Archive | May, 2012

Friday Links

24 May

I hope all of you are having a productive week of writing, and that you are looking forward to a long Memorial Day weekend.

To help you finish your writing week off with strength and to guide you into the weekend, I’d like to share some informative and inspirational links. They cover a wide range of writing topics, but all have something good to say.

~ If you want to write a novel (or, perhaps, have already completed one) and are dumbfounded by the process of finding an agent, check out this interview with novelist Cassie Alexander on how it worked for her. Click here for the article from Writer’s Digest magazine…”How I Got My Agent: Cassie Alexander”

~ If you are reading this blog, chances are that you are a lover of all things Web-related. The Internet is a source of great information, but there is SO much to be found online that it can oftentimes be overwhelming. The Webby Awards are given each year by members of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences and focus on such varied categories as Best Political Blog, Best Visual Design, Best Writing, and much, much more. Click here for the list of nominees (and links to them)… “16th Annual Webby Award Nominees and Winners”

~ Are you a poet, or someone who simply loves to read good poetry? It can sometimes be intimidating to read and/or write poetry, especially when you consider all the different stylistic elements that come into play. (from the Academy of American Poets) has a handy list of poetry-related terms in its latest issue. Click here to read it…“Poetry Glossary”

~ Do you ever feel bombarded by a voice inside your head that says you’re not good enough? Or that questions your writing dreams? Every writer has had moments of doubt, but you cannot let the criticism you heap on yourself take over. An editor at Psych Central shares her insights into how to  end such battles with yourself in the latest issue of The Writer magazine. Click here to read this short yet insightful article…“How to Battle Your Inner Critic”


The Joy of Typewriters

22 May

You may have noticed that sweet little pink number in the right-side column of this site. And look at those luscious Corona keys up above.

I love computers.

I love my nifty laptop.

I love the ease and the technology and all the gizmos.

But, I adore typewriters.

I’m proud to be part of a generation that still remembers having to take a required Typewriting class in junior high. (8th grade, Ramay Junior High, Fayetteville, Arkansas.)

I’m proud to be the very last Reporting class at the University of Alabama to use a typewriter (albeit electronic). The next semester, we moved on to the first generation of Macs.

Typewriters, then, hold a special place in my heart…and I’m on a quest to find a few for my own personal collection.

(If you find one for me, I’ll take it in pink please.)

Staying Motivated in the Summertime

16 May

Summer means different things to different people: family vacations, lazy days by the pool, outdoor barbecues with family and friends, children home from school.

For many freelance writers, summer can also mean a slowdown in productivity. The culprits may be children under foot, a casual summer attitude, or a busy schedule filled with vacations and extra activities; whatever the culprit, though, it’s a summer fact that the season is the hardest for staying motivated and productive as a writer.

There are ways, however, to battle this summer problem. By getting organized, finding support, and being creative, you can make summer one of your most productive writing seasons of the year. As the weather gets hotter and you find it harder to find the motivation to write, consider some of these ways to make it easier:

Set up a Summer Writing Schedule. You may have to readjust your writing schedule in the summer, due to children at home or vacations away from the office. Just because you have other things demanding your attention, however, doesn’t mean you can stop writing. Novelist Denise Turney says she gets up before her son does each morning and also writes at night. “I condition myself to write a certain amount of time each day, regardless of what’’s going on around me,” she says.

Write on the Go. You say it’’s harder to write during the summer, because special activities demand more of your time? An easy solution is to take your writing with you. If you’’re going on a long car trip, take a notebook with you and work on projects. If you’r kids are dying to spend a day at the pool, work while they’’re playing. Freelance writer Hannah Hayes says that her young son “was pleased last summer that I traveled to his ball games and the park with his friends with my laptop. He’s at an age now when he’s proud of my byline.” Hayes also recommends taking a cell phone with you when you write on the go; it makes it easy to check messages and schedule interviews.

Set Summertime Writing Goals. Setting goals is one of the best ways to stay motivated and be productive as a writer. With summer here, adjust your goals to fit your summertime schedule. But, even if your goals are smaller, make sure you stick to them.

Ask for Help. Writing may be a basically solitary job, but that doesn’t mean you can’’t use some help to make it easier to accomplish. If you find it hard to write with kids at home, ask for help for at least part of a day or week. “I volunteer to watch other kids one to two days a week and I get a LOT more writing time in,” says Shirley Kawa Jump, a romance novelist and magazine writer. “The other kids (who are my two kids’ best friends) keep my kids busy longer and keep them from fighting. I put out some Play-Doh or fill the pool or make some cookies and I buy at least an hour.”

Consider your Local Newspaper. Summer is often a difficult time for many publications, simply because many of their staff writers take vacation time. Perhaps you could help them out by providing needed copy? Freelance writer Kathleen McKernan says that summertime has expanded her writing repertoire and given her valuable clips. “Summer is a great time to freelance, especially for publications with staff writers. Their staff writers take vacations, but they still have space to fill,” McKernan says. “I’ve gotten my share of front-page newspaper stories during the summer.”

Write on Summer Topics. In looking at past summers, I see that I have written articles on such topics as: summer learning activities for kids, traveling to Disney World, local summer festivals, safety in the summertime sun, and favorite beaches. Consider everything you do and everywhere you go in the summer as a source for writing ideas.

Write on Non Summer Topics. Because so many publications work ahead of time (six months ahead, oftentimes), summer is the perfect time to write on out of season topics. So, while the temperature is climbing outside, consider ideas you can write about Christmas or cold weather. Freelance writer Kathryn Lay says that Fall is often her best paying time of the year, because she is being paid for all of the thing she wrote during the summer. “I actually have much more time to write in the summer because I get a break from homeschooling my children, and I tend to get lots sent out,” she says. “It is a great time for Christmas stories and such.”

Attend a Summer Writing Workshop. Summer is a great time to meet and network with other writers at workshops and conferences. As an organizer of and speaker at the Southern Christian Writers Conference held every summer in June, I get the chance to encourage other writers; they go home refreshed and motivated for the rest of the summer.

This summer, challenge yourself to make the season one of your most productive writing seasons ever. Promise yourself that, come September or October, you’ll be able to look back at this past summer and have fond memories… not just of that great family vacation or that day spent at the park, but of the completed writing projects and productive writing days you were able to enjoy.

(This article originally appeared at


Upcoming Events

15 May

I’ve got several events and speaking engagements coming up soon, and I’d love to see you at any (or all) of them!

I will be at the Tuscaloosa Writer’s Group on Tuesday, May 22, at 6:30 pm. I’m going to speak on the topic of “Making a Plan for Freelance Success.” (The group meets upstairs at the Tuscaloosa Public Library.)

I will be a speaker and conference leader at the Southern Christian Writers Conference during the weekend of June 8-9. The conference, which is the largest Christian conference of its kind in the country, is held at First Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Keynote speaker this year are Gilbert Morris and Lurlene McDaniel; I will be speaking on “Writing for Magazines.” Learn more about the conference at the SCWC website.

I will be one of four writers leading sessions at the Glimmers of Hope Conference on October 27. Learn more about the conference at the GOH website.

I’m currently setting up additional speaking engagements, and hope to lock down visits to fun places like Biloxi, Mississippi and Franklin, Tennessee very soon (with lots of other places sprinkled in between). Continue to visit here to get updates on new events.

If you have a writing group, Friends of the Library group, school group, church group, or other group that would be interested in my sharing with them, please contact me. (You can comment here or email me at

My new book is here!

11 May

I’m so excited to announce the arrival and release of my new book for writers. It’s now in my hot little hands and for sale from the back of my van. (I jest. Well, sort of. But not entirely.)

The book is a practical, how-t0, hands-on, step-by-step guide for getting published today. It’s perfect for anyone who has dreams of getting published, but doesn’t quite know how to get started and where to go.

The entire publishing process is covered in the book, with everything from coming up with marketable ideas, to writing query letters, to writing leads, to working with editors (and everything in between) highlighted.

It also includes a number of “extras”–“Writer Spotlight” interviews with professional writers and editors, “Writing Advantage” sidebars, sample query letters and articles, and learning exercises with every chapter.

The chapters in the book will give you a good idea of what you can expect between its covers:

1: Magazine Writing Today

2: Writing Features for Newspapers

3: Writing for Online Publications

4: Writing for Trade Publications

5: The Magazine Article

6: The Writing Process

7: Generating Ideas

8: Marketing Your Writing

9: Query Letters

10: Research & Interviews

11: Writing a Feature Article: Structure

12: Outlining, Drafting, Revising

13: Writing a Feature Article: Style

14: Final Steps to Publication

15: Business, Legal, & Ethical Practices

The book will be marketed as a textbook to college feature writing and magazine writing courses, but it is also a wonderful resource for aspiring freelance writers (or successful writers who want a jumpstart to their work).

I’m looking forward to talking about the topics in the book to writing groups and at writing conferences in the next months. If you would like to have me as a speaker for your group, let me know and I will get you on my schedule (email me at; comment on this post; or visit me at “Cheryl Sloan Wray” or at “Writing with Cheryl” on Facebook).

If you’d like a copy of the book, let me know and I can mail one off to you. It retails to colleges for $31.95, but I can sell individual copies for $20. (I’ll even autograph it for you!)

A new book is always an exciting thing…and I’m especially excited that my book is designed to help writers find publishing success.

(Look for more things here related to the book soon. I will be posting some excerpts, speaking news, and other items related to it.)

Have a wonderful…and productive…Friday and weekend.

Shakespeare & Sweet Sixteens

8 May

My daughter, Delaney, has recently developed a love for Shakespeare.

As a high school sophomore, she has read “Romeo and Juliet” and “Julius Caesar” this year (and loved them both). She has watched  “William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and “Shakespeare in Love” many times over. I’ve even caught her fascinated by a program on The History Channel about the Globe Theatre.

This newfound fascination takes me back to the Summer of my 17th year, when I spent countless hours by the swimming pool reading anything and everything F. Scott Fitzgerald ever wrote. (And soon afterwards, reading every word penned by Erich Maria Remarque.)

My father tells me that a similar thing happened to him when he was a teenager. He decided it was his duty to read every book written by James Fennimore Cooper.

Perhaps it’s something in our blood. (My family is, after all, one of readers and writers and educators and thinkers.)

Perhaps it’s something about a certain age…an age when you discover that there are things bigger than yourself. You get past the age of self-indulgence and cockiness to discover that other people have something important to say.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Delaney loves Taylor Swift and “America’s Next Top Model” as much as the next teenage girl.

But, it does this Momma’s heart proud to see her learn to appreciate the stories…the words…the poetry.

And now, as her sixteenth birthday approaches, Delaney has come up with a theme for her celebration that makes me oh-so-proud. She wants to have a Shakespearean/Elizabethan/Romeo and Juliet-inspired Sweet 16.

This will be no MTV-inspired birthday celebration with stretch limos, celebrity guests, and boom-boom-boom disc jockeys, but it will be lavish in its own right.

There will be (if Delaney gets her way) a multi-tiered cake of red and gold, teenage friends dressed in masquerade masks, displays of Shakespeare quotes, an outdoor screening of “Romeo and Juliet.” It will be, I hazard to guess, the only party of its kind this lazy town has seen.

When Delaney blows out her candles, it will herald the start of a new chapter in her life. It will signify her movement a few steps further into her own independence..and further away from me.

But, in addition to the parental angst I will no doubt feel, I will feel pride that my daughter is becoming a young adult who is headed in the right direction.

She, after all, is appreciating The Bard a tad ahead of schedule.

Do something…

2 May


How about that for an inspirational kick-in-the-pants? But, it’s so true. We can’t let the talent we have just sit on a shelf and waste away. We must do something with what we’ve been given.

On a similar note (the writing stars must be aligned this morning, wanting me to get this message loud and clear), I just came across this quote from Mark Twain and it really spoke to me:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

The challenge, then, is to be brave; try something new; dream big; explore the corners of where those writing dreams may take you.