WRITING PERSONAL EXPERIENCE ARTICLES

These are very rewarding, and in most cases easy because you don’t have to do much research.  Isaac Bashevis Singer once said: ” If you write about the things and the people  you know best, you discover your roots. ”   What better form to write about the events in your life than in a personal experience article.

We have all experienced things that can interest others. The events don’t have to be world-shattering, just incidents that readers can relate to and find meaningful.  If you learned something from it, maybe others will too.  Given the right spin and structure, you can turn it into a saleable article.

 

Magasines like Redbook and Ladies’ Home Journal;  some men’s magazines and religious magazines like Guideposts all use true personal experience articles, as do Reader’s Digest, and confession magazines that want fictionalized versions.

You need a tight structure, with a strong focus.  Always start on the day something different happens to you. This incident becomes the hook on which you capture the reader’s interest.  Try to make it provocative, and a shocking statement works well – e.g. “I didn’t think it would feel so good to pull the trigger”  or “snooping through my mother’s dresser drawer , I found out that she was transgender”. These are a bit extreme, but a dark moment or turning point that forces you to make a sacrifice or a choice that teaches a lesson can make a successful article.Your hook is the problem or conflict.  Then comes your reaction .  Finally, the motivation – why you made that choice.  That is often done by way of flashback, or it can be woven in by means of introspection – your inner thoughts – as long as this doesn’t break the flow of the narrative.

 

Build your story towards a satisfactory ending.  This doesn’t have to be a happy ending, because the conclusion doesn’t have to be happy.  After you’ve drafted it, go back to see if you have developed the theme you set out to tackle. Eliminate any tangents or digressions.  Only one theme should dominate.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said: “A writer wastes nothing”.  Don’t waste your personal experiences.  Look into your own life  and find the experiences that changed you and made such an impression you still remember them vividly.  Then write them down.

If I can help you with your writing problems, be in touch.  If you are interested in any of my published books, contact me for special prices. You can reach  me by e-mail at dwaysman@gmail.com or ways@netvision.net.il.

Write on!

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HOW TO BECOME A PUBLISHED WRITER

 

It is a very exciting profession to be a published writer. People respect you, you have the chance to influence their opinions; you can create beauty with words. But of course writing is not enough. No-one is going to read your work unless it gets published. You may believe you have written a master-piece, but when you send it out to the market-place, it will face a lot of competition.

 

To be a successful writer, you need an enormous commitment in time and energy, and also the ability to face rejection. The only writers who have never been rejected (even those famous today) are those who have never submitted anything.

 

Getting published is a big achievement and you need to go about it in a business-like way. The difference between a professional and an amateur is in the way they try to market their work. An amateur writes something and then tries to find an editor who will be interested in it. A professional studies the writers’ guidelines of whatever publication they want to write for, and sends query letters to the editor before they invest all their time and effort into the work. If a particular editor indicates that he likes the idea, then write your piece according to the magazine – the preferred length, written in the first or third person, seriously or with humor, for the age group that buys the publication. Read the magazine like a text-book, and study several issues so that your submission meets their requirements. That way you greatly increase your chances of acceptance.

 

You may even be ambitious enough to want to write a book, perhaps for children or young adults. You need to tell a story that rouses the reader’s curiosity, creating a fictional world that they want to explore. A reader wants an adventure – an escape from danger; or being rich and famous. Take them away from the city to where there are blue skies and high mountains. Maybe away from the 21st century – living in the past or the future. Tell them a secret. Solve a mystery.

 

Start with characters and let a plot evolve from them. Something dramatic is happening in their lives. Give them interesting things to say. They must grow, not remain static. Characters bring the plot to life, and dialogue brings the characters to life.

 

Whatever it is you want to write, there are four steps. First a compelling plot and there are ideas by the hundred in just reading the daily paper. Then you need a hook opening that grabs the reader’s attention (and the editor’s!) A successful ending that ties up all the loose ends. And the middle must keep the reader hoping, guessing and involved. Plot is “what if?” Page turners are curiosity and suspense.

 

The first sale of anything is the hardest to make. But if an editor or publisher does accept something you have written, immediately send off a brief “thank you” note, and at the same time, suggest another three stories you would like to write. Chances are at least one of the ideas will be of interest, and you’ll establish a relationship with the editor and be on the way to regular assignments.

 

You are lucky to be living in the internet age, because you can find markets for your work all over the world.  A new U.S. Jewish magazine is AMI in New York. They have a youth section called AIM, and it is a paying market. Look them up on Google – they like hearing from religious young people. Search engines like Google, Yahoo or Ask Jeeves in the U.K. are your best friends because on them you can locate all kinds of publications on every conceivable subject that interests you, many of them geared towards readers in your age group. The same goes for book publishers of children’s literature and young adult novels. Either e-mail them with your idea, or if you write by regular mail, make sure you enclose either a stamped-addressed envelope for their reply, or an international reply coupon (obtainable at main post offices) to cover the cost of their airmail reply to you.

 

Read everything you can, think up ideas, send query letters to editors – and you’ve taken the important first steps in realizing your dream of becoming a published writer.

 

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WHEN LIFE TOUCHES YOU…… Emotions into Fiction

I once read a quotation that when life touches you, poems appear like bruises.  It always stayed with me, and I often found that sometimes I needed to write a poem, rather than prose, when I was deeply affected.  I have written a book of poems, called “Woman of Jerusalem”; and also have mixed poetry in with my prose in various novels I have written (such as “Esther” published by HCI in Florida, USA).

When you are writing a novel, emotion is the heartbeat, the pulse and soul of all fiction. It creates tension and suspense and provides the reader with a luxurious, therapeutic outlet which life usually denies him.  When I am writing, I aim for the heart!

 

The primary/major emotions are almost instinctive – Fear.  Hope.  Hate.  Love. Anger. Joy. . Grief. Pity.  The secondary ones can be categorised as jealousy; self-pity; loneliness; ambition; greed; vanity, courage; humility; despair; loyalty; gratitude; disappointment; inferiority; envy; pride; suspicion; revenge; shame; guilt.

 

Because emotions are abstract, they can be made more understandable if you compare them to concrete objects, using similes, metap;hors and symbolism.  For exsample, you can describe Hope as a beacon of light in a storm-blackened night; or a crocus poking its head through the snow; or the budding of a long-dormant seemingly dead tree.  The art of writing is all about the inspiration of the moment and the excitement of riding the wave of an idea.  We can induce emotion through a character’s viewpoint; through dialogue; action or a physical description.  Give all your characters a voice and imagine you are listening to them talking to each other – their accents, tone of voice when anxious or angry. Register how voices change in conversation.

 

Readers like to be touched by a story.  Writers and readers know that fictional events aren’t real, but the emotions can be.  They can feel fear or joy, be excited, know grief or show a character’s emotions through his actions.  Your hero/heroine must be believable, so that the reader wants to be that character.  Don’t hold back. Let go of your inhibitions and write emotion-evoking scenes.  That way, the memory of your book will linger long after the final page is closed.

 

I enjoy your comments.  If you want any of my books, contact me directly –

dwaysman@gmail.com  I’ll also be happy to help you if you are having any writing problems with your own work.  Happy writing!

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AMONG MY SOUVENIRS

One of the very human foibles that writers have, along with everyone else, is collecting things that may not monetary value,  but are important because of the memories they evoke.  We should remember this when we are creating characters for our fiction, because it makes them realistic to share the same sentiments we all do when it comes to holding on to things from the past.

I never set out to be a collector.  Whenever I’ve read about millionaires with fabulous private collections of art and sculpture, I’ve thought why not just keep a few pieces you really love and give the rest on loan to a museum or gallery so that others can share their beauty.

 

Yet I find now that I do have collections.  They’re not worth any money and probably no-one else would want them. Most people in my age group have accumulated possessions they can’t bear to part with, despite moving homes and maybe even countries several times in their lives.

 

Who remembers that song of yesteryear: “Among My Souvenirs”?  Part of the lyrics were:

“Some letters tied with blue,

A photograph or two,

I find a rose from you

Among my souvenirs….”

 

What we are really collecting are memories.  There are times in our lives we want to hold on to forever and when we handle these mementoes, they bring a smile to our lips, a tear to our eyes and a bittersweet wave of nostalgia.

 

I have more than a thousand books, and nowhere to put them all. Those that overflow my bookshelves are stowed in cardboard cartons. Many are paperbacks, yellowed pages and tattered covers. But to throw them out would be like disposing of dear friends. Lots of poetry – some by almost-forgotten writers like Alice Duer Miller, Rupert Brooke, A. E.Housman, Dorothy Parker.  Old novels by Somerset Maugham,  Evelyn Waugh, Hemingway, Steinbeck.  Wonderful books of Jewish essays.   Books on philosophy, psychology, the craft of writing. They all represent my youth, when I discovered the world and the wonders it contained. No, I can’t throw them away!

 

Then there are the photos. They started out in albums, but now there are too many and I’m too lazy. Beloved family no longer with us . Friends of my youth. Weddings. Babies bright-eyed and dimpled.  Rites of passage – first day at kindergarten and school; barmitzvahs; graduations. Grandchildren. Holidays. They are all cherished, and overflow in drawers and cabinets.

 

Bric a brac.  One earring (the other lost) given by your first boyfriend.  Small children’s awkward drawings. Their clumsy efforts at making you strange things from wood or papier mache.   A letter on a torn page that proclaims in shaky letters: “Grandma, I love you.” How could you ever toss those?

 

And now I also have a collection of shells and rocks. Most were gifts from grandchildren who wanted to give me something in return for the toys I gave them.  There is a pine cone and a curiously-shaped rock. Shells you can put to your ear and hear the sea.  And stones I gathered at the Dead Sea on my sister’s last visit here, when we spent a perfect day of peace and tranquility together, exchanging memories of our parents and siblings, our childhood, the dreams we realized and the ones we lost along the way.  All precious.  All irreplaceable.

So when you are creating characters, remember to give them a few things to hold on to, that you can refer to and reveal the sentimental side of their lives.

 

“Get rid of the clutter” we’re told. Not me.  I shall go on collecting mementoes and memories until I die. And I hope my children, even then, will save a few of them.  Because some things are worth more than money!

For any Israeli readers of my Blog, I will be giving a talk in Rehovot on April 27th at 10.30 a.m. where my books will also be available.  The topic is “When Life Touches You – turning emotions into memorable fiction.  The address is Swiss Hayavot Community “Center, 52 Sireni Street, Rehovot 76249.  Would love to see you there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ANNUAL CELEBRATIONS

There are anniversaries and celebrations that come round every year, making it easy for freelancers to plan in advance. It is important to realise that papers and magazines prepare special issues for these holidays very early for issues such as Christmas, Easter, Passover, national holidays etc.-  send in your proposal at least 2 months in advance.  Mother’s Day is a bit tricky because it’s celebrated on different days in various countries,  but in Australia it’s always the first Sunday in May, in England I think it was in March, for other countries find out on Google.  Below is the story I wrote that was published last year for this endearing and enduring holiday.

MOTHER’S  DAY

by DVORA WAYSMAN

We only have one mother in our life-time.  This unique person is the greatest influence on our lives from the moment we take our first breath – perhaps even before, while we are still in the womb.  She protects us when we are small, disciplines us when we need it, and is there for us through every single rite of passage.  Inevitably, one day in our lives we lose her.  Perhaps that is the saddest part of growing older – the losses we sustain along the way.  And she is irreplaceable – we can make new friends, even marry another spouse, but we can never replace a mother.

She stays with us throughout our lives, even when we are mothers, or even grandmothers, ourselves.  How do we remember her?  Perhaps we give her name to a grandchild.  Perhaps we make dishes that we loved as children, and for which  she once gave us the recipe.  Perhaps we wear a piece of jewelry that came to us after her death, and while it may not be valuable, it gives off wonderful vibrations simply because she used to wear it.

I have some earrings that were my mother’s.  They’re only made of coloured glass, but whenever I wear them, I find myself smiling.  She had so little in her lifetime.  Her old-fashioned kitchen in Melbourne’s seaside  suburb of St. Kilda  sported none of the appliances we take for granted today.  No refrigerator, but an old ice-chest.  A man in a horse and cart used to deliver the ice twice a week.  No washing machine, but a big copper and a mangle and scrubbing board. Monday was always washing-day, and I can still smell the wonderful fragrance of clean sheets billowing on the line in the sun and wind.  The clothes lines were held up by a wooden prop.  The big event in our lives was when we got a telephone, just in time for my teenage years, but I was strictly limited to how often I could use it, and for how long I could talk.  There was no television, of course, but we had a wireless and the whole family would gather around it each night for our favourite serial, “Dad and Dave.” Then late at night there was that scary program “The Witches’ Hour.”

There was not a lot of entertainment when I was a child, but the big treat was when my mother would take me to the local town hall, for Community Singing.  All the words of the songs were up on a screen, and everyone would sing along.  I felt so close to my mother then, and thought she was the most wonderful woman in the world.

Born at a time when schooling for girls was not considered a priority, she probably had only eight years of education.  But she was wise, from the lessons of life.  Mother of five, with little in the way of worldly possessions, she nevertheless created a haven for us, where we all felt safe.  She taught us honesty and decency, morality and ambition. She never laughed at our dreams, but tried to help us make them come true.

In some way, I think of my mother almost every day.  I teach my grandchildren the songs she taught me, and the nursery rhymes.  In the food I cook from her recipes, I can still taste the flavor of love.  I find myself using expressions that were hers. Now I see her image reflected back when I look in the mirror.

Life moves on.  Everything changes.  We travel around the world, achieve things that she never dreamt of.  Yet what always remains constant is a mother’s love, whether she is still here or long departed.

It’s sentimental, I know, but at least once a year – on Mother’s Day – we can celebrate or just take some time to remember.

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WHEN THE MEMORIES COME

Maybe it’s something to do with growing older, but it’s amazing how a few words, a casual incident, an unexpected phone call, can trigger memories that take us back decades, sometimes across oceans, to a life we have almost forgotten.

My parents both passed away a very long time ago and yet I often find myself quoting maxims or proverbs they once used to educate me.  One of Dad’s favorite sayings was: “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”  He was a model of tidiness, and I can’t ever recall him mislaying even trivial objects.  My mother had the sweetest nature, and often trotted out the cliché:  “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  When she died at 88, she had friends from every walk of life and in every age group, who loved her sense of fun, her kindness and her caring for others.  Another truism she taught me was:  “People may forget your words, but they will never forget the way you made them feel!

Back in 1971, when we first came to live in Israel, we were sent to an Absorption Center (Mercaz Klita) in Upper Nazareth.  The best friends we made there were a couple from South Africa named Edna and Bert (we were from Australia).  Sadly, Bert  passed away and because we settled in Jerusalem and they went to Haifa, the connection gradually weakened.    But a year ago I called Edna to tell her I was writing a new novel based in the Absorption Center where we had studied Hebrew together 40 years ago.

As we talked on the phone, powerful images came back to me of how it felt to move to a new country, leaving behind beloved family and friends, your culture, your language.  In my mind’s eye, I saw again the bare mountains outside our window, ;with a lone Beduin shepherd leading his flock of black goats.  I heard the Winter wind screeching at night; the church bells ringing and the muezzin calling from the Arab city of Nazareth below.  I also experienced again the warmth that came from finding a friend in this new country where everyone was a stranger and the future a big question mark.

All of these feelings I was able to write more vividly in my novel “In a Good Pasture”, which tells the story of 7 new immigrants trying to come to terms with their Judaism and their Zionism.  Just a short phone call brought them all rushing back.

I remember reading Daphne du Maurier’s novel “Rebecca” when I was young.  I have never forgotten her words: “How wonderful it would be if we could bottle memories like perfume; and whenever we wished, we could just remove the cork and live them all over again.”  Well, I think we can.  We just need to close our eyes, relax and let the memories we want to hold on to come flooding in.  If pain comes with them, because of loved ones we have lost, remember the words: “Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.


Dvora Waysman is the author of 13 books, including “The Pomegranate Pendant” (now a movie and which recently won the Shabazi Prize for Literature), “Seeds of the Pomegranate”; “Woman of Jerusalem” ;  “Esther – a Jerusalem Love Story” and her novel “In a Good Pasture”  Contact her if you are interested in any of her books.


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GOOD INTERVIEWING TECHNIQUES

The first thing to understand is to talk naturally , appropriate to the person you are interviewing – formal with formal people, relaxed with others.  Be on the same wavelength.  Try not to walk in with a notebook in hand – some people will be put on the defensive and dry up.

Be at ease. Chat generally at first, maybe comment on an ornament in their home, or the decor of the restaurant, even the weather – start your dialogue on friendly terms.

It is a good idea to state again  who you are,  why you are there, the angle of the interview  and the publication it is aimed at.   When you are both settled and feel comfortable,you can produce your notebolok or tape recorder  and suggest taking notes to confirm dates,names, particulars etc.  Check the spelling of unusual names.

Never offer to show the finished product – people who are not journalists tend to believe they can do your job better and will nit-pick trivial points and want to take them out.   If you come across a startling fact that will make the interview fresh and different, ask to use that fact.

Don’t delve too deeply if you feel the interviewee is embarrassed. Discuss how you intend to shape the article, so he/she  has a rough idea. They need to be reassured.

Ask for contact details in case you need to get back to them to check a fact.  If they tell you something “off the record”, respect that and don’t use it without permission.

Don’t use a tape recorder without his/her permission – that is illegal. In a one-on-one interview, you can place the tape recorder on the table and after the subject is comfortable with you, ask for permission to turn it on.  If the interview goes well,  you not only will have a good article, you have made a new friend!

Let me know if I can help you with your writing problems, if you would like to buy  “Autumn Blessings” my latest e-book or any other of my 13 published books, which you can read about in the Books section of this Blog.

Happy writing!

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