Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Two Talks By Literary Agents Aug. 17 and 19

Writers in this region have been asking for information on literary agents for more than a year and on August 17 and 19 in Roanoke, they’ll have an opportunity to hear three agents speak and chat with them afterwards.

The first class, part of the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge’s Writers Workshop Series, takes place Tuesday August 17 at Center in the Square and features agents Joan Timberlake (fiction, right photo) and George Oliver (non-fiction, left) who will speak together. The class runs 6-7:30 p.m. and costs $10 for non-members, members free. For more details, get in touch with Rhonda Hale (540-224-1205 or e-mail Hale@theartscouncil.org) at the Arts Council to reserve your spot.

Timberlake and Oliver will also teach separate classes at January 28-29 Roanoke Regional Writers Conference at Hollins University. Timberlake has an M.A. in English Literature from Long Island University and a law degree from West Virginia University. She is founder of Timberlake-Oliver Literary Services. She has taught nonfiction disciplines including legal, business, technical, and grammar/editing and fiction disciplines including novel, short story, essay, mystery, and humorous writing at the Maryland University and Johns Hopkins University, has worked as a writer/editor in many large corporations.

Valley Writers, a chapter of Virginia Writers Club, is sponsoring discussion with Lynchburg literary agent Dawn Dowdle, founder of Blue Ridge Literary Agency, Thursday, August 19 at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Grandin Road in Roanoke.

Dowdle founded a literary agency in Lynchburg in 2009 and caters to both established and new authors. She represents fiction in most genres. She has worked as a freelance copy editor, facilitates a writers group in Lynchburg, and works closely with new authors to help prepare their novels for publication.

The discussion is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. You can e-mail Betsy Ashton at betsy_ashton2005@yahoo.com or call at 540.297.3585 to reserve a seat.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Literary Agents To Teach at Roanoke Regional Writers Conference

George Oliver and Joan Timberlake.^

The roster of outstanding teachers for the 2011 Roanoke Regional Writers Conference is nearly complete with the addition of two literary agents, Joan Timberlake and George Oliver, responding to a chorus of requests from students over the past three years.

Timberlake and Oliver are veterans of the book wars and—as a sidelight—they’re looking for writers and books.

The keynote speaker for next year’s conference (which was recently part of a two-page spread in Writers Digest, focusing on four conferences in the entire country) is Cara Modisett, who recently left Blue Ridge Country magazine as its award-winning editor for the past 12 years. She will be joined on the opening-night podium by former Omni Magazine editor Keith Ferrell, editor of more than a dozen books and a broadly published magazine writer.

The roster this year includes a number of well-known regional writers, not the least of which are veteran editors Kurt Rheinheimer of the Roanoker Magazine and Dan Smith of Valley Business FRONT. Them will team up for a unique class, talking about their combined 80 years in the business and the lessons learned during that time.

The conference is scheduled Jan. 28-29 at Hollins University. A registration site will be available soon. the cost is only $50 for two days of conference, including 24 classes and a roundtable discussion.

Oliver and Timberlake will teach two classes, one following the other, titled, “Getting Agents To Look at Your Manuscript” and they will teach fiction and nonfiction angles. Oliver has degrees in German, English, and Linguistics, and has had a long career in teaching language and writing in varying venues, including 20 years at the University of Maryland. He keeps an irregular food blog and is compiling an anthology of his food writing. He handles non-fiction at Timberlake-Oliver Literary Services.

Timberlake has an M.A. in English Literature from Long Island University and a law degree from West Virginia University. She is founder of Timberlake-Oliver Literary Services. She has taught nonfiction disciplines including legal, business, technical, and grammar/editing and fiction disciplines including novel, short story, essay, mystery, and humorous writing at the Maryland University and Johns Hopkins University, has worked as a writer/editor in many large corporations.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Roanoke Writers Conference Gets National Exposure

The Roanoke Regional Writers Conference is one of four conferences across the U.S. featured in a two-page spread (pages 74 and 75) in the July/August issue of Writers Digest, a national magazine for writers. The online magazine is here and it is available at book stores.

The Roanoke conference, founded by Valley Business FRONT editor Dan Smith, goes into its fourth year January 28-28 at Hollins University and is part of a featured grouping of conferences held in Boston, Grapevine, Texas and online as a virtual conference.

"This is great exposure for a relatively small [15o students], new and little known--outside this region--conference and we're hoping it helps stir up even more interest than there has been," says Smith.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Final Photo Editing Class at Writers Workshop Tuesday

Chris McAdams and Ariel Clark of tba (the becher agency) in Roanoke will teach the final installment of the three-class course on editing photographs presented by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge at its monthly Writers Workshop Series Tuesday, july 20, 6 p.m. at Center in the Square.

McAdams’ work has been rewarded with 25 local and regional ADDYs and has been recognized by the American Institute of Graphic Artists, the Public Relations Society of America and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. He has served Ad 2 Roanoke as president for two consecutive years.

Clark is part of a team that works in design for tba. She is a graduate of Virginia Western Community College (communication design) and earned an ADDY Award for magazine design. She has been a designer at Leisure Publishing.

The final class is Photoshop, Advanced Methods and runs 6-7:30 p.m. Cost is $10 for non-members and $7 for members.

Get in touch with Rhonda Hale (540-224-1205 or e-mail rhale@theartscouncil.org) at the arts council to reserve your spot.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Roanoke Library Book Sale May 27-30 (Good Books, Cheap)

The always-enthusiastic, always-talky Laura Wickstead of the Roanoke City Library has this announcement for those of us who just can't pass up a good book sale:

Roanoke Public Libraries will hold its annual Book Sale on Memorial Day Weekend, May 27 to 30, in the Hospitality Room of the Main Library on South Jefferson Street downtown, kicking off with a Friends of the Library Preview on Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. This one costs $10 and is a fund-raiser for Friends.

Sale hours on Friday and Saturday (which don't have an entry fee) are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday noon to 4 p.m. Thousands of books will be for sale, in every genre: paperbacks and hardbacks, for children and adults, fiction, non-fiction, cookbooks and reference works. Books will sell for 50 cents an inch. Stack them high and bring your ruler. For example, an 8-inch stack of books--usually four to six books--is just $4. Sunday is $1 Bag Day, meaning $1 will get you a plastic shopping bag o' books.

Proceeds go to the Roanoke Public Library Foundation to support the work of the library system. For more information call Laura Wickstead 540-853-2073 and she'll tell you what you just read.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Conference Speaker's Movie To Be Made

Sara Elizabeth Timmins (above), an opening night speaker at the 2010 Roanoke Regional Writers Conference, has the green light on her movie, "Lake Effects," which will be shot at Smith Mountain Lake, near Roanoke, later this year. She had intended to film the movie last fall, but funding fell short. She has worked intensely since then to secure full funding and she now has it, she says.

Says Sara: “I am honored to have such a wonderful group of investors and for the abundance of community support over the last year.”

The flmmakers (LifeOutLoud Films) will now move on to attaching recognizable talent, a key elementin the film’s success, and continue working with the community. “Without this community 'Lake Effects' would not be possible," says Sara, "and so we will continue to promote local businesses, incorporate Virginia professionals and encourage people to participate hands on in the creation of this film which will showcase the beauty of this region.”

There are many ways for the community to get involved, Sara says. “We are looking for people who have significant frequent flyer miles that want to sponsor a cast or crew members flight, restaurants that want to cater a few meals on set in exchange for advertising and, of course, we will need tons of volunteers and extras.”

says anyone who is interested in getting involved, receiving the newsletter or making a resource or service donation to sign up on the Life Out Loud Films website here.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Photo Editing Classes for Writers at Arts Council

Valley Business FRONT Publisher and Artistic Director Tom Field (right) will conduct the first in a series of three workshops on electronic photo editing for writers Tuesday, May 18 at the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge.

The workshops, which graduate from introduction to advanced techniques, will be held the Arts Council’s offices on the second floor of Center in the Square. Space is limited, so early registrations are important.

Those attending should have with them a computer, photo software they either use or have available and their digital camera.

Field has been a professional designer for more than 20 years and is behind the FRONT’s popular and imaginative cover images for each issue. He is a Salem native and a graduate of Roanoke College.

The three workshops will include:
  • Taking good digital photos and the basics of editing, May 18, 6-7:30 p.m.
  • Introduction to Photoshop & Picasa, June 15 , 6-8 p.m.
  • Photoshop, Advanced Methods, July 20, 6-8 p.m.
Workshop fees are:
  • No. 1, $15 non-members/ $5 members;
  • No. 2, $20 non–members/$7 members;
  • No. 3, $20 non–members/$7 members;
  • Package for all 3 workshops $45 non-members/$19 members.
No refunds given if a class is missed.

Get in touch with Rhonda Hale (540-224-1205 or e-mail rhale@theartscouncil.org) at the arts council to reserve your spot.

Grant-Writing Seminar Set in Roanoke

On May 11 more than 100 nonprofits from Charlottesville to Roanoke to Abingdon will benefit from a free grant writing seminar, presented by Rutherfoord and The Hanover Insurance Company in Roanoke.

The seminar will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at The Dumas Center for Artistic and Cultural Development.

The event will provide the non-profits with training on how to recognize appropriate grants and introduce strategic planning tools for identifying short and long-term funding needs. The seminar is one of the largest pro-bono services to bring together nonprofits from across the region to address a common challenge.

According to Ed Winstead, vice president, account executive at Rutherfoord, the seminar is a direct response to a major need by nonprofits throughout the region. “As the economy has struggled, the means by which nonprofits have been able to serve their communities have shrunk dramatically," he says. "While these organizations recognize the critical importance of new funding sources to achieving their goals, many simply don’t know how to get started.

“This is a valuable opportunity for nonprofits to learn what types of grants are available to them, the tools that exist to help them pursue those grants, and to gain insight about creative methods to help them stand out from the crowd.”

The training will be led by New Mexico-based Resource Associates, a national leader in grant writing education. Topics include:Understanding good grants from bad grants, and knowing which grants to pursue
  • Black and white vs. creative ways to determine alignment of an organization’s needs with a grant competition
  • Understanding funding streams and grant types
  • Reviews of federal, state, and private agencies, and sample RFP’s that align with the needs of typical non-profits
“We all benefit from the existence of nonprofits in our communities. The services they provide improve all our lives,” says Winstead. “We feel part of our responsibility at Rutherfoord is to assist these organizations as best we can, to ensure they have the knowledge and access to resources they need to continue advancing their missions.”

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cara Modisett, Keith Ferrell To Open RRWC IV

Keith Ferrell (above) and Cara Modisett (below) will open RRWC IV in January.^

The Roanoke Regional Writers Conference IV, scheduled Jan. 28 and 29 at Hollins University in Roanoke, will kick off on Friday evening with a keynote address by long-time Blue Ridge Country magazine editor Cara Ellen Modisett.

Cara has announced that she will step down at the end of May as the full-time editor but will remain involved part-time with the magazine as she pursues an MFA from Goucher College in Baltimore. She says her topic will likely have a good bit to do with transitions writers often make.

Keith Ferrell, the former editor of Omni Magazine, will open the evening with a talk titled “Why Caring About Your Writing Is More Important and Valuable Than Ever, Or: Write Like Your Life Depends Upon It – Just Don’t Depend on Your Writing for a Livelihood.” Keith enjoys both the long form and the cheerful, as his title exemplifies.

Cara moved to Roanoke in 1998 as an intern after graduating summa cum laude from James Madison University with degrees in piano performance and English education. That internship turned into a full-time editing position with Leisure Publishing, and since 2004 she has been editor of Blue Ridge Country.

Besides her work at the magazine, she is a producer and reporter for WVTF public radio, music leader at St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church and a performing classical pianist. She written text for two books of Blue Ridge Parkway photography; blogs at RidgeLines; state, national and international awards for writing, editing, radio production and photography; named among the Top 20 Under 40 in Western Virginia by the Blue Ridge Business Journal; has interviewed figures ranging from Ted Koppel to Joan Baez; and is founding co-producer of Studio Virginia.

Music performances have included recitals at University of Richmond, Hollins University, Radford University, Washington & Lee University and Ferrum College; pit orchestra work at Mill Mountain Theatre, Radford University and Washington & Lee; major choral accompanying for St. John's Music on the Corner.

She has taught workshops for Tennessee Mountain Writers, Virginia Highlands Festival, Roanoke Regional Writers Conference, Roanoke County Schools; and she is a member of American Society of Magazine Editors, Society of Environmental Journalists, Society of Professional Journalists, and the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge.

The author of more than a dozen books, including novels and biographies, Keith Ferrell has also written more than 2,000 magazine, newspaper, and encyclopedia articles and essays on scientific, technical, historical, cultural, and political topics.

From 1990 to 1996 Ferrell was the editor of OMNI Magazine, the world’s largest circulation science magazine; additionally he was editorial director of the Compute family of books and magazines, as well as senior vice president of parent company Penthouse/General Media International.

In 1994 Ferrell oversaw the launch of OMNI On-Line, the first major magazine to make the transition to Internet publication. As a freelancer, Ferrell has written and co-designed several interactive computer games as well as articles, essays, and books.

He has spoken to business, government, and educational audiences in the United States, Europe, and Asia, and has appeared frequently on television and radio throughout the world. Recent publications include articles on the history of glass, the perils and inaccuracies of Internet-based information, the challenges and dangers inherent in surveillance technologies, the variety of crises in corporate governance, the inappropriateness of teaching intelligent design as science and the necessity to teach the fact of biological evolution, and the origins of unusual words.

He blogs on information security issues for Informationweek SMB and his personal blog can be found here.

Organizers are working as we speak in lining up teachers--and there are some good ones on the way. Keep a watch on this blog for registration information and for complete details, including a list of teachers.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Todd Ristau Talks About the Importance of His Hitler Play

Todd Ristau plays Hitler in 'Under the Banner of a Shadow,' which he wrote and directs.^

Todd Ristau’s “Under the Banner of a Shadow” is scheduled to run April 27-May 2 at Studio Roanoke and this may well be one of the more important theatrical events of the season in Roanoke.

This is Ristau’s original one-man play that he has written, directed (with help from Clinton Johnston) and stars in. It deals with the last days in the life of Adolph Hitler, during which he dictates his political testament. It is a moving look inside the 20th Century’s most demented—and some would argue most interesting—mind. This is a risky work, one that could easily attract criticism. But that’s the kind of theater Ristau and the boys and girls at Studio Roanoke are giving us these days.

Tickets are $15 and $12 and you can make reservations at 540-343-3054.

Following is an interview with Todd as he prepares for this challenging role:

What's the genesis of “Under the Banner of a Shadow”?

The play was first written in the lead up to the first Gulf war, when pro war politicians were making comparisons to Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler and the invasion of Kuwait to that of Poland. Yes, Hussein admired Hitler, used many of the same totalitarian models in his regime and he was hunkered down in a bunker vowing to fight to the last Iraqi child ... but I wasn't sure that all of the comparisons were taking the full weight of historical understanding into consideration.

At around the same time, some
older people might remember, Giraldo Rivera had his nose broken on his TV show by skinheads who started throwing chairs around after he challenged them on their contention that the Holocaust never happened, and if it did, it was engineered by Himmler in secrecy and Hitler knew nothing about it.

I was in the Iowa Playwrights Workshop at the time, and taking a docudrama class from Lavonne Mueller. She was strongly encouraging us to consider the one person play, and though I was already working on a play about the Donner Party as a leftist exploration of Manifest Destiny, I wrote a few exploratory monologues from Hitler's point of view for the class and thought it might make an interesting one man show.

[Todd began to develop the theme for a class and found an actor to work with.] Jim Thorn and I developed the piece in rehearsal. I would write a bunch of material based on Hitler's own words ... and rewrote as we rehearsed. ...

The first production we had minimal props and costume material ... but it was very successful. We got an invitation to take the play to the 1991 Edinburgh Festival and toured the show to raise money for the trip. Whenever we performed we did a lengthy talk back afterward and the play became a useful way to open a discussion on how little we know about Hitler.

Why now? Does this piece have any meaning beyond the historical and the obvious?

It is the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II this month and we will be performing the play on the same date as Hitler's suicide ... Exploring Hitler's final hours is important way to understand the decisions and consequences which led to that point, and the horror and bloodshed that preceded it so that nothing like that can ever happen again.

Both our current president and our past president were compared to Hitler in very public ways and the comparisons aren't treated as hyperbole, so I think it is important to give people an opportunity to really reflect in a very pointed whether those comparisons are valid. I would like people to see the show and then reflect on those comparisons and see if it doesn't change their positions. ...

If nothing else, the play lays bare the horrific power of propaganda to encourage human beings to be inhuman in their actions. Roanoke, unfortunately, as we are all too aware, is the home of a modern NAZI apologist and as a community I think we have to take some responsibility for that fact being possible. So, I think the play's selection is timely, topical, and intensely relevant.
Do you consider this play controversial? If so, why?

I think people know that everything we do at Studio Roanoke is controversial because the kind of plays are unique in their content and in our selection we are actively trying to promote an active conversation about what makes good theatre, what questions are worth asking, and what answers we can all find together.

It is not a feel-good musical. It deals with very difficult subject matter. It has a strange kind of construction in that we're watching Hitler have these fever dream flashbacks and having some arguments with significant people in his life--Eva Braun, Ernst Rhoem, Geli Rauble, his father, Rommel, his roommate when he was struggling to become an artist in Vienna.

It is uncomfortable to be forced to recognize that Hitler was human, and even more so that some of his rhetoric is familiar if you listen to radio talk shows ... but, we are making a real effort with this show to get out the word in advance what the play is and what it is trying to do and what it is not.

It is a dramatic examination of a part of history that still impacts us today, is still part of our political language, and we are trying to get people thinking about and questioning how we avoid becoming anything like NAZI Germany.

What it is not, is comic, disrespectful. or in any way an attempt to eulogize or excuse the most hated man in history. The most frequent comment we got when we first did the show was, "I didn't know he said that." Even a cursory reading of Hitler's speeches and writings leave little doubt that though he didn't want a paper trail, he was actively involved in a strategy of terror and an underlying commitment to genocide and eugenics.

You know, and we can't look at Hitler and the Nazis as though it was in isolation. The eugenics laws were first established here in the US, and just up the road in Staunton, the head of Western State Hospital was quoted in the Richmond paper when asked about the need for the Virginia Sterilization Act in 1932, replied that "The Germans are beating us at our own game."

In America, we just don't spend a lot of time looking backward ... or take the time to understand how we got to where we are or how that might affect where we're going.

In a theater dedicated to new plays, sometimes it is useful to do a play that forces us to do a little reflection on what is decades behind us. I'm nervous about doing the show, of course, and especially nervous about taking on the role of actor in the play. But an influential theater teacher at Iowa once told me that good theatre is always dangerous. And it is a time to be courageous in what we do and what we talk about.

Wherever you are on the political spectrum, we all agree that things are changing, and it would be better to talk about it than continue polarizing and stoking the anger with fear of that change. I hope people will also be courageous and come see the show. We're looking forward to people seeing Studio Roanoke as a place where important conversations happen.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Roanoke Valley Pen Women Sponsor Poetry Contest

Virginia’s Roanoke Valley Branch of the National League of American Pen Womenhas announced its 10th Annual Poetry Competition. This year the organization is celebrating Women in the Arts and all poems should address this as the theme of the work.

Proceeds fund an annual scholarship.

Prizes are $100, $75, $50 and Honorable Mention $5. Rules are available here.

Postmark deadline for entries is July 30, 2010. Cost per poem is $5; make checks payable to Roanoke Valley Branch, NLAPW. Mail entries to: Co-Chairman, Peggy Shifflett, 700 Cherrywood Road, Salem, VA 24153.

Parks Lanier, an English professor at Radford University, will judge the poems.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Roland Lazenby Among Kendig Award Winners

The Arts Council of the Blue Ridge will honor the following individuals, businesses and organizations for their contributions to the arts at the Perry F. Kendig Awards June 9 at Roanoke College.

The winners are:
  • Visual Arts: Betty Branch
  • Literary Arts: Roland Lazenby
  • Performing Arts: Steven White
  • Individual Arts Supporter: Ann Davey Masters (posthumously)
  • Business Arts Supporter: George Cartledge Jr., George Cartledge III, Robert Bennett and Grand Home Furnishings
  • Arts and Cultural Organization: John McEnhill, Jacksonville Center for the Arts
  • Young Professional: Sarah Tune Doherty
  • Arts Education: Lisa Martin, Reynolds Homestead, Virginia Tech
Lazenby is the author of Jerry West (among about 20 books), which is a hot seller nationally and was a speaker at January's Roanoke Regional Writers Conference; Branch is one of Roanoke's most beloved artists and Ann Masters was a long-time supporter of the arts and died in December while leading the Clean Valley Council. The Cartledge family (Bennett is a grandson) has long been an arts force and Sara Doherty has come to prominence of late, especially with her work on the board of Mill Mountain Theatre. White has been a leader with Opera Roanoke for some time.

The Perry F. Kendig Awards, named after the late Dr. Kendig, a longtime supporter of the arts and past President of Roanoke College, have recognized businesses, cultural organizations and individual supporters of the arts for the past 25 years. With the milestone 25th Anniversary in 2010, The Arts Council of the Blue Ridge is returning the event to Roanoke College and encouraging audiences and recipients to wear silver attire.

Valley Business FRONT Editor Dan Smith and Publisher Tom Field each won literary awards last year (it was Smith's second Kendig) and Smith is on the board of directors.

A silent auction featuring “All Things Silver” will round out the evening. Natasha Ryan of WDBJ will serve as emcee.

Admission is $60 per person ($30 is tax deductible). For more information visit here or call Meagan Smith at 342-5790 ext. 4.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Looking for a Free Used Computer for a Worthy Writer

OK, lovely people, now's the time together to help one of our own. Tim Jackson, who recently founded the non-profit New River Voice, an online-only news organization in Radford, has a wonderful opportunity to get some training in this venture in California. Tim is one of a very few journalists in the country to be selected to attend the institute, but he will have to pay for airfare and his computer recently conked out, so he'll need to come by a new one.

Of course, non-profits pay little and non-profit startup news organizations pay almost nothing. Tim needs our help. Anybody who wants to contribute to his airfare can let me know and I'll give you his address. If you have a functional computer (preferably a laptop, since carrying this on a plane is an issue) you're willing to contribute, e-mail me at editrdan@msn.com and I'll get you and Tim together. We need this stuff pretty soon so Tim can make his commitment to attend this marvelous opportunity.

--Dan Smith

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bill of Rights for Writers, Editors

Darrell Laurant (right), longtime columnist for the Lynchburg News & Advance and the director of The Writers' Bridge, wrote the following as a blog entry at (www.thewritersbridge.com). The Bridge is an international community of freelance writers whose reason for existence is not just to market and sell the work of our members (although that's certainly a priority), but also to do its part to change the very culture of freelance writing.

"We think [the culture]needs changing," says Darrell. "In many ways, the relationship between editors and writers has always bordered on the adversarial. True, both groups have very specific concerns, rights and needs, but many of those are shared. A published article is really a collaboration, and needs to be seen that way throughout the process.

"That's the way TWB wants to operate. At the moment, we have over 100 members representing more than 30 American states and a dozen other countries. Any of them are welcome to post their opinions, personal stories and writing in this space.

"For openers, I'd like to offer these suggestions for making life easier for both editors and freelancers. Call it a Bill of Rights." Here is Darrell's bill:


1. Editors have the right to article pitches that reflect at least some knowledge of their magazine or Website.It is unrealistic to expect writers -- who are, in most cases, equally busy people -- to plow through years of back issues. It is, however, reasonable to presume that they have some sense of the subject, scope and tone of a publication, as well as what has been printed in recent issues. They should also have thoroughly read whatever writers' guidelines might be available.

2. Editors have the right to enough information in queries for them to make a decision.How is this a story that will fit this particular market? Who is this writer, and what are his or her credentials?

3. Editors have the right to establish their own rules for queries.If a market requires that queries be snail mailed, then that's how you should do it. The only exception might be a story with an extremely short shelf life -- if, for instance, a writer wants to know if an editor would like him or her to cover a breaking event.

4. Editors have the right to ask for stories on speculation. If they've never worked with you before, they have no idea what you're going to send them. Even published clips don't always help, because they may have been heavily edited. Spec status should be made clear at the time the article is requested, however.

5. Editors have the right to receive the article for which they contracted.Any significant changes in subject or tone should be worked out during the writing process.

6. Editors have the right to receive material that is reasonably free of grammatical or spelling errors. If you can't spell, find someone who can to go over your manuscript.

7. Editors have the right to set deadlines, and to have those deadlines met. (But see No. 3 below). In the case of magazine editors, they also have the right to have their requests for story lengths met, since they are often trying to fill a specific hole in their layout.

8. Editors have the right to communication from their writers. If you're having trouble meeting a deadline or finding a source, by all means contact the editor with whom you're working and let them know in advance. On the other hand, they also have the right not to be pestered as to whether a particular idea has been accepted or is being considered. If possible, respect their stated window of response time.

9. Editors have the right to check your facts. They'll be the ones left holding the bag if you get something wrong.


1. Freelancers have the right to shop their ideas around, just as they would to sell a car or a house. Markets that say "No simultaneous submissions" are simply being unrealistic -- in the time it takes a writer to hear from one editor, a story may have grown stale and unsellable. For their part, writers should be honest about this -- trying to sell the same story to two similar markets who each think they're getting an "exclusive" is highly unethical.

2. Freelancers have the right to a reasonably quick response to queries. Magazines and Websites are often understaffed these days, it's true. But if a query is obviously off the mark, it shouldn't take long to hit the return button on an e-mail and say: "Thanks. Not for us." Or to write the same comment on a snail mail query and drop it back into the SASE. If an editor is considering a pitch, it would also be nice to let the writer know, and how long that decision might take.

3. Freelancers have the right to reasonable deadlines. Editors should be organized enough to plan ahead and not have to ask that stories be done on rush order. That benefits neither party.

4. Just like editors, freelancers have the right to communication. The editor should be clear about what he or she wants in a story before the fact.

5. Freelancers have the right to be paid as advertised. It's a lot to ask to begin with to expect a writer to wait until publication, rather than upon acceptance, to receive a check. But if that's what's been agreed on, renumeration should be prompt. A house or car payment might depend upon it.

6. Freelancers have the right to be informed in advance if their work is going to be used in any other manner than what has been agreed upon.

7. Freelancers have the right to request a signed contract -- even a contingency contract for stories on spec.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Writers Workshop: Marketing Your Work

Thomas Becher (right), president and owner of Roanoke-based PR and ad agency tba (the becher agency), will talk about marketing your work at the monthly Arts Council of the Blue Ridge Writers Workshop Tuesday at 6:30 at Center in the Square.

He will as you questions like: Are you interesting? How can you get your work noticed? And then he will talk about ways you can get the most from your greatest strength—the ability to write and communicate – through PR and social media.

He will discuss developing your personal brand; building a strategic marketing plan; planning and executing public relations strategies and tactics; social media must-haves and ideas to market your self-published book.

This is a presentation that has been requested several times and I think you’ll find Thomas to be knowledgeable, well informed and a good speaker. If you’re looking to market your book or just your writing skills, this is where you belong. The cost is a meager $5 for non-members (free for members).

Call Rhonda Hale at the Arts Council at 540-224-1205 or e-mail her at rhale@theartscoundil.org.

Join Me Tuesday for The Big Read in Bonsack

I hope all you lovely people will join me tomorrow night (Tuesday) at the Blue Ridge Library on U.S. 460 just east of Roanoke in the Bonsack area for a discussion of the voices used in Ernest Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying. It starts at 6:30 and goes until we're all tired of each other.

This is one of a series of events this month in The Big Read, a community-wide event featuring this book at its center. The Big Read is a national organization that promotes community reading both for its own value and as a community-building event.

Gaines' book tells the story of a man whose mission is to--reluctantly and with considerable prodding--help a condemned felon feel a sense of worth before his execution in Louisiana. Cheerful little book, it is.

Anyhow, come by and help us figure out just exactly what Gaines is saying, how it plays out and how you might have done it better.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Screenwriting Competition Scheduled in Virginia

Our buddy Sara Elizabeth Timmins shares the following for all you aspiring screenwriters:

The 2010 Virginia Screenwriting Competition presented by the Virginia Film Office is open to Virginia residents and students attending Virginia schools, there is no entry fee to submit a screenplay.

Every screenplay in the competition will receive a written critique from the first panel of judges and screenplays selected as finalists in the competition are judged by industry professionals actively producing feature films.

The deadline to enter is Friday, May 21, 2010. All entries must be postmarked on or before that date.For a complete list of rules and the application form, click here.

For more information or questions, contact the Virginia Film Office at 800-854-6233 or email kstephens@virginia.org

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Life Renewed in a Thank-You Note

Elizabeth Jones with Dan Smith at the conference.^

Elizabeth Jones, who won the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference's scholarship for 2010, is, by all accounts, a remarkable woman who will be heard from in the future. The letter she has written to us as a "thank you" note to our conference, gives an indication that the word we got on her is right. Here's the letter:

Dear Dan [Smith, conference founder],

I feel such gratitude for the scholarship check I received from Hollins that was awarded by you and the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference in January. It was a wonderful conference, well thought-out, entertaining and informative.

I also feel as if I need to tell you why this check means so much to me.

Five years ago, my youngest brother, Steven Matthews, was murdered in Baltimore. He was an innocent bystander in a home invasion. The house that Steven lived in was a group home for young men who were striving to become clean and sober after years of addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Six months prior to his death, my brother challenged me to finish my education. His words went something lik this: "Liz, are you a drug addict? Are you a recovering alcoholic? Are you bi-polar? No? Well, I am. If I can finish college and even go on to get my MFA and teaching certificate, what is your excuse?

It was this memory that brought me to Hollins University. And, it is the many memories of Steven that have brought me into the non-fiction genre. Thanks to the support and encouragement of my peers and professors, I am well into a memoir that I believe may be marketable. I also hope it can help others who deal with the loss of a loved-one to violence. My experience is that the grieving process is as individual as where a person's freckles appear on [her] face; totally unique and personal. I don't believe in time limits or standards for grieving; however, all too often we are made to feel as if we need to "shape up" and "get on with life." Empathy and compassion can be too short lived and the person who is mourning is left alone before they have been able to fully process how their life has changed.

During the conversation we had that I refer to above, Steven and I also made promises to each other in the event of our deaths. Whoever was left behind had to take some of the other's ashes to the Grand Canyon (we were raised in Flagstaff, Arizona) and to Barbados, West Indies (where we lived a few times while my father was on sabbatical for research). Last year, I was able to take some of Steven's ashes to Arizona. This summer, I will finish fulfilling my promise to him by taking his remaining ashes to Barbados. I will be able to complete the final phase of my memoir after that experience.

I would not be able to complete this mission on my brother's behalf without your gift. You have truly helped me with my work and my promise.

On the day that Steven died, two other men died and one was seriously wounded. My understanding is that two others were at AA meetings, and one was doing lanudry in the basement with his headphones on. Steven had been cooking dinner for all of them when the gunmen kicked in the door. Four of them were found in the living room, sitting close enough to be holding hands. One had fainted and three were dead.

The positive news is that the medical examiner stated that all of the men living in that house were clean and sober. All were succeeding. It makes me think of the old quote, "A lone man together is just that, a man. Put him with others and he becomes part of an army." I don't know who wrote that, but the truth is that Steven had found his army after many years of personal disappointment. I feel as if I have a wonderful opportunity to honor his last request and the men he lived and died with by writing about them.

So, thank you. This may well be much more information than you need or want, but it helps me show my gratitude, of which I have so much right now.

Elizabeth Matthews Jones
Hollins Horizons '10

Monday, February 22, 2010

Writing Yourself Sane: Some Tips

Here's a useful link from Donna Dilley that tells us how to "write yourself sane" among other things.

It's a wide-ranging "how to ..." site with a number of tips for writers. Hope you get the information that puts you over the top on your next project.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Some Rules for Writing Fiction

Our good buddy Sharon Rappaport, whose husband John Anderson has a hot book these days ("Stand By Her"), send along some rules for writing fiction and they range from very interesting to good to funny to something you'll use next time you sit to write.

They're here.