Category Archives: Guest post

Guest Post: The Art of the Kiss, by Joy of Museums

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Thank you to Joy of Museums for this virtual tour of the kiss in art.

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Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs by Frederic William Burton

The Kiss in Art

Cultural connotations of kissing vary widely. Depending on the culture and context, a kiss can express sentiments of love, passion, romance, sexual attraction, sexual arousal, affection, respect, greeting, friendship, and peace, among many others.

In some situations, a kiss is a ritual, formal or symbolic gesture indicating devotion, respect, or sacrament.

To continue with A Virtual Tour of the Kiss in Art, click here.

Guest Post: Help Your Readers Write Good Reviews, by Penny Sansevieri

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Thank you to Penny Sansevieriand Writers in the Storm for this excellent article.

People reading books

Getting readers to write reviews, and encouraging them to do so, is a big part of what authors do to gain more visibility for their books. We know though that it’s not just any review, but a quality one that truly benefits your book. Quality reviews, meaning reviews that are more than “I liked this book,” can actually help to sell the book better than shorter, less specific reviews.

I’ve heard from numerous authors who have readers that post Amazon reviews, for which they are extremely grateful, but wish they were more detailed. You’ve all seen those short reviews on Amazon that say little more than “Loved this book!” While it’s fantastic that someone took the time to leave a review, short reviews like that do little to help a book along. They are often frowned upon by Amazon and could get pulled if the review seems disingenuous.

Read more about why Amazon reviews get pulled.

So how can you encourage your readers to not only review your book, but leave one that is meaningful?

First, let’s talk about what we look for in reviews as consumers. When a book has several great, detailed reviews, we tend to scan them for highlights on the things that matter to us. That’s how we often buy books. Both good and bad reviews can help us decide, and, frankly, I’ve often bought a book after I read a bad review because what the reviewer didn’t like was exactly what I was looking for. That’s why detailed reviews are not only helpful, but they’re a must for your Amazon page.

So, if you have readers who love your work but aren’t savvy on posting reviews, here are some tips you can share with those who want to post something about your book:

  • Whenever possible or appropriate, ask the reviewer to add their expertise on the topic if your book relates to nonfiction.
  • If you have identified your keywords, share them with any friends who are posting and ask them that, if appropriate, they include the keywords in the review.
  • Ask readers to post reviews that are between 100 and 450 words.
  • If a reader feels compelled to include a spoiler, ask them to post a warning first so the customer can chose to read on—or not.
  • Never, ever, ever offer to edit a review. You want honest appraisals, not watered-down reviews that all sound alike.
  • It’s important that the reviewer cite why the book mattered to them. This also personalizes the review for the reader.

To continue reading, go to the original article.

Guest Post: 5 Elements Fount in Great Titles of Books, Short Stories, and Poems; by Writer’s Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

What makes the title of a book, short story, or poem…great? Unforgettable titles like Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera or “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot help grab readers’ attention and entice them to want to read more. Though opinions may vary, Writer’s Relief has found some common themes among exceptional titles. Here are five key elements that can help your title stand out and command attention.

Common Elements Of Terrific Titles For Books, Short Stories, And Poems

The Right Number Of Words

Sometimes, a single word is all you need. A short free verse poem about a flower can effectively be titled “Petals.” However, a one-word title does not work in many cases. The key is to give enough information, based on format and genre, to draw your reader in. Typically, shorter titles are easier to remember and fit on the spine of your book better. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid a longer title if it truly suits your work. There is a lot of leeway here, as long as the title presents the work without giving away too much or too little.

Carefully Crafted

Often, titles need to be edited and considered in the same way that you edited and reworked your short story, poem, or book. We agonize over when to reveal a plot twist or where to place a comma, and we should definitely do the same for our titles. Once the information is honed, the title can really serve the work and speak to your audience!

Targets The Audience

The best titles help your work attract the right audience. This can mean including terms or references that click with the work’s genre, content, or characters. Setting the tone in your title will help you reach your readers: Most fans of True Crime or Horror may not be enticed by a title referencing cute puppies and romance, for example.

Piques Interest

What do readers in your genre look for? Treasure Island instills adventure, Pet Sematary gives us the creeps, and Gone with the Wind evokes change and transience. You can also try using a title that makes the reader wonder how it suits the genre: Think Poe’s The Telltale Heart or Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and how they subvert ideas such as honesty or mystery simply on the basis of their titles.

Completes Your Work

Your title holds a small amount of your message and intent for your audience to interpret and process. As the beginning of your interaction with the reader, the title is a sort of starting point for the journey with a work. The most important job of the title is to invite the reader inside, the way a front door can welcome someone into a home.

Having a memorable, evocative title is important—but try not to stress over the title too much. It’s not necessarily permanent! Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn notes that you can always change a book title. Check out her blog article to read about her experience with title changing.

Question: What are some of your favorite titles—and why?

Guest Post: Showing vs. Telling, by Ryan Lanz

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Thank you to Ryan Lanz and to A Writer’s Path for clarifying the difference between showing and telling.

If there was one piece of writing advice I disliked most as a new writer, it certainly was “Show, don’t tell.” Initially, I had no idea what it meant. Self-help writing blogs often toss this phrase around without examples. I even had a critique done on my writing once, and the person critiquing said this phrase several times but offered no help on what showing actually meant.

Finally, I stumbled upon a quote that changed my outlook on writing forever.

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” -Anton Chekhov

It clicked for me. I finally got it. At least, it was enough to where I knew what the heck those people were talking about. But I still craved examples. In this blog post, I thought it would be fun to dive into the important topic of showing versus telling. And yes, fair reader, there will be examples.

“Show the readers everything; tell them nothing.” -Ernest Hemingway

First, let’s think about why we tout showing rather than telling. Why is it so important and popular these days? Literary trends change over time, although much more slowly than, say, fashion trends. These days, the trend in commercial fiction is concise, lean writing without a lot of overly-descriptive “purple prose.” Prologues are somewhat out of fashion for certain genres. Third person limited and first-person are by far the most popular these days, when it used to be third person omniscient about 40-60 years ago. To recall third person omniscient, think Lord of the Rings and phrases like, “Little did they know . . .”

“An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything.” -Steven King

In my opinion, I believe that we show rather than tell because the modern reader is pretty smart. Fiction, in some form, has been around for thousands of years. Readers have come to expect certain things when they read stories. They may not be able to name literary devices, but they are intuitive nonetheless.

Click here to continue reading this article.

Guest Post: 3 Marketing Strategies Literary Agents and Editors Love to See; by Web Design Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Web Design Relief.  Whether you’re just starting out or a best-selling author, Web Design Relief will improve your existing website or build you an affordable, custom author website to support your author platform, boost your online presence, and act as a hub for your social media outreach. Web Design Relief is a division of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. Sign up for their free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit the site today to learn more.

There’s only one thing literary agents and editors enjoy more than discovering great unpublished writing: discovering great unpublished writing that’s backed by an author who is an enthusiastic self-starter.

But what exactly do literary agents love to see in a new client? How can a writer do more than merely promise enthusiasm for book marketing?

Believe it or not, there are three simple marketing strategies that can make a huge difference for writers even before they get a book published.

Lay the foundation for your future as a successful author right now, even before you start seeking publication.

Here’s how.

Writers: Three Marketing Tactics To Implement Before You Seek Book Publication

First: Define Your Author Brand

A writer with a well-defined, recognizable brand is a writer who can expect to build an audience that will buy book after book for years to come. But how can writers build their brands even before getting published?

Simple. Learn the core concepts of author brand development and how this strategy can work for you.

A strong writer brand starts with the author’s online personality and builds a focused outreach campaign based on the author’s select literary interests.

In other words, who you are as a writer—and what you love to write—makes up the spine of your author brand. With focused effort, a writer with strong, specific branding will develop a unique voice and style that pervade book after book, delivering on the “promise” of the brand with each new title so that readers can expect stories of a consistent quality. A writer’s social media posts, marketing materials, and writing all reflect the core tenets of the author’s brand.

But a word of caution: Writers may have a natural tendency to love many sorts of books written in many different styles, but a strong writer brand is usually only big enough for focusing on a single selected genre. Writers who hop around among genres tend to take on different pen names for each style of book—but that means marketing each pen name with “new author” status and building a readership from the ground up for each new book.

How will agents and editors know you have a well-planned author brand? You can certainly bring up the details of your plans and strategies in conversation. But you can also hint at them in your query letter.

Second: Have A Fabulous Author Website

New writers often wonder: What is the point of having an author website if there are no books to sell, no publishing credits to brag about, and—generally speaking—nothing to offer potential fans?

Friends, let our years of publishing experience AND web design smarts reassure you: New writers are as much in need of great websites as established veterans. Here’s why creating a website before publication can be a benefit to literary agents, editors, readers—and, of course, to you.

  • A well-designed author website shows that you’re actively paving the way for the future—a future that you’re willing to invest in. And if a writer is meaningfully investing, agents may find it easier to follow suit. After all, an author website shows that the writer has a strong expectation of publishing success—as opposed to a vague hope that someday, something good will happen. I’m going to be great at this, the subtext screams. So why not start now?
  • An author website with integrated social media feeds, a sign-up form for email subscribers, and freebies that encourage connections with fans makes it clear that you are READY to build your readership. Plus, having fan-building functionality on your author website may surprise you: You might find more people than you ever imagined are signing up to learn about your writing. But you won’t know who might become a fan until you give them the opportunity.
  • An author website lets you tell your personal story—which is HUGE for personal marketing and branding. If you’re a new writer, your author’s bio page gives you the ability to show industry pros that you’re dedicating real effort to the craft of writing by taking classes, attending conferences, and soaking up knowledge like a bookish sponge. Even if a writer has no publication credits yet, an author website is a chance to show that it’s only a matter of time.
  • Creating an author website makes you googleable—when literary agents and editors type your name into a search engine, something will actually come up. Read more: How Writers Can Be More Googleable (So People Can Find Your Writing Online) | Web Design Relief.
  • Not having a website seems shortsighted and passive. Literary agents and editors expect their writers will be active promotional partners. In fact, having an author website is as de rigueur as having a business card. Writers who don’t have author websites imply that they are simply not interested in promotion.

If you don’t have a website yet, be sure to hire a company that truly understands your goals as a creative writer and how those goals matter within the larger publishing industry. Start by checking out Web Design Relief.

Read more:

Unpublished Writers: Strategies For Creating An Impressive Author Website | Web Design Relief

How To Help Your Author Website Designer “Get You” And What You Want | Web Design Relief

In your query letter, be sure to tell literary agents to visit your author website so they can get to know you as a writer. Instead of including a basic URL address, try: If you’d like to learn more about me, see pictures from my research and travels, or check out my popular blog posts, visit my website: URL here.

Third: Create A Foundation For Social Media Success

If you enjoy posting new pictures and thoughts on social media, count yourself lucky. You’ve got a natural advantage when it comes to marketing and promotion. You’re probably already out there sharing the ups and downs of your publishing journey and inviting potential fans into your life—and that’s exactly what literary agents and editors love to see from writers.

And here’s a secret about social media for writers: It doesn’t matter whether you have fifty Facebook friends or five hundred.

What matters is your attitude: invigorated, enthusiastic, and active. You’re already laying the foundation for a thriving community of fans, friends, and followers. And this counts big when literary agents are assessing your potential success as an online personality who can command a large fan base of readers.

But if you’re the type of writer who would rather be writing books than social media posts—who breaks out in hives just thinking about sharing any information on social media—take heart in knowing that you’re not alone.

Let’s address some common insecurities (and a few straight-up excuses) that tend to hold people back from developing a strong online social media platform.

Excuse: There’s no point in trying to gather ANY fans since it’s so difficult to gather LOTS of them.

The truth: Literary agents prize the quality of your social interactions more than they care about the quantity. A writer with 5,000 friends who rarely interact doesn’t have more marketing power than a writer with only fifty friends who actively engage regularly.

Excuse: Social media is only for young people who care about frivolous things.

The truth: Though social media is certainly popular among students, older generations of adults are also active online. In fact, the majority of people who use the Internet are using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and similar platforms. And though cat videos are perennial favorites, posts that have more poignancy or substance are welcome too. Writers can choose how to make social media their own. Learn more: Tips For Targeting Older Demographics On Social Media.

Excuse: I’m worried about posting anything personal online—it’s not safe.

The truth: It’s possible to post information that isn’t personally revealing but is still engaging and interesting. All it takes is a little creativity and an eye for intriguing, sharable content. Read more: Safety Tips For Social Networking: A Writer’s Guide To Staying Safe Online.

Even if you don’t have a huge following yet as a writer, working with what you already have puts you in a great place to expand and grow.

In your query letter, you can brag to literary agents about big numbers of fans and followers if you have them. But equally as powerful is this simple statement: I’ve been active on social media and am looking forward to continuing to grow my following.

Build An Author Platform That Will Give Your Book Every Advantage

You only get one chance to make a first impression. Take the time to build a marketing infrastructure now, and you might see a bigger payoff when you do finally submit your book for publication.

And remember, we’re here to help!

Question for writers: Which of these marketing strategies seems simplest to implement? Which seem hardest?

Guest Post: James Abbott McNeill Whistler – Landscapes, by Joy of Museums

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Guest Post: James Abbott McNeill Whistler – Landscapes, by Joy of Museums

Thank you to Joy of Museums for this discussion of some of Whistler’s landscapes.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 – 1903) was an American artist active during the American Gilded Age and based primarily in the United Kingdom. He was averse to sentimentality and moral allusion in painting, and was a leading proponent of the credo “art for art’s sake.”

He found a parallel between painting and music and entitled many of his paintings “arrangements,” “harmonies,” and “nocturnes,” emphasizing the primacy of tonal harmony. Whistler influenced the art world and the broader culture of his time with his artistic theories and his friendships with leading artists and writers.

A Tour of James Abbott McNeill Whistler – Landscapes

Southend Pier by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

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Southend Pier by James Abbott McNeill Whistler depicts groups of people walking at the water’s edge. Southend Pier, a major landmark in Southend-on-Sea, in southeastern Essex, England, is in the background.

In the early 19th century, Southend was growing as a seaside holiday resort. The coast at Southend consists of extensive mudflats, so the sea is never deep even at full tide. The pier was built to allow boats to reach Southend at all tides. By 1848 it was the longest pier in Europe at 7,000 feet (2,100 m). By the 1850s, the railway had reached Southend with it a significant influx of visitors from London. After this painting was made, it was decided to replace the pier with a new iron pier.

Click here to continue reading this article.

Guest Post: 4 Out-of-the-Box Ways to Teach Poetry, by Tess Palatano

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Guest Post: 4 Out-of-the-Box Ways to Teach Poetry, by Tess Palatano

Poetry is a powerful outlet for a student’s expression. As a poet myself, I take great joy in introducing the power of the craft to the classroom. Admittedly, this can be difficult. While some students cannot wait to start learning about writing, others audibly groan at its mere mention. Others sit in silent indifference. So how exactly can a teacher start their students on their poetic journeys, or encourage them to begin loving the works of poets like Mary Oliver?

I’ve outlined some activities that have had great results in my classroom — regardless of students’ preconceived notions. The goals of these hands-on lessons are to have students appreciate the craft and get them inspired enough to write some poetry themselves.

Activity 1: A Poetry Tournamenttrophy-153395_640

This activity is a fun and engaging introduction to poetry. The poetry tournament takes very little class time each day, and it exposes students to poetry in small doses while also planting the seeds for independent exploration.

The idea is to create a basketball-like tournament-pairing chart using poems, determining a final winner by reading the poems as a class. Locate sixty-four poems and pair them off, just like basketball teams. Read two poems each day and let the students vote on the “winner.” Do this until you have a final four, and then the final winner.

I’ve found it most helpful when a combination of teacher and students choose the poems. I ask the students to browse and choose a poem from poets.org or poetryfoundation.org that they enjoyed reading, for whatever reason. When the students choose the poems themselves, they are actively engaged and feel some ownership over the activity. A combination of teacher and students read the poems out loud each day.

You don’t have to do more than just read and vote on the poems before moving onto something new — the simple exposure to poetry and the gamification of the activity has plenty of its own benefits. Still, I like to ask my students to choose one in a set of questions to answer in their notebooks about the poem that they vote for. We discuss as a class, then vote.

As an extension activity at the end of the week, I sometimes ask students to write poems inspired by one they read that week — incorporating similar themes or techniques we may have discussed. A great time to start a poetry tournament is during the spring, when both college basketball’s March Madness and April’s poetry month happen.

Activity 2: Black Out Poetry

A blackout poem is a type of erasure poem, formed when a poet takes a marker (usually black) to an already established text and redacts words until a new poem is formed. Because the text is already in place, this activity has an easy entry point and is not too intimidating for students to try.poetry

I photocopy and repurpose pages from texts we’ve read throughout the year and hand out black or dark markers. Next, I ask students to identify words that resonate with them, then “black out” parts of the page around those words to create a poem within the text. Sometimes the poems’ meanings are similar to the original text, and sometimes completely new meanings are formed. As an extension, you can ask students to add an illustration or design to the poem that connects to their newfound meaning.

Activity 3: Paint Chip Poetry

This is a fun activity that requires some out-of-classroom resources. However, you can pick up some paint chips for free at a home improvement store, so don’t worry about cost. In this task, students engage in their own word play by selecting a card with at least 3 different paint names. They will then incorporate these words into a poem of their own.

Students will write in each section on the actual paint chip card, making sure to include the paint color in their writing. They can change the form or tense of the word, or even make it a name. The idea is to let the constraint open avenues for their creativity. For example, if given a card with shades of blue, the colors may be named: ocean view, seven seas, and planetarium. A poem could be formed as follows:

I look at the ocean view
my mind escapes to the seven seas
the dark blue of night spills across
the ocean floor
while inside a planetarium
a little girl sleeps

There are multiple other activities you can center around paint chips: working with metaphors and similes, or simply meditating on a color and its mood.

Activity 4: Found Poetry

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Just as it sounds, this poetry activity involves students “finding” poems — often in places they least expect it. Have students choose words or phrases from texts around the room or cut out words from magazines or even maps. Students can also listen to a podcast, TED talk, or song and write down some of the words they hear.

Once students collect a certain amount of words (I recommend 15 or 20), ask them to use these words to form a poem. It is helpful to have students write these words on slips of paper that they can rearrange in whatever order they’d prefer.

It is up to you if you’d like the students to add their own words to the poem, or restrict the poem to only the words that were found. With either method, this activity invites students to look at the pedestrian world through a poetic lens while freely expressing their creativity.

 After trying one or all of these activities, students will have some wonderful work to celebrate. Once finished, you can create an anthology of student work, or have students assemble collections of their own that they can share with the class. You can also direct students who are particularly motivated toward writing contests to submit their finished works. Poetry is sometimes a difficult topic to breach, but these fun and creative activities prove that with a little inspiration, anyone can become a poet. 

Tess Patalano is a writer at Reedsy, a marketplace giving authors and publishers access to free educational content on self-publishing, along with an avenue to hire talented developmental editors. She has taught writing to students in South Korea, Hawaii, and China.