Monday, May 23, 2016

Get Paid for Your Nonfiction

By Ellen Ryan

Register for Nuts & Bolts of Publishing Nonfiction Articles (Starts May 24) with Ellen Ryan and receive personal advice on how to get paid for your nonfiction.

“Heretofore to be invented throughout the universe.” I can always tell when members of the Writer’s Center class on How to Get Your Nonfiction Articles Published have reached that line in a sample contract. There’s silence in the room as everyone reads—and then someone gasps.

People should. Writers’ contracts have gotten bad. What used to be fairly friendly agreements between writer and publisher has become loaded with pitfalls: insistence on “work made for hire,” indemnity clauses, noncompete clauses, and confidentiality clauses that bar the article from pillow talk with your spouse.

Did you know a publisher can run your article with someone else’s byline on it? Or with inaccurate information in it? Or hang onto it and never run it at all?

All perfectly legal—depending on what you’ve signed.

That’s why this class isn’t like most workshops. Sure, we cover adding life and color to an article. Also how to interview someone so you get a lot more than just good quotes. And in the two query letters and two sample articles that class members write, my red pen catches everything from misspellings to places where the theme has gotten lost and wandered around the page.

But to get us published and paid—always the goal—we spend considerable time on matching ideas to the right markets, on query (pitch) letters, on finding editors and getting their attention. We also cover capturing inspiration, tracking all expenses for tax time, and understanding contracts.

Class members have all kinds of questions. For example:
• Why does the publisher want “work made for hire” when I’m not an employee?
• What’s this “Star Wars contract” I’ve heard about?
• Can they really legally keep me from writing about this topic for X months after the issue date?
• What’s the difference between “all rights” and “work made for hire?”
• If they publish it in Asia or Europe, can I be paid twice?
• Wait—you mean I should try to sell it again?

Writers’ contracts have been making their way through the court system since the dawn of the Internet (not a coincidence). The National Writers Union, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and other groups have intervened on our behalf, both individually and collectively.

There are steps we can take for ourselves, too. We can negotiate for more pay, to sell fewer rights, for a different contract altogether. We can also walk away.

Again, the ultimate goal is to get both published and paid. Attaining a fair and favorable contract is a big part of that. And that’s why spending time on contracts is a big part of how to get your nonfiction articles published.
Ellen Ryan has been an editor in Washington for two decades, including nearly 13 years as managing editor of The Washingtonian. Her freelance articles have appeared in Good Housekeeping, Outside, AARP The Magazine, The Washington Post, and ForbesLife Executive Woman. Ellen Ryan’s travel writing has appeared in Vegetarian Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday, and most recently in Destination Maryland. Ryan is author of Innkeeping Unlimited: Practical, Low-Cost Ways to Improve Your B&B and Win Repeat Business.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Crush: Dave Singleton on Celebrity Crushes, Publishing Advice, and Perseverance

By Jessica Flores

You probably remember your first celebrity crush. No matter how embarrassing it might be, the object of your affection probably still has special meaning. In Cathy Alter and Dave Singleton’s new book, CRUSH: Writers Reflect on Love, Longing, and the Lasting Power of Their First Celebrity Crush, they focused on just that. The anthology is a collection of essays from writers—including Stephen King, James Franco, Roxane Gay, and Jodi Picoult—about their first celebrity crushes. Both writers/editors are teaching courses this summer at The Writer’s Center.  They will also read from the anthology at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 21 and participate in a Q&A with our own Joe Callahan. Recently, we spoke with Singleton about the project.

The Writer’s Center: How did you come up with this idea?
Dave Singleton: From the ashes, great things sometimes spring forth. I first thought of my new book CRUSH in 2012 when two things happened. First, I’d written about relationships for 12 years and had— and still have— a deep fondness for exploring all facets of longing, attraction, connection, and love. Writing about those aspects of life are second nature to me. I’d also been working on a book proposal about celebrity culture, and after some initial interest and enthusiasm from editors—and a lot of time spent writing and rewriting on my part— had decided it was a non-starter. So, I was buzzing with longing and celebrity. Then the idea just came to me.
I went out for drinks one night with my old friend Cathy [Alter] who’d just had a baby and was itching to get out of the house, and, out of the blue, she said, “Let’s collaborate on something!”

“OK,” I replied, without giving it a second thought.
“Do you have any ideas?”
“Well, I do have one—a book on first celebrity crushes.”

That night, we shared our celebrity crush stories with each other and realized they were rich and poignant. They weren’t just silly one-liner anecdotes. In the end, both of our stories were about bigger things. Hers was about her mom and mine about coming of age. This could be surprising and great if we take such a simple topic and give it a literary bent, I thought.
From that, CRUSH was born. 

TWC: What was your experience like working on this anthology?
DS: It was intense. Creative. Exciting. Demanding. It was collaboration, with all the sparky, challenging aspects that word connotes. I had no idea going in what it would take to write our essays and then a proposal. We created a wish list of writers we loved and started the long journey of finding them through our contacts, their agents, and a variety of means. Then we sent the invites and decided on a mix of voices and experiences.  Diversity was very important to us.
Some hopped on board right away. Some said no. For the writers who said yes, we worked with them on their pieces. We had a vision of literary excellence, a high bar for every essay. And boy, the writers came through. 

Then there was the business of selling it, and that took quite a while. Not everyone got the idea. Through it all, my co-author and I never wavered. This book was born of perseverance.
We were so fortunate to meet our editor at HarperCollins. She just loved it and we loved her. Selling a book is like dating. You go through a lot of rough experiences, but then you find the one and you just know. 

TWC: Who was your first celebrity crush?
DS: David Cassidy, when he was on “The Partridge Family.” Watching that show—and him—was the first time I ever carved out a little independence in my family, and it was the first inkling I had that I might be different. I didn’t know the word for gay then. I was way too young. But there was something about him and his shag haircut, his puka-shell necklace and those rockin’ bell bottoms…

TWC: What advice would you give writers who are just starting out? What do you tell students during your workshops?
DS: Don’t write and edit at the same time. Let your writing flow out of one side of the brain. Then edit from the other side. Writing and editing at the same time is like constantly putting a car in gear and slamming on the brakes. You lurch forward then halt. Lurch forward then halt. It’s not productive.

But make time for both. Ernest Hemingway said, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.” Fall in love with revising as much as you swoon over your first draft. There’s so much elsefrom carving out the time and avoiding making excuses to all the other ways you can bring a story to lifebut I like these two best.

TWC: What motivated you to become a writer?
DS: I was motivated to become a writer out of curiosity. I want to know what makes people tick. What makes me tick. I still do. That’s why I gravitated toward nonfiction. My close friend David Keplinger, whose essay on Debbie Harry is in CRUSH, got me a birthday visit with a psychic who told me I’d be writing fiction one day. We’ll see. I love bringing real stories to life through all the elements of fiction: imagery, figurative language, dialogue, details. 

TWC: What projects are you most looking forward to working on?
DS: With CRUSH, I loved finding a new way to explore pop culture and want to stick with that theme for my next big project. I always have a couple of articles in the pipeline. When it comes to books or larger projects, I spend time on research, figuring out if the topic has been covered before, how I could bring something new and different to it, and the time I spend upfront is helpful for another reason. If you’re going to write a book, for instance, you better love the topic, because it will be with you—and you’ll be with it—for years. 

Dave Singleton has published two previous books: BehindEvery Great Woman is a Fabulous Gay Man: Advice from aGuy Who Gives it to You Straight and The MANdates: 25 Real Rules forSuccessful Gay Dating. His honors include the Media Industry Award for Outstanding Exclusive Coverage, GLAAD Award for Outstanding Multimedia Journalism, and two NLGJA Excellence in Online Journalism awards. His work has appeared in The Washington PostChicago Tribune, PBS’s Next Avenue, AARP Media, Yahoo, MSN, the BBC, Washingtonian, Harper’s Bazaar, and OUT. He is a regular columnist for, Yahoo, and Match. For more on his work, visit his website or follow him on Twitter.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Spotlight on Literary Events: May 2016

Wednesday, May 11, 2016, 8:00 p.m.
Reston Community Center
2310 Colts Neck Road,
Reston, VA 20191

Comic artist for The New Yorker, see Roz Chas as she talks about her latest book Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?. Her graphic novel touches on mortality and family as Chas depicts the transition of becoming the primary caregiver for her aging parents as they slowly lose their independence. Filled with wit and humor, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Is a must read for anyone. Tickets range from $15-$20.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016, 7p.m. – 8 p.m.
Central Library, 1015 N Quincy St,
Arlington, VA 22201, United States

This bimonthly panel, founded by Jon Skovron (The Broken Wondrous World) and Lenore Appelhans (Wild Swans), will discuss how to write Young Adult novels. This panel will present Young Adult authors Kelly Fiore and Lenore Appelhans. A book signing will be offered after the discussion. The topic for the panel is “They’ll Never See It Coming: Writing Effective Plot Twists.” Attendance is free but participants will have the option to purchase the presenting authors’ books.

Thursday, May 12th, 2016, 7:00 PM 
Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital
921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE,
Washington, D.C. 20003

Join the PEN/Faulkner foundation for the 2016 PEN/Faulkner Award Judges Reading with this year’s judges, Abby Frucht, Molly McCloskey, and Sergio Troncoso. Abby Frucht just released her new book “A Well-Made Bed” this past March. She has authored five other books and has won the 1987 Short Fiction Prize and two National Endowments of the Arts. Molly McClosky has written a collection of short stories, a novella, and a novel. Sergio Tronsco has written 3 books, the most recent of which are The Nature of Truth and From the Wicked Patch of Dust. The event is free and open to the public.

Thursday, May 12, 2016, 6:30 p.m.
Library of Congress
101 Independence Avenue SE,
Washington, D.C. 20540

Join the Library of Congress as Jesse Lee Kercheval, poet and translator, reads selections of Idea Vilariño’s poetry from the spring issue of Poet Lore as well as other translations from famous Uruguayan female poets. Vilariño was one of Uruguay’s most prominent literary figures of the 20th century. Poet Lore is the oldest regular poetry magazine in the United States, established in 1889. The event is free.

Saturday, May 14th, 2016, 7:00 p.m.
201 East Capitol Street SE,
Washington, D.C. 20003

Every year since 1980 the PEN/Faulkner foundation has awarded the best work of fiction by an American citizen in the largest peer-juried award in the field. Join the PEN/Faulkner foundation in honoring this year’s winner in the 2016 ceremony. Registration is $100.

Sunday, May 15, 2016, 2:00 p.m.
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh Street
Bethesda, MD 20815

Lia Purpura is the author of four poetry collections, most recently It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful. She has also written three collections of essays and one collection of translations. She has received several honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship, a Fulbright foundation Fellowship, three PushcartPrizes, a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, and several residencies and fellowships at the MacDowell Colony. Jennifer Wallace teaches at the Maryland Institute College of Art and is a poetry editor at The Cortland Review and a founding editor of Toadlily Press. Her fourth poetry collection, The Want Fire, was published by Passager Books in 2015. The reading will be followed by a book signing and reception. This event is free.

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016, 6:30 p.m.
Kramerbooks and Afterwards Café
1517 Connecticut Avenue NW,
Washington, D.C. 20036

Shelter by Jun Yun centers on son Kyung Cho who must deal with his dysfunctional family history when circumstances force him to take care of his parents. After a violent home invasion, Kyung must close the gap with his estranged parents when they are forced to live with him. Already in the midst of financial debt, Kyung is unsure how he can deal with the added pressure of reconciling his traumatic childhood at the hands of his parents. The reading is free to the public.

Thursday, May 19th, 2016, 6:30 p.m.
MLK Library, 901 G Street NW,
Washington, D.C. 20001

Thunder Boy Jr. wants a name of his own. Big Thunder, his father, suggests some names, but most don’t appeal to Thunder Boy Jr. What name will father and son decide on? This children’s book by Sherman Alexie tells a story about a little boy and his father and how their relationship is tied up in a name. The event is free.

Thursday, May 19, 7:30 p.m.
The Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh Street
Bethesda, MD 20815

Martin Moran is an American actor and writer who wrote and starred in his autobiographical solo show about his own childhood molestation, “The Tricky Part,” for which he won an Obie Award and received two Drama Desk Award nominations. In 1999, he performed on Broadway as radio man Harold Bride in "Titanic." In 2006, Moran adapted "The Tricky Part" into a memoir, published by Anchor Press. In 2013, Moran debuted a second solo show, "All the Rage," in New York. This event is free.

Friday, May 20, 2016, 12:00 p.m.
201 East Capitol Street SE,
Washington, D.C. 20003

Follow the Folger’s Research Colloquia with this spring edition where residents of the program can present their work-in-progress and receive feedback. Yale University Associate Professor of English, Jessica Brantley, will present “Poetry and Prayer: Wynkyn de Worde’s Literary Hours.”  The event will last an hour with 15 minutes of discussion. Coffee and tea will be provided but participants are encouraged to bring their own lunch. The event is free.

Saturday, May 21, 2016, 10 a.m. – 6p.m.
Gaithersburg City Hall, 31 S. Summit Avenue,
Gaithersburg, MD, 20877

Take mini workshops with instructors from The Writer’s Center, meet best-selling authors, poets, and songwriters. Aattend readings, panel presentations, and book signings. Parents will find programs for their little ones in The Children’s Village. For younger participants, there will be readings and programs by award-wining children and young adult authors, including book signings, workshops, and performances. The winner of the high school short story will be announced. Admission and parking is free.

Saturday-Sunday, May 21-22, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Canal Park
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, D.C. 20003

Celebrate 400 years of Shakespeare by joining the Folger and Capital Riverfront for two outdoor screenings of films inspired by Shakespeare’s plays. On both nights the screenings will start at 7:30 p.m. and each film will be introduced by actors from the Folger Theatre at Canal Park. Saturday’s screening will be The Merchant of Venice (2004), the first full-length filmed version of the play with sound. Sunday’s showing will include West Side Story (1961), the well-known musical adaption of Romeo and Juliet. Both screenings are free.

Saturday, May 21, 2016, 6:00 p.m.
Politics and Prose
5015 Connecticut Ave NW,
Washington, D.C. 20008

Theodore Leinwand’s new book looks at 7 famous writers and their readings of William Shakespeare’s work. Presenting the journal entries, letters, and criticisms by Coleridge, Keats, Woolf, Olson, Berryman, Ginsburg, and Ted Hughes, Leinwand demonstrates the changing interpretation of Shakespeare’s work throughout the ages. This in-depth analysis presents literature in communication across ages, meditating on the works that became the foundation of English literature. The event is free.

Sunday, May 22, 2:00 p.m.
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh Street
Bethesda, MD 20815

Don’t be shy! Share your latest short story, poem, flash memoir or excerpt from a novel-in progress.
Sign-up begins at 1:30 p.m.  The reading will be followed by a reception. This event is free.

Monday, May 23, 2016, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Busboys and Poets
1025 5th Street NW,
Washington, D.C. 20001

My Father is in Prison tells the story of Louis, a boy who creates imaginative stories to hide the fact that his father is in prison. Heartwarming as it is heartbreaking, Patrick Baker’s book looks with the eyes of a child at a growing national issue. Where 2.7 million children have a parent in prison, the book gives context and language for children to see a reflection of what they may be going through. The event is free.

Meet the Instructor: Joyce Winslow

By Sarah Katz

“Meet the Instructor” offers a little insight into the teaching styles and personalities. This time around, we spoke with Joyce Winslow, who will lead Travel Writing, a beginner’s class, over three Thursdays from May 19 until June 2. Winslow will also lead Advanced Travel Writing from June 1 to June 15.

The Writer’s Center: What brought you to the Writer's Center and how long have you been working here?

Joyce Winslow: This is my second stint at The Writer’s Center. I taught Travel Writing about three years ago—all 20 people in the class rated it very highly and asked that I teach again. I found the Writer’s Center on my way to the OP Shop, the neat thrift shop next door many years ago and found myself sitting at the Center reading poetry.

TWC: How would you describe your teaching style?

JW: I was Associate Professor of English and Journalism at the University of Pittsburgh and taught also at Temple in Philadelphia and at Fairleigh Dickinson in New Jersey. So I’m used to teaching and enjoy questions and helping beginners publish their first pieces. My style is to give a lot of information, ask what’s most helpful, and refine the information to the class’ interests. My class is part lecture, part hands-on practice. There’s no substitute for getting one’s feet and ankles wet by wading in.

TWC: What are you reading right now?

JW: I’m reading Lorrie Moore’s short stories, and a book on the start of the railroad empire. And Audubon’s autobiography.

TWC: What are you writing now?

JW: I’m writing new short stories to go into a collection; I’ve published a fair number that have won national awards. I also just finished my first novel that took me two years to write after many years of being called the “much promised, long-threatened” novel. I’m now revising it—yet again.

TWC: What does your writing space look like?

JW: My writing space is what Virginia Woolf called “a room of her own.” A desk, a ballerina of a beautiful new computer, great light, baskets of notes, and oh yes, my bed. In essence, it’s an office with a bed in it. The condo unit probably meant it to be a bedroom. I’ve renamed it.

TWC: What's the best piece of writing advice you've been given and by whom?

JW: My mentors were Grace Paley and the great Tillie Olsen, among others. Grace used to say that the first and last sentences of a piece should be interchangeable. Tillie’s advice was to edit, cross out, change and edit again till you felt you got it right. And then remove anything extraneous to the feeling created. Both women were adamant about losing all clichés, digging deeper into your heart and honesty, and saving good bits that didn’t quite make the cut for another story, like pieces of a patchwork quilt to use elsewhere.

Joyce Winslow has served as media strategist, speechwriter, and media. She has received numerous honors, fellowships, and awards in fiction and poetry, including several D.C. Commission on the Arts Individual Fellowships, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and, most recently, an Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award for her poem, “THE,” which took second place.