Thursday, November 6, 2014

Beginning Writing for Publication with Mary Potter Kenyon

Mary Potter Kenyon graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a B.A. in Psychology. She lives in Manchester, Iowa, and is the Director of the Winthrop Public library. Her writing has been widely published in magazines, newspapers and anthologies. She has had several books published, including Coupon Crazy: The Science, the Savings and the Stories Behind America’s Extreme Obsession, which she wrote during a past NaNoWriMo. More information can be found on her website:

She is presenting a two-part workshop at Carnegie-Stout Public Library for NaNoWriMo with helpful tips on how to prepare your writing for publication and navigate the world of publishing. The next session will be on Monday, November 17th at 6:30 p.m. If you missed the first session, we’ve put together a brief summary of her presentation for you!

Beginning Writing for Publication with Mary Potter Kenyon
Carnegie-Stout Public Library, November 3rd, 2014

Before You Write
  • Why do you want to write?
  • What interests you about writing?
  • What type or types of writing could you imagine yourself doing?
Ms. Kenyon also broke down the familiar advice to “write what you know” into a few categories for easier brainstorming:
  • Relatable life events: life experiences many people share
  • Less relatable/common life events: life experiences unique to you
  • Your passions
  • Your passionate dislikes
  • Learning opportunities: situations that gave you an opportunity for growth and understanding
Advice for Writers and Wrimos
  • The first paragraph of your writing  should catch your readers’ interest and grab their attention, which is described as the “hook” in writing terms.
  • Consider your audience how can you shape your story to their taste and interests? Reading the sorts of things you want to write will help you to learn about your reading audience.
  • If you plan to submit a piece of your writing for publication be sure to follow the submission guidelines exactly!
  • Write every day. It takes time to hone your craft. Bring a notepad with you everywhere you go to take advantage of every free moment. Keep a notebook by your bed. With practice, your skills will inevitably improve.
  • Learn to revise. Remember that you can’t edit nothing. Get something down on paper. That is one of the main objectives in participating in NaNoWriMo. You have to write a first draft before you can polish a final draft. Don’t get too attached to your first draft. After editing it will probably look very different.
  • If you have an emotional reaction as you write, that is a good sign that your readers will too.
  • Be stubborn. Be determined.
Build Your Platform
  • Make yourself and your writing visible. Writing shorter pieces for magazines, anthologies, newspapers, and newsletters is a great starting point with a lower time commitment than a full manuscript.
  • Build your reputation: demonstrate your skills, abilities, and that there is an audience for what you create.
  • Even if it’s a small piece, having your name in print can be a real confidence boost.
  • Have a social media presence.
  • Be persistent the only way to avoid rejection is to never send anything out. Rejection doesn’t mean your writing is horrible, it just means it isn’t what that publisher was looking for. Remember it is their opinion, but your story.
  • Writing is a craft, but publishing is a business. Know how to pitch your work: can you describe it in 2-4 sentences? Do you have your hook? Convey your enthusiasm about your topic or story!
Ms. Kenyon’s next session on Monday, November 17th will cover the nuts and bolts of approaching agents and publishers, including information on query letters, the basics of a book proposal, and information on marketing and promotion. She will provide concrete examples of a book proposal and a marketing sheet her publisher uses, and tips on how to utilize social media as an author.

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