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Research Tools Every Writer Needs

In this guest post historical fiction author Kelly Gardiner shares some of the wonderful free resources that writers can use to make the most out of their research time.

‘Do research. Feed your talent. Research not only wins the war on cliché, it’s the key to victory over fear and its cousin, depression.’ – Robert McKee, Story

All writers need research. Whether you’re writing a memoir based largely on your own life, a story set in a neighbourhood you know well, a fantasy in a created universe, or a feature article, research can add depth, verisimilitude, and those telling details that further plot or character.

I write historical fiction, which involves more research than some other forms – luckily, I love the process of imagining, seeking, finding, interrogating and then integrating (or not) material that helps me populate an imagined past and draw its people.

So here are a few things I’ve learned that can help you, no matter what form your writing takes.

Find, don’t search

It seems so easy to look stuff up, doesn’t it? A quick Google search, and there’s a world of information at your fingertips. But is it what you really want, and is it any good?

Some tips on searching well: first, start with a broad query then refine it. You can add extra words to it if they are useful refinements, but don’t just keep adding terms. Think about what material you want to find. Who would write that? Try to imagine the words they would use to describe it. A good example is health information. If you want to see results from a whole lot of health forums on which people discuss their symptoms, use common words. If you want to read informed medical advice, search using terms a doctor or medico might use.

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Short Story Masterclasses - Eight Successful Writers Discuss the Short Story Form

Short Story Masterclass is a specially commissioned podcast series produced by Thresholds, an online international short story forum based at the University of Chichester, in partnership with the Small Wonder Short Story Festival. Each episode features an award-winning author discussing their approach to short stories. The series is hosted by Steve Wasserman, creator of the Read Me Something You Love podcast, and K.J. Orr who was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award in 2011. 

Episode 1: Sarah Hall and the sexiness of the short story form
Listen here
After writing four highly acclaimed novels, Sarah Hall published her first collection of short stories,The Beautiful Indifference, in 2011. The collection won the 2012 Edge Hill Short Story Prize and was shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor Prize. Hall is a tutor for the Faber Academy, The Guardian and the Arvon Foundation.

Episode 2: Joseph O’Connor and super-charging your language
Listen here
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How to Submit Your Writing to Literary Magazines

Would you like to start submitting your work to literary magazines but don’t quite know how to even begin? Or perhaps you are unsure if you are making the right first impression with editors. This wonderful guide for writers seeking to get their work into print comes from the editorial team at Neon, a UK-based literary magazine published every quarter.
If you are looking for places to submit your work to be sure to get out our latest Opportunities for Writers post or see our list 9 Literary Magazines for New and Unpublished Writers.

This article is designed to be a complete and thorough guide for anyone who is interested in having their short story or poem published in a literary magazine, but doesn’t know where to start. You’ll probably find it most useful if you’ve never sent out your work before, or if you’re just beginning to try and get published. This guide is also quite specific to literary magazines. If you’re looking to publish an article, interview, review or feature then the process is quite different. If however it’s a short story, poem or other piece of creative writing that you want to publish, read on!

Step 1: Find A Suitable Publication

The first step is to find a magazine that you’d like to be published in, and which publishes the kind of thing you write. There are thousands of different literary magazines in the world, and each has its own unique tone and style. Familiarising yourself with a magazine by reading a few back issues greatly increases your chances of being able to publish your work there – and also helps support the magazine itself! If you can’t afford to buy a copy of the magazine, many have samples available to read for free on their websites.To help you find the right magazine for your work, there are a number of resources available. Duotrope’s Digest is by far the most comprehensive – for a small monthly fee you get access to a searchable database of over 2000 different literary magazines. Ralan.com,
PoetryKit and Neon‘s own list of UK-based magazines are also worth browsing.

Step 2: Read And Follow The Guidelines

Once you have found a magazine that publishes the kind of work you write, you should look for the magazine’s guidelines. These will usually be on a page on the magazine’s website, or printed in the magazine itself. By reading the guidelines you can find out things like maximum or minimum word counts, and the format in which the editor would like to receive your work.There’s some language which might be a little unfamiliar to you that crops up often in guidelines pages. Here’s a brief glossary: Continue Reading…

18 Countries 18 Publication Opportunities
A list of 18 literary magazines from around the world that accept international submissions.

Argentina
Digital publication The Buenos Aires Review publishes work by emerging and established writers from the Americas in both Spanish and English. All prose submissions – fiction and non-fiction – must be under 5000 words and poets are asked to send 3 to 6 poems at a time (up to 2000 words). The Buenos Aires Review also publishes cultural criticism and interviews.

Papua New Guinea
Stella describes itself as a thinking woman’s magazine from Papua New Guinea for the Pacific. The magazine covers fashion, health, travel, arts and lifestyle topics. Stella welcomes submissions of articles and creative-journalism from emerging and established writers from across the Pacific region.

Canada
The Malahat Review invites writers at all stages of their careers to submit their work. The magazine publishes poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction by writers from Canada and abroad as well as reviews of Canadian books. The Malahat Review runs four literary contests per year.

South Africa
Published four times a year, New Contrast is South Africa’s oldest literary journal. It accepts submissions of fiction up to 6000 words and poetry up to 75 lines. The journal welcomes writers from around the world, though preference is given to pieces which have some bearing on issues, events or reactions relevant to South African and in some case African contexts. Continue Reading…

A Cautionary Note for Pantsers

In this guest post author and journalist CG Blake reflects on his ‘pantser’ approach to writing
Pantser: A NaNoWriMo term that means that you ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ when you are writing your novel. You have nothing but the absolute basics planned out for your novel.
(source: Urban Dictionary)

Author Lisa Cron wrote a thoughtful piece over on Writer Unboxed on January 10, 2013, that got me thinking. If you haven’t read Lisa’s work, I highly recommend her latest book Wired for Story, a guide to how writers can use storytelling techniques to trigger the brain’s natural ability to read stories.

Cron’s post on Writer Unboxed focused on the technique, advocated by Anne Lamott in her famous “Shitty First Drafts” chapter in the classic work Bird by Bird, to “let it all pour out” when writing a first draft. Cron posits that Lamott’s point has been widely misinterpreted. Lamott was not suggesting writers dive into a first draft with no thought or regard for the story they are trying to tell. Having said that, Cron proceeded to discuss why the “let it all pour out” approach does not serve the writer well.

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Amsterdam Writers' Residency - credit Maurizio Mori

Author John Green has described Amsterdam as the city he loves most in the world. It was an important setting for his bestseller The Fault in Our Stars and it was at the Amsterdam Writers’ Residency in 2011 that Green worked on many of the Dutch sections of his manuscript.

The Amsterdam Writers’ Residency was founded in 2006 and offers writers from around the world the opportunity to live and work in the literary heart of the city for up to three months.

About the Amsterdam Writers’ Residency
The Amsterdam Writers’ Residency was established by the Dutch Foundation for Literature (Nederlands Letterenfonds). Since it began over eight years ago it has provided a space for international writers to live and work in the city. Residents are provided with an apartment located above the Athenaeum Bookshop. The apartment has two bedrooms, a kitchen and living/working spaces. Residents are also provided with full access to University of Amsterdam Library. Writers usually stay for between two and three months, with the minimum stay being six weeks.

Residents are required to cover their own travel costs, though the program will actively work with writers to help locate other funding schemes to assist with such costs. A monthly service fee of 250 Euros is payable during the residency, though this may be covered by a monthly residence grant of up to 1500 Euros.

Writers in residence are expected to become involved in city’s literary and cultural life. This may include giving guest lectures and readings, or participating in media events. Many of the guest writers visit Amsterdam not only to write or to do research, but also to promote the translation of one of their books or to attend a literary festival. Continue Reading…

10 Library Fellowships for Writers
“Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better.” – Sidney Sheldon

I.  Boston Public Library’s Children’s Writer in Residence
United States of America

Library Fellowships - Boston Public Library - Credit Brian Johnston

Image: Brian Johnston

Boston Public Library was established in 1848 and is the oldest large municipal library in the United States. Today the service has 25 branches, including the beautiful Central Library in Copley Square. The Library’s Children’s Writer in Residence Program provides an emerging children’s writer with the financial support and space needed to complete one literary work for children or young adults. The writer in residence receives a $20,000 stipend and a private office in the Central Library. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry and script projects are all eligible. Applicants cannot have published more than three books to date.

II.  State Library of Victoria’s Creative Fellowships
Australia

Library Fellowships - State Library of Victoria - Credit Brian Yap

Image: Brian Yap

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