “funny stark raving mad.”

However you decide to do it, creating an anthology is definitely time-consuming. But it’s also worthwhile. If you want to take a look at how ours turned out, visit the anthology page on this blog and read more about the book.

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How about you, dear authors? Every contemplated an anthology? I’d be happy to answer questions. And readers, what’s your opinion of anthologies? Do you enjoy reading them? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Writing Under a Pseudonym

by K.C. Maguire

pseudonymIn the September issue of The Writer’s Chronicle, Ronald Goldfarb contributed an interesting article (at pp 67-68) about whether, and when, it’s appropriate to use pseudonyms for different kinds of writing: non-fiction, memoir, fiction based on true stories, pure fiction etc. This is a timely piece in light of criticisms that have been launched at authors like J.K. Rowling as they have tried to escape from their existing author-identities to change genres or to attempt to appeal to different audiences, or if they simply want their writing to be judged on its own merits without all the baggage their name entails.

An attorney, author, and literary agent who himself writes under a pseudonym when he writes fiction (R.L. Sommer), Goldfarb shares some interesting thoughts on the ethics of using false names when writing for commercial publication. I was particularly interested in a quote he shared from the New York Times Ethics column which stated that:

If the goal of using a pseudonym is to stop the reader from prejudging fictional material based on who the author is (or what the author might represent), there is no problem. That’s an attempt to remove baggage. But if the pseudonym’s goal is to actively push the reader into thinking something fallacious about the writer or the material – solely for commercial or critical benefit – the act is mildly immoral. That’s adding baggage on purpose.”

Goldfarb summarizes the ethics formula as follows: “it’s OK to use a pseudonym if it stops readers from unintentionally altering their reading experience, but if it alters a readers’ reading experience, don’t.”

The devil, of course, is in the details. How does a writer know when the use of a pseuondym will alter a reader’s reading experience? For example, if J K Rowling had written her detective stories under her own name, rather than under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, would this have altered the reading experience or not? And isn’t it completely subjective whether and when a reading experience is affected by the identity of the author?

This is not to criticize Goldfarb or the New York Times ethics column. This question is notoriously difficult to answer. Writers like Goldfarb and indeed R J  Palacio who wrote the best-selling Middle Grade novel “Wonder” are involved in the writing industry in their day jobs, and didn’t want their associations with the industry to impact on the acceptance or rejection of their fictional work by agents and editors who knew them personally by their real names. I actually write under a pseudonym myself (big confession time!) when I write fiction because I write academic texts under my real name and I want to keep the identities separate.

I’ve always been fascinated as to when the use of a pseudonym is regarded as acceptable versus as some kind of fraud on the reading public. I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on the issue …

Yo Ho, Yo Ho! A Writer’s Life For Me!

By Ellen Rothberg

Writing is kind of like a trip to Disney World for me! I think about doing it often, I plan, plan, plan to do it and after what seems like an eternity of waiting, the climax swings by like a comet and I am deposited back at home with only my memories to relive the magic. Actually, the reliving the magic applies more to Disney than to my writing product. The writing doesn’t always produce a magical memory or moment. In My Disney-esque way of thinking, I plan to write the way I would plan a visit to the Magic Kingdom. I want to get the best bang for my theoretical buck. I don’t want to wait too long in the lines. I don’t want to miss a thing. So, what would my day really look like if writing were a Day at Disney?

What day at Disney wouldn’t begin with a trip to Adventureland (Adventureland is best visited early in the day or late in the afternoon)? I write in the shower. It’s my Adventureland. Writing without paper and pencil is such a challenge. Imagine the adventure involved in hanging onto that fabulous idea while trying to simultaneously dry off while dragging a squeegee across the glass. I emerge, wet hair leaving a trail from the bathroom across the carpet to the pad and pen I leave on my bedside table. The trek from bathroom to getting the idea on paper loses something in the transition. It sounded so much better in my Adventureland shower.

Continuing the Adventureland experience brings me to the Pirates of the Caribbean. Like my writing, the Pirates ride made me feel awesome while experiencing the thrill of being caught in a pirate battle. It is so difficult, though, to capture that sense of adventure and thrill in the written word. I can always tell someone what a great time I had at Disney, but will they really get what I mean? Isn’t that sense of adventure really something one has to experience for themselves? Being shot at by Disney pirates isn’t really the same as staging a gunfight scene in a novel. Where’s the real terror? Well, I guess we can’t go scaring the Disney visitors to death now, can we? But, that would be a fantastic piece of writing!

On to the Swiss Family Treehouse, which I hear, may be tinkered with in the not too distant future. It appears that the Disney know-it-alls think that it would be more in keeping with the times to have it become a Pixie Dust Tree, home to the Tinkerbell fairies so popular in the Disney films. “No,” my writer senses scream! One should not mess with anything having to do with Johann David Wyss. Shouldn’t I be able to write an adventure book that could stand the test of time for two hundred years? I would be happy to write something that could qualify as important for two hundred minutes.

And the Enchanted Tiki Room. I’ve read some comments online from parents of preschoolers who thought the Tiki Bird Show was scary. I write for children. I don’t get how the Tiki birds could scare even the most timid child. When I write for children, I am conscious of trying to write on their level and I always try to protect their little minds, but, my beloved Tiki birds, scary, really? I am always writing (well, not really always) with the Disney songs running through my head. I have never been scared by the Tiki birds. I will, however, ask my grown children if the Tiki birds left a scar.

Oh, the metaphorical thrill of writing as a Disney Adventureland experience. Real or imagined. It’s an adventure for me to muster up the time and energy to finish a piece of writing. Finishing my writing, hmmm, Fantasyland up next?