Conference Call: PNWA Summer Conference’s early registration now open

I had an excellent experience at the 2001 whoop-de-doo. The conference annoys writers more interested in generating work, but is suited me fine, slutting around as I was for an agent.

(I didn’t find one at the conference, but garnered the interest of editors at four different houses, which made finding an agent so much easier. I signed with her, 9/11 happened, and interest in travel books dropped faster than she did me. I believe the quote was, “I am bleeding from my eyeballs.” You have got to love this industry. in retrospect.)

All this to say, go if you are looking to sell a book. It’s fine for information-gathering, but spendy:

Current Registration Fee (between May 1 and July 9) $495.00 $595.00
Last-minute Registration Fee (postmarked after July 9)* $595.00 $695.00

2010 CONFERENCE: July 22 – 25 at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport Hilton Conference Center.

How I Got That Story: Michelle Goodman, nonfiction

Michelle fled the cube in 1992, never to look back, We met n the early aughts. She flattered me beyond belief with an invitation to participate in a NW Bookfest panel about writing for anthologies. Not so long after, she e-mailed saying she was forming a group for freelancers to meet monthly, shoot a few beers—I had tea—and provide the water-cooler element lacking in our pajama-wearing, rejection-rife, always-hunting-the-next-gig lives. Michelle has an easy-seeming gift for community made all the more genuine by her grounding in the financial realities of making a living as a writer. She proves daily her axiom, “You don’t need a trust fund to do this.” In less than a decade, Michelle has:

  • scored a weekly career column for;
  • become a paid blogger for The Seattle Times/ Nine to Thrive;
  • won a 2006 Residency to Hedgebrook;
  • Other publications:,, Salon,Entrepreneur, AOL, BUST, B*tch, The Bark, Yahoo! HotJobs, PayScale, and several anthologies, including P.S. What I Didn’t Say: Unsent Letters to Our Female Friends (Seal Press, 2009).

Make the commitment

What did you learn most, in the process of building toward then publishing your first book?

Platform is everything. If you work toward building an audience for your published short work (fiction or non) or by blogging, teaching, or speaking, you’ll have a far easier time convincing a book publisher to give you a contract, especially in this ever-tightening market. You’ll also have an easier time selling copies to readers. Also, it kind of makes you feel like a superhero to know you can write, edit, and polish 70K words in a matter of months. It makes going back and tackling your short pieces after the fact that much easier.

Given your current success, what was your tipping point?

This changes every couple years. I felt like I was onto something when I got my first big clip in 2000 or 2001, in Salon. I felt the same way a year or so later when I got my first contribution to an anthology published, and again in another year or so when I got my first feature story in a national magazine I’d long admired. Ditto for landing a book deal and writing residency in 2006. And another book and a national column in 2007. And a NY Times clip in 2008.

I’m not trying to brag. It feels like I still have a ways to go to get my writing career to where I want it to be. I’m trying to do what makes me happy (and not always succeeding). Each year I set new goals, always factoring in what I can afford financially, which often limits how much time I have to do the Writing I Really Want To Do. Some years I meet my goals, some years I don’t. But I’m still striving for a lot and don’t think that will ever stop. It’s what keeps me reaching.

I suspect the conventional answer to your question is that coming out with my first book opened a lot of doors for me: more invites to speak at events (some even paid), more national assignments, a couple of columns, more steady freelance gigs, more experience to share with students/classes I’ve taught, more people knowing who I am (though I’m not the sort who gets off on this). The book wasa big resume boost, and a big writing-confidence boost.

One thing I would like to note is that doing these two books has not brought me more time or money or serenity, and that has been a big challenge. I knew what I was signing up for (people don’t write books to boost their income. If you had a decent income before, signing up to be an author is almost always a big pay cut, unless you write your books on top of doing other paid work, as I did). But the juggling act has all but burned me out. So when people say, What book are you writing this year? I tell them that I’m not. Just writing short pieces. And thrilled to not have any 70K word deadlines hanging over my head.

How many pieces do you have out for consideration at any given time?

Since I started The Anti 9-to-5 Guide in 06, it’s been one to none. One, if I’d had a piece out to anthology editor I knew (which did pay off in 07, with Single State of the Union). The books I wrote during 06, 07, and 08 took up much of my writing time. The book promotion and article assignments/copywriting work to pay for it all took up the rest. I’d like to spend 09 getting back to a place where I can write new short creative nonfiction to submit, though my schedule looks bleak till March. Sometimes, though, when you already have an editor’s ear, all that’s required to land an essay slot is a story pitch. So I suspect this year will be a combo of pitches and submissions. And my regular column/client gigs, which already keep me busy busy. {Ed note: this interview took place early in 2009.}

When you started writing, what were your top three DREAM PUBLICATIONS?

I think when I first started writing and dreaming of being a writer I was in the sixth grade. I’m kind of a late bloomer. Not sure I had a publication in mind, other than A Book. When I first started taking my freelancing and writing career seriously in my late 20s (oh so many years ago), my list was probably Salon, New York Times, and Story magazine. So I did Salon, which is something I’d like to do again now that I don’t have a book deadline (or Nerve or Slate or some such). I recently wrote a fun piece about freelancing for the New York Times online edition (given the way newspapers are going and the way people read them — online only—I count that as a credit, though I now have my sights set on a couple more clips from them). Sadly, Story magazine folded before I hit 30.

Next on “How I Got That Story”: Michael Czyzniejewski, Editor-in-Chief of Mid-American Review and author of:

Pronounced: Chews-news-ki

Two calls (national) and two books (local)

The Calls

The 2010 Pen Parentis Writing Fellowship for New Parents

“In addition to a full year of promotion, a $1000 prize will be presented to the Pen Parentis Writing Fellow at a public reading of the winning work of fiction on September 14, 2010 in Manhattan. Entrants must be the parent of at least one child under 10 years of age, but there are no style or genre limitations on the fiction submitted for consideration. This fellowship is open to ANY writer- published or not- who is the parent of a child 10 or under.  Beginners encouraged and welcome.”

Full call here.

A “Food’s-up” heads-up from Creative Nonfiction

My favorite CNF source will be seeking new essays about what keeps us all going — food. Food you like and food you hate; subjects on sustenance of any sort. For the “full” call:

CNF (the magazine, not the movement) also seeks immortality.

The Books

Frances McCue (Founding Director of Richard Hugo House and Writer-in-Residence at University of Washington) has two books hitting the shelves as we speak.

  • The Bled is poetry, published by Factory Hollow Press
  • The Car That Brought You Here Still Runs is an essay collection in which Frances examines Hugo’s poems about Northwest towns to illuminate historical and environmental issues.

Frances has had an immeasurable impact on the literary scene in the Pacific Northwest. Let’s support her in kind at readings for The Car:

  • June 1 – Village Books (Bellingham)
  • June 9 – University Bookstore (Seattle)

Mom-blogging goes corporate: This birthday brought to you by AT&T

    In response to this, reader Penny left a comment that dovetails remarkably with thoughts I have been struggling to align for over a year. Penny writes: “Hmmm, while I agree with your point about children being autonomous beings, I wonder if that really equates to you needing to get their permission to write about them or really equals some kind of exploitation.

    I am not inappropriately linking sexuality to money for my parents' financial benefit.

    Yes. It is, precisely, some kind of exploitation.

    Some parents sell their children into sexual slavery. (Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe; you know, other places.) Here, we have 150 “A-list” blogger moms selling ad space through media reps. Think I’m kidding?

    “But just as some cringe at Tupperware parties and the like for allowing a commercial enterprise to masquerade as a social one, some find the vast influx of corporate sponsors, freebies and promotions into the blogosphere a bit troubling. Last summer, one blogger organized a weeklong public relations blackout in which bloggers were urged to eschew contests, product reviews and giveaways and instead get “back to basics” by writing about their lives. Another blogger replied that she couldn’t do so because the blackout fell the week of her daughter’s first birthday party, which she was promoting on her blog. With sponsors and giveaways.”

    The article questions if these awkward moments in the capitalization of childhood  ” … might be, in part, because bloggers and corporations are still forging the proper boundaries of their relationship …. ”

    No. It is because of a diagnostic code these parents should be slapped with.

    If selling your kid into prostitution is at one end of the continuum, and the above perhaps two steps toward the middle, the far end is blogging about your child’s adorable yet immature insistence on being so young.

Understanding Publishing: The backlist is the new frontlist

Buy me.

Conclude what ye may about the “e-” vs. “real” phenomenon rocking publishing, but its great for backlisted books, the bridesmaids of book publishing. Who wants to be on a backlist?

Informed writers, that’s who.

Aside from the fact that the only way to avoid the backlist is to go out of print, backlisting happens.

The frontlist is for books publishing now. Generally speaking, a book stays on the frontlist for about a year, receiving any attention the publisher has energy to lavish on it without losing money. At the larger publishing houses, this length of time could be as few as two weeks

What ho, says you; whither “a year”? OK, so your book may be on the front list for a year. Big houses can have books coming out every two weeks. Your book has two weeks to “bounce” (generate enough sales that the PR staff remember your name or at least return your call). One advantage to a smaller press is that titles stay “new” for six months, if not a full year. Regardless of publishing small or big house, after a year, a book moves to the backlist.

The great news about backlist: this is where the money is. Certainly, for the publishers. With no effort other than listing the backlist, the title keeps selling. Yay, the  frontlist gleans all glory (hello, Oprah!). But most frontlist authors are working to pay back the publisher for their advance on sales (aka: the advance). It is only after the book earns over its advance does the writer receive royalties. Writer royalties often kick in after a book hits the backlist, thus completing our metaphor: she snags one for herself.

All this to say, any author with strong organizational skills and internet access can keep attention on their work far longer than the time alloted by the publisher. Strong sales over a six- to twelve-month period could lead to re-printing or soft- to hardcover release (many books, particularly those by first-time authors, are in softcover until they demonstrate sales).

People who can get you published

I know some through personal relationship and others through arranging their Seattle appearances. I am happy to answer questions about any of them. Free. No strings.

Post the question in the comments section and I will respond thusly. This offer good while supplies last.

Literary Agencies

Erin Hosier: passionate about widening the spectrum of what gets published
  • Donald Maass Literary Agency
  • Dunow, Carlson, & Lerner
  • Frederick Hill Bonnie Nadell Literary Agency
  • Folio Literary Management
  • John Hawkins & Associates, Inc.
  • Wales Literary Agency

Publishing Houses

  • Copper Canyon Press (poetry)
  • Graywolf Press (literary fiction and nonfiction; poetry;)
  • MacAdam/Cage Publishing (literary fiction and nonfiction; website currently not functioning)
  • Seal Press (known for groundbreaking feminist nonfiction but growing their mainstream frontlist; fiction rarely)
  • Seven Stories Press (literary and political; fiction, nonfiction and poetry)
  • Simon & Schuster (big houses; they do it all)
  • St. Martin’s Press (another big house; they do it all, too)

Literary Magazines and Journals

  • Bellingham Review (likes work that plays with form)
  • Brevity (strictly CNF, 750 words or less; likes funny)
  • Creative Nonfiction (CNF only; the first and best in the field of CNF)
  • Georgia Review (literary fiction, nonfiction and poetry; sets the bar for excellence)
  • Mid-American Review (another top mag; excels in their creative outreach to new writers)
  • Open City Magazine (bold, edgy voices; alerts agents when an author needs representation)
  • Prairie Schooner (literary fiction, nonfiction and poetry; does not allow simultaneous submissions)
  • Tin House Magazine (boldfaced names in contemporary fiction; building their reputation for CNF/essay; funny!)


  • Don’t talk to writers about how to get published. Most of them hate those conversations (unless they are your friend or know your parents). They don’t want to have to tell you, “I have talent and work hard.” Which is true. Of course, a few were born lucky.
  • Instead, buy their book or take a workshop or go to their reading.
  • Refrain from asking a fiction writer, “Did that really happen?” If it had, they would have written nonfiction.

Let’s Talk Money

“How much?” That’s the question I hear most often from students in my class, “Get Published! Your Short Pieces Find a Home.” Nutshelling freelance pay:

  • Blog posts: zip, zero, nada. Excpet for rare instances, even big outfits like The Huffington Post don’t pay bloggers.

Comment producer: any guesses as to how one e-publishes to make actual money?

  • Journalism: depends completely on what used to be know as “circulation.” Your highest pay would be glossy magazines; $2-$3 per word. (Really big names like Esquire and GQ might pay up to $5 per word.) Regionals generally pay per article. $200-$500 is standard, depending on the circulation and the section in which your piece runs. An article running in the business section will generally bring you more than one of similar word count on the same subject in Lifestyle.

Comment producer: any guesses as to why?

  • Literary journals: where you will find writers such as myself. Pay anything from two copies to about what the guy in the photo holds in his hand. Really big names (Paris Review, New Yorker) pay much more, but if The New Yorker publishes you, you wouldn’t be reading this post.

Comment producer: any guesses as to why a writer would pursue publication in a respected literary magazine over better-paying commercial assignments?

To the comments!