Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sage Cohen on Poetry and Writing the Life Poetic

Please extend a warm welcome to award-winning poet Sage Cohen, author of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry published this year by Writer’s Digest Books, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. Sage received her BA in Comparative Literature at Brown University and MA in English, Creative Writing from New York University. She feels the real learning laboratory is life!

Her web sites Writing the Life Poetic , Sage Said So and blog Writing the Life Poetic are filled with her creativity in both the literary and artistic realm. I just love her original illustrations!

~How does poetry make the world a better place to live?
I think poetry fills the gap left by the so-called objective truth that dominates our media, science and legislation. Many of us want to comprehend and communicate the complexity of human experience on a deeper, more soulful level. Poetry gives us a shared language that is more subtle, more human, and—at its best—more universally “true” than we are capable of achieving with just the facts.

~ How has integrating the reading and writing of poetry into your life impacted you?

I will risk sounding melodramatic in saying that poetry saved my life. I stumbled into a writing practice at an extremely vulnerable time in my early teenage years. Poetry gave me then, as it does today, a way of giving voice to feelings and ideas that felt too risky and complicated to speak out loud. There was a kind of alchemy in writing through such welcoming them in language, I was able to transform the energies of fear, pain and loneliness into a kind of friendly camaraderie with myself. In a way, I wrote myself into a trust that I belonged in this world.

~Why did you write Writing the Life Poetic?
While working with writers for the past fifteen years, I have observed that even the most creative people fear that they don’t have what it takes to write and read poetry. I wrote Writing the Life Poetic to put poetry back into the hands of the people––not because they are aspiring to become the poet laureate of the United States––but because poetry is one of the great pleasures in life.”

~What sets Writing the Life Poetic apart from other poetry how-to books?
The craft of poetry has been well documented in a variety of books that offer a valuable service to serious writers striving to become competent poets. Now it’s time for a poetry book that does more than lecture from the front of the classroom. Writing the Life Poetic was written to be a contagiously fun adventure in writing. Through an entertaining mix of insights, exercises, expert guidance and encouragement, I hope to get readers excited about the possibilities of poetry––and engaged in a creative practice. Leonard Cohen says: “Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” My goal is that Writing the Life Poetic be the flame fueling the life well lived.

~Is it true that your book and your baby were conceived and birthed at the same time? What did you learn from this process?
Yes, I often refer to my son Theo and Writing the Life Poetic as my multi-media twins! I found out I was pregnant with Theo about two months into the writing of the book and I was making final edits to the book in layout two weeks after he was born. It was fascinating to have two of the most potent creative processes I’ve ever experienced happening in tandem. What I learned is a great respect for the birthing journey; it is one that has completely rewritten me along the way.

I am writing a monthly column this year for The Writer Mama zine titled “The Articulate Conception” which chronicles my journey of becoming an author and a mom. Through the course of ten essays, I am exploring this double-whammy birth trajectory--from the twinkle in my eye to the bags under my eyes. The first column is available here: Articulate Conception.

~I’d love to conclude with a poem of yours. Would you be willing to share one?
Of course! Happy to!

Leaving Buckhorn Springs
By Sage Cohen

The farmland was an orchestra,
its ochres holding a baritone below
the soft bells of farmhouses,
altos of shadowed hills,
violins grieving the late
afternoon light. When I saw
the horses, glazed over with rain,
the battered old motorcycle parked
beside them, I pulled my car over
and silenced it on the gravel.
The rain and I were diamonds
displacing appetite with mystery.
As the horses turned toward me,
the centuries poured through
their powerful necks and my body
was the drum receiving the pulse
of history. The skin between me
and the world became the rhythm
of the rain keeping time with the sky
and into the music walked
the smallest of the horses. We stood
for many measures considering
each other, his eyes the quarter notes
of my heart’s staccato. This symphony
of privacy and silence: this wildness
that the fence between us could not divide.

Sage writes four monthly columns about the craft and business of writing and serves as Poetry Editor for VoiceCatcher 4. Sage co-curates a monthly reading series at Barnes & Noble and teaches the online class Poetry for the People.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Frugal Marketing Guru Carolyn-Howard Johnson

Award winning writer and frugal marketing expert, Carolyn Howard-Johnson joins us today at Writers in Business.

Carolyn is a prolific writer of fiction and non-fiction books and a marketing guru referred to in writer’s networks as the Queen of Frugal Book Promotion. Her new series of books, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success have both won USA Book News’ awards and are certain to become frequently read favorites in the writing world. She is also an instructor at UCLA Extension's world renown Writers' Program and a popular speaker.

In order to prepare for this interview, I spent many hours over several days learning about Carolyn and the work she is doing to help writers and editors discover affordable marketing. I’m amazed at what she has accomplished and all the information she has to share. Today I’d like to focus on Carolyn’s book, The Frugal Book Promoter.

~As a former publicist and current author, you have spent a lot of time honing your marketing skills. What are some important concepts writers should utilize when promoting a book?

Ha! Well, I did write a whole book about this--just because I wanted to share that information. I think the most important concept is "branding." Branding is at the root of all marketing. Too many writers publicize their book. Most writers will not be one-title wonders. Think about who you are and brand your name--or your pen name. The other most important concept is that it is never too early to start. If an author gets this message a year or two before her work is published--well, that is not too early to start.

~ There are hundreds of low cost promotional ideas listed in your book. Can you share three of these ideas with us and why they work well?

My favorite ways to promote, in order of importance are:

1. Speaking. That can be reading at book signings (not just book signings) or speaking on themes related to your book at conferences, tradeshows or anywhere else. If speaking scares you, take a class now. At a minimum you'll need to know how to talk to people from book fair booths at bookstore events.

2. Teaching. Not only is it enormously satisfying, it gives you credibility as an expert. Even novelists need credibility. Yep, even poets.

3. Online promotions. Because they're very, very frugal. Of course, that is a broad category. If I have to narrow it down, I choose blogging--and then promoting the blog. If you'd like to know more about how to go about that, go to and download a chapter for a future book I'm writing with partner Phyllis Zimbler Miller.

~ What key components should writers include in their media kit?

The list is very long. Kits should include whatever an editor or agent (or whoever else you're sending your kit to) needs to do their job quickly and easily. Then once all the elements are prepared, the author should prune what won't help a particular recipient from their kit.

Picture this: It's deadline. A harried editor is looking for a story. She comes across a query you sent her two weeks ago. It includes a complete kit. In it is a first person essay with permission to print it. On her desk she also has a famous person's pitch but there is almost nothing there for her to work with. Guess who will get their story printed? If you guessed the famous person, you're wrong. She's on deadline. She has to be ready when the presses roll.

~ There are travel costs and other fees associated with attending a writers conference or book fair. In terms of promotion, do you feel these events are cost effective?

I adore conferences because they can make such a difference in a writer's career. Networking. Finding agents. Learning more about our craft. Giving us a needed break from our computers. Having said that, they are expensive. So, Lea Schizas and I sponsor an online conference. I'd like to see writers go to real hands-on conferences but when they can't, this one can work well, too. You'll find it at:

You'll also find a list of writers' conferences, book fairs and even some tradeshows on my Web site in the Resources for Writers section:

Book Fairs & Trade Shows

Carolyn, thank you for the very informative interview. Your insight and experience with book promotion are valuable resources that we can all benefit from. The Frugal Book Promoter is a must-have book for every author! Please visit Carolyn’s web site at or

Coming Soon! Carolyn will share her "15 Commandments for Getting FREE Publicity" with us at Writers In Business.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Writers-Editors Network with Dana Cassell

Dana Cassell from North Stratford, NH is visiting us today at Writers In Business. Dana is a freelance writer, author, editor as well as the founder and executive director of Florida Freelance Writers Association and Cassell Network of Writers (a.k.a The Writers-Editors Network). She began her career in 1971 and has a wealth of information to share.

On a recent afternoon, I sat down at my computer to gather information for this interview and was blown away by all Dana has to offer for writers and editors. The resources available on her site are comprehensive and include marketing tips, conferences & event listings, articles on getting an agent and syndication, and a bookstore geared toward the writing world.

Her site also offer 4 levels of paid membership with even more substantial benefits such as a monthly newsletter Freelance Writer's Report (which I’ve had the pleasure of reading and highly recommend!), and access to the private Members section of where you will find postings of freelance jobs, new magazines, publications to avoid, and a listing of average payments for various kinds of writing-related work to help you set your fees. Members can also be listed in the Writer Data Bank, receive a Press ID card and access a toll free number for questions related to writing. This network is amazing!

~Dana, you have been linking professional writers and editors with those who need content and editorial services since 1982. Can you tell us how the process works?

Our process works in both directions. When clients or editors need something written or editorial help (e.g., proofreading, copyediting, revision), we can (a) send them contact information on those CNW members who meet their criteria, (b) post what they need on our private Member Bulletin Board (so their info is not out there on the Web for all to see), and/or (c) allow them to peruse our Member Bios posted on our Meet Writers Web pages or in our downloadable "Guide to CNW/FFWA Writers." Then from the other direction, our members can contact editors through our "Latest Markets" listings (new magazines with contact information posted almost daily in our Members section and republished each month in FWR), and by checking in our Bulletin Board page for job listings that come in through our site or that I find and link to by perusing dozens of job sites for writers (thereby saving our members much time). The
Bulletin Board is updated a couple times a day on most days.

~Can you share with us two of the most common questions you receive on the Member’s Hotline?

Most often, questions deal with how much to charge, which is often a bugaboo for freelancers. We do have a lengthy "Average Payments" page in our Members section, providing lowest, highest, and average payments our members have reported for various types of work and magazine genres. However, that "different" type of job will come along that's completely new to even the most established writer, and he or she will not be sure how to establish a job quote.

After that, I'd say they run the gamut -- from copyright issues to collecting from a slow- or non-paying publisher; the typical questions and issues that independent business people run into.

~What are some recent topics covered in Freelance Writer’s Report?
Because of the economic downturn, we've had a number of articles and tips this year on how to survive and even take advantage of it. (With both publishers and corporations cutting back on staff, many will turn to freelancers to take up the slack more than they did when they had full staffs to keep busy.) We've also had articles on staying organized with a submissions database, tips for maximizing book signings, successful speaking gigs, self-publishing, book promotion, and cutting costs in recent months.

~In addition to operating the Writers-Editors Network, you are a prolific writer contributing to retail trade magazines and moving on to pharmaceutical and medical topics. Can you tell us about your most recent book? What are you working on next?

My most recently published book is the Encyclopedia of Obesity and Eating Disorders - Third Edition (Facts On File). I am currently wrapping up the Encyclopedia of Pharmaceutical Drugs, and working on the Encyclopedia of Autoimmune Diseases - Second Edition (both for Facts On File).

If you are looking for information on how to improve the success of your business, be sure to stop by Dana knows her members and her old-fashioned personal attention is something no other network can provide!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Jen Singer, Parenting Author, Blogger & Humorist

What began in the basement of a New Jersey home in 2003 has blossomed into a successful parenting empire for Jen Singer. She is the founder of an award-winning web site,, creator of the national holiday Please Take My Children to Work Day and author of several parenting books including the Stop Second- Guessing Yourself series and You're a Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren't So Bad Either).

~ You are on an inspirational journey sharing humor and insightful parenting advice through a variety of outlets. When you started in your basement back in 2003, what did you have in mind for your business? Are you heading in that direction or has your business plan changed over the years?

I was one of the original mommy bloggers. I started MommaSaid to help build an audience for future books, because my occasional essay in Woman’s Day and Parenting weren’t, I felt, enough to building a regular following. Plus, it was a relief to find out that other mothers felt like I did that perhaps spending your days pulling graham crackers out of the VCR and chasing toddlers through parking lots was, let’s say, “challenging.”My business plan has changed as MommaSaid has grown. Every step, from the first book to my fifth, from my first spokespersonship to appearing on TV on behalf of S’mores, has warranted changes and tweaks to my original plan.

~ Through national media appearances on ABC's World News Now, NBC News, CBS The Early Show, the CBS Evening News as well as radio shows including Sally Jessy Raphael Talk Net and XM's Take Five, your name has an almost iconic familiarity. It’s amazing! Can you share with us some of your tips for getting on the media radar?

Together with my publicist Robin Blakely (author of “PR Therapy”), I spend a good amount of time courting the media. I answer Profnet and HARO (Help a Reporter Out) leads, and Robin pitches print, radio and TV outlets. The key is to give great quotes and sound bites that journalists and producers can use, and to provide insights and, in my case, humor.

~ While you were building name recognition for your writing, how did you market your skills? Did you volunteer to write parenting columns, use business cards or submit queries to magazines? How do you suggest new writers build name recognition?

Honestly, I let my writing speak for itself. Editors want to see completed essays, especially humorous ones, rather than pitches. So I figured that if I’d done the work, I might as well aim high. The first essay I wrote I sent to an editor at Woman’s Day who called me to tell me I had “wonderful flair.” She had something similar in inventory, but bought my next essay. Having that high profile clip gave me credibility when I approached other editors.

Plus, I was writing for MommaSaid all along, so editors could drop by my site and check out my writing. It’s a good thing I kept up my blog for so long, because I was able to show that I could sustain a blog for a long period of time. That helped me sell my blog, “Good Grief: A Tale of Two Tweens,” which ran on Good for two years. If you want to build name recognition, write often and write well, even if it’s just on your own blog. Continue to submit well targeted queries and essays to magazine editors, providing them with clips of your published works. Be persistent, but not annoying. And be patient.

~ How do you keep track of your writing income and expenses? Do you use a software program or record transactions on paper?

I’ve always used an Excel spreadsheet to manage submissions and rejections and online banking to keep track of the money.

~ Your new series of books, Stop Second Guessing Yourself, are filled with “real-world, mom-tested tips”. Can you share one of your favorite tips from the first book, The Toddler Years? “If you’re having one of those days where your inquisitive toddler’s incessant questions feel like they’re burning holes in your brain, initiate No Question Zones, where, for example, she’s not allowed to ask you ‘What dat?’ through all of Hallmark.”

Jen’s warm conversational writing style and sense of humor make me feel as if I’m catching up with a friend. That connection is a breath of fresh air and is not easy to find these days. To learn more about Jen and her family, you can visit her at I encourage you to sign up for her online newsletter as well. Her books are all available through