Archive for publication

Issue #3 of Pig in a Poke now alive and oinking!

Posted in All posts, On writing, Pig in a Poke with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2010 by Trina

Here we go again …

Pig in a Poke, issue #3, is live today … enjoy!

The third time’s a charm, and Pig in a Poke is charmed to be here. And we hope you’re charmed by the great lineup of poets (fiction writers and essayists) we have for you. I still can’t believe the amazing writers we’ve managed to attract, and Trina and I are grateful for that. As always, we try to put pearls of superb writing in our swinish sty. I think that once again we’ve put together a good mixture of poetry, fiction and some fine literary essays. Trina and I are proud to call this our magazine. A Pig in a Poke it is, because you might never know what you’re getting, but you know it’s going to be good.”  Harry Calhoun, editor.

Harry Calhoun, a.k.a. my husband, edits the poetry and I, a.k.a. Trina Allen, have picked out the stories and laid out the pages. The two of us have pretty much collaborated on choosing the essays.  Not only is there new talent here — new to the Pig, that is — but for this issue we asked several writers to submit stories including Christina Hoag, Lynne Barrett, Anne Woodman and Mark Howell.

I do hope you’ll drop by, give a read, spread the word, and maybe donate to the cause. Let me know what you think.

http://www.piginpoke.com/ currentissue.html

The lineup for this issue includes:

Poetry by

A.D. Winans

Tim Peeler

Robert Demaree

Louis McKee

Lyn Lifshin

Karla Huston

Donal Mahoney

Michael L. Newell

Corey Cook

Doug Draime

Sandy Benitez

M.P. Powers

Mather Schneider

Carol Lynn Grellas

Luis Berriozabal

Fiction by:

Jane Banning

Lynne Barrett

Christina Hoag

Mark Howell

Thomas Sullivan

Laura Garrison

Laurence Klavan

Michael L. Newell

Nathaniel Tower

Essays by:

Anne Woodman

Michael L. Newell

Amanda LaPergola

As always, quality stuff all around . Drop in and wallow a while in the Pig sty … it’s not a bad place to be! Thanks in advance for your support.

Poetry by

A.D. Winans

Tim Peeler

Robert Demaree

Louis McKee

Lyn Lifshin

Karla Huston

Donal Mahoney

Michael L. Newell

Corey Cook

Doug Draime

Sandy Benitez

M.P. Powers

Mather Schneider

Carol Lynn Grellas

Luis Berriozabal

Fiction by:

Jane Banning

Lynne Barrett

Christina Hoag

Mark Howell

Thomas Sullivan

Laura Garrison

Laurence Klavan

Michael L. Newell

Nathaniel Tower

Essays by:

Anne Woodman

Michael L. Newell

Amanda LaPergola

Payback is a bitch: life of a short story

Posted in All posts, Health and fitness, Life, On writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2010 by Trina

I am happy to announce that  Luna Station Quarterly magazine accepted my short story “Payback is a bitch”  for their September 1 issue.  I took only one day from submission to acceptance. I had just submitted to them on Saturday as part of my getting back into balance campaign. This is quick, although not the record for me. Chiron Review accepted one of my stories after only an hour.

About Payback is a bitch

When a personal tragedy costs homicide detective Rosa Wolfe everything–her marriage, her career, and her badge–she returns to the streets she once patrolled, finding satisfaction in high-payoff vengeance for hire.

On creation of the story

I had fun writing the story because it is my first attempt at writing a detective thriller, the genre I love to read. Payback was born over a year and a half ago. It took that long to find a market for it.  I wrote Payback back in November of 2008 after Harry bought me the Rambo collection for my birthday–wonder where I got the idea for a story about a vigilante.  See previous post.  Since then, I’ve submitted Payback to 18 magazines.  Thirteen rejected it.  One magazine collapsed before they could even reply to my submission.  Three other magazines have not yet replied–I’ll have to let them know its been accepted.

This is why it is so easy to get discouraged with writing and submitting short stories.  It is rough out there.  It took me 18 tries before Payback was finally accepted. I think about that when I have to reject stories for Pig and a Poke, like I did on Sunday. I try to take the time to give reasons for rejection.  It isn’t always possible, but most of my rejections are personal.

I liked writing Payback so much that I decided to expand it into a novel.  “The Ripper” is in draft stage. The outline is finished and about half of the chapters, but not in sequence. I’ve written bits and pieces here and there as the ideas come to me. The beginning, some of the middle and ending is done. The rest needs to be filled in. I decided to expand Nick the Nick’s role. Nicholas Nicholson is a former Green Beret turned vigilante who teams up with Rosa. He may end up being a bad guy. I haven’t decided yet. Rosa believes that if she and Nick can find and apprehend  the serial killer responsible for the string of rape/murders that has continued during the three years she has been working without a gold shield, she might be able to turn her life around.

Update on balance

I lost Friday as a writing day due to being pulled over with expired registration.  Sigh.  I spent the afternoon at the DMV.  Saturday I sent out short story submissions.  The Luna Station Quarterly acceptance will go a long way toward giving me my ambition back.  I think it will even motivate me to work on the novel again.  Sunday, I reviewed all of the stories submitted to Pig in a Poke. I found two that I liked well enough to accept. Unfortunately I had to send out some rejection letters.

I am continuing the walking, working out at the gym, and healthy eating.  Look for more posts on that.

Feed “the Pig” some short stories, please!

Posted in All posts, On writing, Pig in a Poke with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2010 by Trina

Fiction anyone? Where are you fiction writers? I have received only 18 short story submissions to Pig in a Poke magazine, while Harry has already reviewed about 100 poetry submissions, each containing several poems. He was so inundated that we had to temporarily close poetry submissions until May. Essays and fiction are still open.

This got me thinking: are there more poets than fiction writers? Is it simply that stories take longer to write than poems?  Or is Harry receiving more poetry due to his name recognition or the names he has lined up for the first issue?

I am happy that among the stories I received were some very outstanding pieces. I have a good mix lined up for May and June ranging from gripping heartfelt slices-of-life to period pieces and even a couple humorous ramblings. I laughed out loud reading them. Talented fiction writers are submitting, just not as numerous as our poets.

Maybe it is the money. At this time “the Pig” is not a paying market. From my own personal experience, it takes about 20 hours to bring a story from draft to the polished version that I will send to publishers. This is a large time investment for me. I do give my work away to non-paying markets occasionally, but very selectively. On the other hand, Harry can write a poem in less than an hour–much less at times. With the larger time investment in stories, maybe fiction writers want to get paid for their work and poets don’t expect payment. It is hard to make money from poetry. All of this is speculation, of course. But there is the whole starving-artist image of poets.

What are your thoughts? Can you explain the prolific poets?

A wonderful partnership

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing with tags , , , , , , on June 29, 2008 by Trina

Have you ever had a terrible day at work–one so bad that you wanted to walk away and never return? What makes that day different from any other? For a young math teacher who has difficulty dealing with unmanageable students, it is the pervasive influence of her own childhood in “The Mulberry Tree.”

I used my experiences in the classroom as the backdrop for “The Mulberry Tree,” which is in the summer 2008 issue of CHIRON REVIEW, a literary magazine published in Kansas. (For those of you who don’t live in Kansas, information to order a copy or subscription of CR is below).

And now I’ll finally get to the topic of this blog. The publication wouldn’t have happened without my husband, Harry Calhoun. When I first clicked on the CR Web site, I was less than impressed. But Harry assured me that CR is a well respected literary magazine, just not willing to spend $ on the site. Because I trust him, I submitted his favorite of my stories to CHIRON. Now that I’ve read the latest two issues I have to agree–the magazine and contributors are impressive.

Harry and I are both in the summer issue. He has two poems and two book reviews. One of his poems in CR, “My Wife as Wine,” is one of my favorites. And why not, it is about me. It is so fun to be published together. We also received our acceptance letter in the same envelope. See previous post. It has been exhilarating taking this ride together.

I got the idea for this blog when I sent out a note to a friend who wrote back and said, “Congratulations, Trina! That’s wonderful, and especially so because of the shared honor with Harry. What a wonderful partnership you two have.”

I realized that she is right. Harry and I have a wonderful partnership that goes beyond husband and wife or friendship. We have the common interest of writing and spend much of our time discussing the various projects we are working on and the intricacies of the written word. I value Harry’s opinion of my work–which occasionally leads to some heated discussions. But, Harry has never led me astray, so I listen to him. We use each other as a sounding board for ideas and for polishing our finished work. I read Harry’s monthly wine column before he posts it and he almost always incorporates my suggestions. I read the book reviews he sent to CR. I thought one of them was too harsh, so he revised it.

So the publication of “The Mulberry Tree” came about as a result of my partnership with Harry. We may never again get an acceptance in the same envelope or be published in the same issue of a literary magazine, but I will always remember this experience.

I would also like the thank the members of Raleigh Area Women Writers, who helped me improve the story from its original version.

You can subscribe to CHIRON REVIEW at:

522 E. South Ave.
St. John, KS 67576

$16/year for 4 issues.
Or you can purchase the summer issue for $7.00.
Ask for the “Triple S” discount for students, seniors and starving artists.

Stories aren’t buckshot

Posted in All posts, On writing with tags , , , , , , , on March 12, 2008 by Trina

Don’t shoot. The shotgun approach to story submission is not effective. A few days after posting about living with rejection, I ran across JA Konrath’s post about using short stories to promote novels–I am enjoying Konrath’s humorous thriller series featuring Jack Daniel’s, a female detective. I discovered his novels after reading one of his stories in the Thriller anthology edited by James Patterson.

Unlike Konrath, I am not trying to promote a book with my stories, I have yet to finish my YA novel, but I think Konrath’s advice is good for anyone trying to get short fiction published.

WRITE FOR THE INTENDED MARKET.

Would you spend hours making a key without having a lock it can open? No. But many authors write whatever the hell they want to write and then erroneously believe there will be a market begging to publish it. That usually isn’t the case.

Magazines, anthologies, and websites all have specific demographics. They want specific stories to please these demographics. It’s much easier to write for a market than write according to your whim and then try to find a market that will buy it.

When you have found a market, read it. Don’t guess what you think the editors will like. Discover what the editors like by reading stories they’ve already published.

Also, it makes good sense to write stories about the characters who are in your novels. The closer the tie in, the more likely you are to sell a book if someone likes the story.

Got it? Good. And if it stifles your muse, remind yourself that writing is a job.

This is the best advice I’ve read lately. I had been writing stories about whatever I wanted and then hoping to find markets for them. This sometimes works, but it is a struggle to find just the right match. Hence, the 136 rejection letters.

Konrath also listed the pros and cons of various markets including: magazines, anthologies, limited editions, and new markets. I found this very helpful. I had not before considered, for example, that the majority of readers I may reach with magazines will only read my work during the month the magazine is fresh, whereas anthologies may stay in print for years and the Internet is eternal.

I’ll be taking a break from writing and submitting to visit my Mom in Missouri this weekend. I can’t wait.

New computer angst and bad writing

Posted in All posts, On writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2008 by Trina

It’s been about two weeks since I’ve worked on my novel in progress. Not because I’ve been a slacker, but because I was forced to change directions, temporarily. About two weeks ago Harry’s computer crashed, at least we thought it did. He sat down to the blank screen of death and when he tried to manually turn it on–nothing. He tried unplugging it, but when he plugged it back in, his PC made a moaning whirring noise—not good. Turns out, it was his on/off switch. He decided it was more economical to buy a new computer than pay the hundred bucks to fix it. Since Harry works for IBM, he could get a refurbished PC for a little over twice what it would cost to fix his old one.

So what does my husband’s computer problem have to do with my NIP? The answer is in this question, “Do you want a new computer too?”

“No!”

I didn’t even think about it before answering. Didn’t want to go through the hassle of transferring all my documents to a new computer—little did I know that was the least of my worries.

So, I sat waiting for Outlook to open so that I could read my e-mail, tapping my fingers on my desk top and reconsidering. My PC was slow. It had a 20 GB hard drive with 512 ram memory. My PC only had 5% free space and that was after I’d added memory cards a couple years ago to bump up the ram. Knowing that it was only a matter of time until it crashed, I backed up all my work regularly on memory sticks. I needed a new computer. Still, I waffled. Until Harry found such a sweet deal on two computers, I couldn’t pass it up.

I’m typing this post on a refurbished IBM computer with 71.8 GB of space! I have 78% free space as opposed to only 5 on my old PC. It is awesome. It took me only five minutes to transfer all my Word files (over 175,000 words) and pictures onto it. No problems there at all. File transfer is quick. Surfing the net is quick. Opening programs, booting up, all at record speed.

And that’s were the good news ends. This is an IBM PC, so it came with Lotus SmartSuite. Sorry IBM, but in my opinion Lotus Word Pro is an inferior knock-off of Microsoft Word. I refuse to use it. Likewise, Microsoft Outlook far exceeds Lotus for e-mail use and storage. So I loaded my Microsoft Office onto the new PC, no problem took about 3 minutes. However, I lost all my shortcuts and the default smart tags were driving me crazy until I turned them off. It’ll take a while to get my Word back the way I like it. Irritating, but still minor in exchange for the faster speed.

Downloading Norton 2008 yesterday was not minor. It was a three hour process. It took me that long to download all the updates I needed for my computer to be compatible with Norton. When Norton install gave me the message that I needed Windows XP Service Pack 2 before it could finish installing, I visited http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com thinking I’d spend only a few minutes. Was I wrong. My “new” refurbished PC did not qualify for the Windows XP SP2 update. I had to install other updates before I could install Service Pack 2 and then download Norton. By the time I was done, it was three hours later.

I should ‘a paid a pro to load my entire hard drive onto my “new” computer. As Samantha Jones said on Sex and the City, “Should ‘a, could ‘a, would ‘a.” Next time I buy a new computer—probably when hell goes through an ice age—I’ll know better. On the other hand, I saved hundreds of dollars by spending my own time updating the refurbished PC.

One good thing that came as a result of my “new” PC is that in the process of organizing documents to move, I read through some of my old work. I also deleted a lot of unnecessary files. Why was I keeping ten drafts of a story? A first and last draft is probably all I’ll ever need.

Okay, so here’s where the bad writing comes in. I understand why I’ve earned 135 rejections. As I discussed in a previous post I’m a better writer, now, than I was when I earned all those rejections. And, my query letters for some of my early work sucked, big time. I tended to summarize and ramble, not hook the reader. (My stories still tend to ramble at times, but I’m working on it).

I cringe at the query letter for my first novel that I sent in 2002. It begins
I want you to be my agent. I know you represent women’s fiction, contemporary issues, and horror genres of fiction, and I think you would be the perfect agent for Within, because it is all three.

Not, “I would be honored if you would represent me,” but “I want…” I am embarrassed to have sent that query. I have stopped looking for an agent/publisher for that first novel. I realize the writing is awful. I had written an autobiography and then tried to fictionalize it. It didn’t work—duh, that’s not how you write fiction. Writing that first novel did help me to learn the art of writing fiction, though.

Here’s part of an equally bad query letter that I sent to an editor in 2001 for a chapter of the novel as a stand-alone story, Within. It is five single spaced paragraphs long. No greeting, btw, the letter just starts. Needless to say, the chapter didn’t get published.

When Kari walked into the doctor’s office Mom and Dad looked very serious. “Kari you have spherocytosis. It is a hereditary blood disease,” Dad told her. “That is why you’ve been sick lately. Your mother has it. That is why she had her spleen removed when she was nineteen.” Kari felt a weird emptiness in her stomach like she was riding a roller coaster. Her hands were sweaty. She knew she was scared. Kari knew her mom had a scar on her stomachf rom her chest to her navel.

This is from “Spherocytosis,” which is a chapter from the novel, Within. It is a true story of an adolescent hero. The story is set in Florissant, Missouri. Kari and her eight-year-old sister are diagnosed with spherocytosis, ahereditary blood disease. The disease and surgery to have her spleen removed are described from Kari’s thirteen-year-old perspective. Kari is a true hero. Kari is the oldest of five sisters. Kari’s mother is “sick” from apersonality disorder, paranoid schizophrenia. Kari and her younger sister take over the caregiver roles of their younger siblings. Kari’s youngest sibling is born in this chapter. …

The letter went on for three more paragraphs like that. Why not just hit the editor over the head. It would probably be less painless. Wow! I’m laughing so hard at myself right now I’m crying. Talk about repetition and wordiness and telling, not showing. I didn’t notice “a hereditary” in the second line and three glaring spacing typos in just the first two overly long paragraphs. The writing in the chapter isn’t any better than the query. It is not surprising I wasn’t getting published.

I’ll end this post with part of the last paragraph from the horrible “Spherocytosis” query letter.

I have taught middle school for thirteen years, currently in North Carolina. I have a bachelor’s degree in education from the State University of New York, where I graduated Summa Cum Laude. I have a master’s in Reading Education, also from SUNY Cortland. I have written math and science curriculum for Orange County School district in North Carolina and DeRuyter School District in New York. I have …

Gad zukes! I have … I have … I have … learned a little bit since 2001. Notice I didn’t list a writing class in my credentials. Should ‘a, could ‘a, would ‘a.

Writer’s Block

Posted in All posts, On writing with tags , , , , , on March 16, 2007 by Trina

I haven’t posted recently and can’t decide what to post now. I have too many ideas. I’d like to discuss the spring equinox and daylight savings time or the new TV show, “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader,” which infuriates me from the perspective of a test developer. I heard about paying prisoners for organs on the radio after an article came out in the Wall Street Journal about organ transplants. I am also interested in children and grieving — watch Bridge to Terabithia, an excellent book and recent movie. So, like a tornado my brain is swirling with ideas, but look for them in upcoming blogs because I can’t pick a topic from the wind storm this morning. Writer’s block: too many ideas, not enough time. And I haven’t even begun to discuss my fiction writing ideas. I am still finishing The Magic Quilt, my historical fantasy novel for middle age readers. I’m polishing two short stories. I’ve begun work on an essay, my first true account of my life five years ago. So which do I work on in the hour that I have before I go to work? I can’t decide, so I’m writing this blog on having too many ideas.

I enjoyed Jane Yolen’s Random thoughts on writing and on children’s books , sent to me by a member of my writing group. “I generally do not think out plots or characters ahead of time … I am a reader before I am a writer. I want my own writing to surprise me, the way someone else’s book does. If I think out everything ahead of time, I am–in Truman Capote’s words–‘Not a writer but a typewriter.'”

When it comes to submitting my work for publication, I face a similar overwhelming dilemma. Where do I submit? The market is so vast now with print and Online magazines.

Sweeping Back the Slushpile: a First Reader’s Primer is a humorous piece written from the point-of-view of an overworked editor who must slog through the slushpile. Weeding through 800 to 1,000 manuscripts in order to publish four would seem a mammoth task at any rate, but the slush pile reader is given one-half an hour to finish the job. The advice given to this editor is “Don’t read the manuscript.” I recommend this humorous article for anyone who wants to escape the slushpile.

It is obvious why those nasty form rejection slips sometimes accompany work that we labored over so lovingly. As inspiration to myself, I reread an article I wrote a couple of years ago, To Market, to Market: Steps toward Publication. My advice to myself, then and now, consists of three simple suggestions. First, learn about the publication process so that you are informed. Second, do everything within your power to improve your writing so that it is A plus quality before submitting it anywhere. Third, know your market.

I’ll add a fourth here. Choose a project and focus on it. Easier said than done.