Chrysalis: Emerging Women Writers

June 1, 2010

Will the Writer Sign Her Real Name?

By Ben Fredricson

I used a pen name on the very first piece I brought to Chrysalis to be critiqued.

“Why are you doing that?” one of the ladies asked.

“I just feel better writing under a pen name,” I said.

“We’ll help you get over that really quick,” she said.

I shrugged.  I hadn’t told her the truth.  No way.  The truth was too full of stars and fireworks.  But folks probably laughed, too,  when a ten-year-old Walt Disney told them he wanted to grow up and build a real fairytale.  Noooo, it was better to keep quiet.

You see, I just knew my words were so magnificent and overwhelming that I’d soon have to wear sunglasses to Fred Meyer because fans would bug me as I pinched peaches and filled my shopping cart with those expensive cocktail crackers and brie.

I wanted a pen name, so I could live my life in anonymity away from the paparazzi that plagued J.K. Rowling and me .

And then, I actually got a few lines published in the Oregonian.  It was a thrill to see my words in print for the first time. But…No one believed it was me. “That’s not your name,” one of the critique peers said.

“But it is me.  I used a pen name,” I tried to convince her.  She just looked at me as though I was off my meds.

So…should you use a pen name?

Well, if your name is  a real tongue-twister, you may want to try on a different moniker.

Or if you think it gives you better branding: Try Marketta Twain

Or if you’re published under hot & heavy  romance pulp and want to submit to children’s or Christian magazines, then you might consider a different name.

I soon learned the hard way that I wouldn’t have to worry about throngs of fans digging through my trash to find discarded drafts of my latest novel. I also learned how hard it was to build a portfolio of clips around my name if I kept changing it.

Okay, you can stop laughing now. There’s nothing wrong with using a pen name. Just make it clear to your editor which is your pen name and which is your real name.  I asked one of my editors if I could publish a newspaper article  under a pen.   I simply wanted some clips under that name in case I ever wanted to use it.   I had to have it approved by the managing editor and then it threw the payroll lady for a loop.  NOTE:  You may also have to explain to your bank why you’re trying to cash checks with your alias. You’re laughing again, aren’t you?

So go ahead.  Be Brit Goodwitch or Brandi Golucky, there are lots of reasons to pick a pen name…but I can assure you that fear of fame isn’t one of them.


Barb   a.k.a.  Angelina Jolly


January 12, 2010

The First Step of a Novel: Get ‘Er Down

Filed under: Technique,Uncategorized,Writing — Barb @ 11:50 pm
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Welcome to the new writers who have joined our group.

A frequent question that has come up is: How should I start writing a novel? We’ll answer that question, but first, raise your hand and repeat after me:

My basic goal is to get the story down on paper.

Now for the different approaches:

Let ‘er Rip:

Sit down, tell the editor in your brain to shut up and write. Now is not the time to fuss over the intro hook, a cliff hanger for every scene, and punctuation. Simply tell your story. Yes, it probably isn’t Pulitzer worthy. Then edit it.  Go through it a couple of times, at least. You’ll find the beginning is usually weaker than the ending because you’ve become a better writer by the time you reached the end.  Edit the beginning several times.

You’ll want to make it the best you can before bringing it to critique. Why would you want folks to tell you things you already know how to do? Use the critique time to gain new insights and info into technique.

Let ‘er Flow(chart)

A story proceeds across my wall in sticky notes.  Different characters’ storylines are in colors, while the main story flows down the center. So, I know the plot, character development, and pacing before I start.  I also know how it begins, ends and where the turning point falls in between. Armed with this information, I’ll follow the Let-er-Rip technique and get the story on paper.  Miss editor-in-my-mind will come by later and make snarky comments.

Let ‘er Be Plotted

This includes not only a visual chart of the characters’ development and story events, but notecards.

*Character notecards (color coded) Contain description, fears, relationships, history, family, nicknames, etc.

*Chapter notecards: Goals for each chapter, Action within chapter; notes about foreshadowing;

YOu may even break chapters into scene notecards.

*Pacing Chart. The action of each chapter or scene can be graphed to give you  visual evidence that your story is not flat-lining.

This technique requires a lot more prep, but the benefit is that you’ll have developed your characters so throughly and the story so deeply that writing will go much more quickly (and usually the editing will too.)

When I first started, I just wanted to write. Phooey on all that planning stuff. There are some very accomplished writers who use this technique successfully.  For me, I  ended up editing the manuscript at least 15 times.  It could probably STILL use some work.

That’s okay. I’ve accomplished my basic goal. Little steps.

Get ‘er Down on Paper.

November 11, 2009

From the Beginning…

Filed under: Contests,Motivations,Technique,Writing — Barb @ 12:43 am
Tags: , ,

Okay,  Put your thinking caps on.

Your job is to come up with a simple sentence. The beginning hook for a story. It must be based off the picture below. Funny, sad…whatever.

Post your one sentence hooks in the comments. Enter as often as you wish.

We’ll announce the winner in a couple of weeks. I’m not sure what the prize is yet, but you’ll have to come to Chrysalis to get it.

Have fun. Get Creative.

June 26, 2009

Information for Writers

gadls thesis

gadl's thesis

Hi lady writers,

I’m copying and pasting some important information from Terripatrick.  She put it in a comment that got hung up in a post, and I don’t want you to miss it.

“Here’s two wonderful agents that blog – and they really do love writers.
Jenny Bent: and here’s a link to her take on conferences:

“Kristen Nelson: There’s tons of great information on this blog, she’s been posting for a long time and covers all kinds of publishing business topics.

I agree with Terri.  I like to set aside a few moments to read agent’s blogs. It keens one’s ability to keep up with what agents/publishers are searching for.

And Yes, they are still looking for crisp language with an inciting plot and memorable characters. But with 10-30 seconds to review your submission, your brilliance may be overlooked unless you have some help.

Check this out. Does anyone have other helpful blogs they’d like to add to this share?

June 11, 2009

Sweating the Details Before You Get to An Agent.

Filed under: Critiques,Technique,Writing — Barb @ 10:26 am
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For Anagram Bookshop in Prague (by Kaspen)

For Anagram Bookshop in Prague (by Kaspen)

When I first started presenting my work for critiques, I slapped it on paper any way I could. Through the years, I’ve noticed the better writers seem to take great pains not only in their words, but also in their presentation for informal discussion.

Even for a critique group their documents are  double-spaced, formatted with 1 inch margins, and have appropriate head space above the chapters.  Of course, their headers contain page numbers, but the name of the novel and writer  is also ever present. In other words,  each week’ these writers present a reading in  ready-for-publication style.

When I asked why, they smiled and said it was easier to  do it right in the first place, rather than try to catch every formatting detail later.

Noah Lukeman, a literary agent who has read thousands of manuscripts, gives great advice about details in his slim but weighty book, The First Five Pages. He notes that agents draw conclusion about entire manuscripts from the presentation of the first 1500 words.  Inattention to detail:

“may signal carelessness, sloppiness, ignorance or defiance of the industry’s standards; that the writer doesn’t care enough to do the minimum amount of research to make a manuscript industry presentable. Often when a writer’s presentation is careless, his writing is too.”

Critique groups tend to be informal gatherings. We often print on the backside of used copies, in order to save trees and paper.  However, it’s worth kicking ourselves a couple of times to make sure the formatting on the front side is complete. It will allows our fellow readers to concentrate solely on the words and story line.

Now…if I’ll just follow this advice every week, I’ll get more than the  first 5 pages whipped into shape.

June 3, 2009

YooHoo! There’s a Contest Over Here

by  athena

by athena

Is it worthwhile to enter contests?

Well, the folks that win them sure think it is. Besides, it allows you to stretch your writing muscles and step outside of your comfort zone of reading to your fellow critique members.  Here’s a contest that accepts fiction as well as other genres.

Visions, the literary journal of the NorthWest Arkansas Community College accepts submissions of poetry, short fiction, and digital artwork year-round. The only criterion for publication is excellence.

While there’s no monetary reward, it does build up your writing profile. And it doesn’t cost anything except the postage and ink.

Surely, each of you already have a something in your files to send off.

Good Luck!

May 27, 2009

Questions Your Dog Wouldn’t Even Answer

Filed under: Technique,Writing — Barb @ 10:40 pm
Tags: , ,
Photo on FunnyDogSite

Photo on FunnyDogSite

When I’m doing research for a project, one of the things that I have to force myself to do is call people. I’ll google, go the library, even read microfilm first.

I’m not sure why I put off the inevitable. When I finally pick up the phone and stutter through an introduction, folks are usually happy to share information with me.  The only negative experience that I’ve had was when I called Junior High Schools and interviewed school secretaries to get the number of students who were taking international school trips over spring break.  I was writing an article on youth traveling without parents.

These secretaries must  haveworked for the NCIS because several of them considered this info part of national security and referred me to the district superintendent’s office.  I had to use different sources to write the article.

A newspaper editor once gave me a piece of advice that helps in these situations. “Prepare interesting questions. Not the run of the mill crap.”

When interviewing an interesting character, rather than ask questions like: “How did you get started?”

Ask Questions like: If you were just getting started, what advice would you give yourself?”  We all love to read advice from our older, wiser selves.

So it’s true. Polish your questions when you have to do research. Make the questions irresistible.

So tell me….

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

May 20, 2009

Slouchers Who Can’t Sing or Write

By Del Ray Artisians

By Del Ray Artisians

What does a choir director say to someone who truly can’t sing?

  • “I’m sorry, we’ve run out of robes.”
  • “We need strong singers like you in the congregation to help them sing the hymns.”
  • “I wouldn’t want you to strain your voice.”
  • “Did you know singing can aggravate sinus problems?
  • “We still need good people for the handbell choir.”
  • “It’s a shame composers don’t write more songs in your style.”
  • “You have a unique range – you hit both notes well”
  • “Did you know there is a new Bible study starting the same night as choir practice, I think you’d get a lot from it.”
  • “You have excellent posture.”

Of all the choirs I’ve participated in, I’ve never heard any of the above statements. NOT BECAUSE I’M A GOOD SINGER.  No, I can’t read music and I tend to follow the voice of whoever I’m standing next to (usually, I’m about a quarter-beat behind them.) I know I’ve thrown folks off the tune.  One gal used to cover her ear when I stood next to her. She kindly said it was to hear the note in her head, but I’m pretty sure it was to block out the rest of us—especially me. That’s okay. She had this vibrato-thing going on and her high notes sounded like one of those ululating women in India.

So why do I sing? Because I enjoy it. It’s a wonderful oral release of spirit and soul. The more I do it, I improve.

I believe it’s the same with writing. Within our group, I’ve never heard a suggestion to stop straining fingers or brain cells and give up writing.In a critique group we share our thoughts about what will make each other’s work stronger.

Like opera stars, the words roll off some folk’s papers like music. For others, the work may be closer to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

Why do we write? Because it’s a wonderful written release of the spirit and soul. We are explorers. Why do we evaluate each other? To improve; and the more we do it, the more we improve.

There are layers and goals for our writing.  Sometimes we write only to please ourselves.

Sometimes we consider being represented, so we must grow our skills and write to please an agent.

For those who want to sell their words, then we polish our abilities until they please an editor and publisher.

The higher the stakes, the greater the possibility of rejection. That sends us back down the road to improve some more.

The Can’t Sing Choir at Morely College in East London is a community choir. It’s made up of people who don’t have the confidence to sing or have been begged not to. Participants begin with making a noise and learning rhythm. Some are quite challenged.  They progress through crazy exercises like hitting your left knee with your right, and  then hitting your right knee with your left hand. “It frees the body.” says singing tutor, Andrea  Brown. “You’re so concentrating on d0ing the exercise that the body is less rigid and the vocal mechanism is freer.”  If participants hang in there and take level 3 of The Can’t Sing Choir, they get so good they admit: “Well, yes, we actually can sing.”

With work, we can learn to sing. With concentrated passion, we can learn to write.

Now about that posture……

May 7, 2009

Women Writing without Claws

Filed under: Critiques,Motivations,Sisterhood,Writing — Barb @ 3:54 pm
Tags: ,


In honor of Mother’s Day, I wanted to post about the sisterhood found among friends.

I’ve seldom thought of my mother as a girl with friends.

I cubbyholed her as “Mother,” until she had a stroke and our roles switched. It was at that point I wondered about her dreams.  Did she go to dances and giggle with her friends about boys? What did she tell her friends that she felt on her wedding day? Was it the support of her friends that allowed her to endure the hard life she had?

I asked her about the  hopes of her heart, but I discovered that her disappointments and secret yearnings were only shared with friends; with me she took the steady philosophy of “Mother”, and said,  “There’s responsibilities to do…so you do it.”

That’s when I realized that often it’s our friends that contribute to the untold stories within our lives. Perhaps we should celebrate “Friend Day” right after Mother’s day?

Perhaps that’s the beauty of an all-woman critique group? In addition to writers, we’ve become friends, helping mid-wife the words of our stories  and holding the chapters of each others’ lives.

April 23, 2009

Finding Your Creep Factor

Filed under: Motivations,Technique,Writing — Barb @ 9:05 pm
Tags: , ,

In my writing notebook, I keep  pages on things that comfort and things that make me shiver.

I try to write phrases. For instance: “spiders on the neck” evokes more yeowww-

Grow on You by lucy and bart

"Grow on You" by lucy and bart

factor than “spiders on the wall.”

“Golden Lighting on fat pillows” gives me more “aaaaahhhh”, than “fat pillows on shag carpet.”

So…for our writing exercise today, look at the two pictures below.

Which picture creeps you out more?   And why?

exploded view by lucy and bart

"exploded view" by lucy and bart

Dig deep. Find your feelings.

Express Yourself.

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