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My Takeaways From The Unicorn Writers’ Conference

By Susanne Marie Poulette

unicorn 004

It was another great conference this year.  Kudos to Jan Kardys, and all the dedicated organizers and staff of the Unicorn Writers’ Conference!  Now, my takeaways, as promised:

♦ Stephanie Evanovich gave the keynote address. She’s as funny in person as she is in print, a first class comedian with a drama background, and what a hoot.  Stephanie told about her path to publication, much faster than the typical book launch, but nothing to do with the surname she shares with her aunt, Janet Evanovich.  Although she hasn’t suffered the throes of years of rejections like so many of us, Stephanie made it clear that she understands the frustrations of trying to snag a book deal. Her message was one of encouragement.  She urged writers to persevere, to have confidence in their writing and in their voices, and resist giving up in the face of rejection.  She cautioned against reading one’s own reviews.  Stephanie EStephanie cited an example of a criticism made to her about point-of-view, saying that it threw her for a loop (my words, not an exact quote, but that’s the idea).  I admit that I had the very same experience in a writing group, that sent me reeling, but also sent me researching extensively.  I learned that some comments can be well meaning and helpful, but they can also be incorrect and derail the writing process.

Stephanie said each reviewer has their own opinion, and we can’t please them all.  The important thing is to keep writing and growing as a writer.  She gave big girl pantiesa great example of a poor review when someone apparently got caught up in a Tangle of Names.  The confused reviewer wrote that “Evanovich” should stick to writing about her long-time protagonist, Stephanie Plum—who, by the way, is the star of her Aunt Janet’s series.  So much for reviews, eh?  I do want to add that I just picked up Stephanie’s latest book.  I have this annoying habit of laughing out loud while reading, (it annoys others, not me) and this book doesn’t help me break that pattern.  If you like a good laugh, you’ll enjoy Big Girl Panties.


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

♦ Beena Kamlani is a senior editor at Penguin Viking, an award winning author, and professor.  Due to a review appointment, I attended only the first half of her workshop on editing. How I wish I could have heard more.  I’d love to pop downstate to Hunter College and take her editing course.  She speaks beautifully about the art of writing. I’ll share my snippets:

Memoir: Never overextend the readers, let the book reveal your story, bit by bit. Immediacy is important, let readers drink it in, in the present tense. Make them see what you saw, and let your feelings for what you saw speak to them.

Fiction: Drop breadcrumbs for the reader and follow through with a reason for everything. Don’t reveal too much all at once. Dramatize, don’t tell everything. All dialog has to have a reason, but what characters don’t say is as important as what they do say. It heightens interest when the reader doesn’t know. Think about what makes you turn the page. Don’t refresh the reader’s memory, trust the reader to remember, and continue on with your story.

Click on the book for a video of Beena Kamlani describing how a developmental editor works with an author on the path to publication:

♦ Lane Heymont, literary agent and author, presented “World Building,” that is, creating settings.  He described the infrastructure of a story, creating a consistent society with norms, culture, and rules.  Setting needs a history to give the sense of its existence.  It should be realistic, using the five senses to build a unique world, but it has to make sense.  Share the world of your setting throughout the book, not all at once, and get to the action right away.

Lane suggests making a setting sketch and provided a downloadable handout for those who attended his workshop.  Since it’s out there on the web, it may be fair game if you want to take a peek:


Reid Castle, Unicorn Writers' Conference, August, 2015

Reid Castle, Unicorn Writers’ Conference, August, 2015

♦ Eliza Shallcross, author, editor, and copywriter with 30 years of experience, presented “Book Copy as a Marketing Tool.”  Before this workshop, I didn’t have a clue about “book cover copy,” or any of its numerous components.  Apparently, book cover copy services ( good tongue twister?) are part of the traditional publishing process, but I wonder how many self-publishing authors are aware of all the marketing factors involved in cover copy.  So what is it?  It applies to all types of books, hardcover, mass market paperback, trade paperback, and eBook. It’s everything that goes on a book’s front and back covers, and flaps.  It’s the artwork, title, tag line (short teaser), author’s name with photo and biography, quotes from reviews, story description, and more, all within word count limitations.  The book cover itself is the marketing tool, appealing to the reader and growing the author’s readership. Eliza Shallcross provides individual editing and copywriting services. You can find her at:


Sorry, but I’m hoarding the pearls of wisdom from my two excellent one-to-one manuscript review sessions (first 40 pages).  All kidding aside, the reviews were invaluable, and I’m hard at work making revisions based on their suggestions. The Unicorn Writers’ Conference provides these affordable, 30-minute sessions with agents, editors, and speakers.  I hope you can attend this conference and the review session opportunities next year.

© S M Poulette





Author and Illustrator, FRED KOEHLER on “HOW TO CHEER UP DAD”


One of the nicest benefits of attending a writers’ workshop is getting to meet and work with other authors.  The Writers’ Loop enjoys introducing our readers to several of the talented artists we met during the Break Out Novel Intensive workshop that we attended in April.How to Cheer Up Dad

This week, I’m delighted to present author and illustrator, Fred Koehler, a bona fide funny bone tickler.  Fred’s book, How to Cheer Up Dad, as well as his heartwarming website, can promptly turn frowns upside-down and cause onslaughts of chuckles.  In fact, this book would make a great Father’s Day gift, particularly for new dads. And no, we don’t get a percentage, here at the blog.  It’s my sincere recommendation.

You can get a good feel for Fred’s humor by watching his video. Click his photo to view:


Fred Koehler’s video

When we discussed the interview for this post, Fred suggested using a recent communication from Mrs. Lycett’s 4th Grade Class at Waterbridge Elementary in Orlando, Florida. Fred so appreciated the students’ questions, that he thought our readers might enjoy them as well.  Here are the questions and answers between Mrs. Lycett’s 4th graders and Fred Koehler on How to Cheer Up Dad:

Is there going to be a sequel or series about Jumbo?



Yes! Little Jumbo’s next adventure comes out in March 2016. It’s called “Super Jumbo!” I’m sending you a super-secret sneak peek at one of the illustrations.  I’d love it if you would tell me what you think it’s going to be about. 🙂

Did your son do all the things Jumbo did in “How to Cheer Up Dad?”

My son did not do everything in How to Cheer Up Dad. I actually did a lot of those things to my dad. But my son Jack and I have very similar personalities, so I expect that he’ll get into a lot of the same kind of mischief that I got into when I was a kid.

Will all your books be inspired by your life?

So far, the answer is yes! I love stories that remind us of how great it is when we get along with our friends and families. I love stories that remind us to be cheerful and thankful and to play nicely with others. However, I am illustrating a book right now about dragons. And although I’ve never actually met a dragon, I would very much like to.

How does it feel to have your book published?

It’s an incredible feeling! It does take a very long time and you do have to work quite hard to learn all about the publishing industry.  But, just like gymnastics or playing a musical instrument or math, the more you practice the better you get. And I just practiced until I got pretty good at it.

Will you ever write a chapter book?

I’m so happy you asked that question! I am working on a chapter book right now! It’s about a mouse and a shrew (do you know what a shrew is?) who get lost at sea on a boat made out of an old milk jug. But they’re very clever animals and are going to have an incredible adventure together. I hope that one day this book will get published.

Why did you decide to write a book?

I think that being a writer or an artist or a musician or even a scientist or an athlete is something that you can’t help. I tried NOT to be a writer. But no matter how hard I tried, I still found myself writing. I hope you all find something that you love to do so much that you do it without even thinking about it.


Why did you choose an elephant for the main character?

Little Jumbo started off as a doodle in my sketchbook. My son and I were having a hard time getting along one morning at the coffee shop. I was trying to draw pictures and all he wanted to do was get my attention. To get my attention, he knocked over salt and pepper shakers, spilled his drink, and tried to climb up me as if I was ladder. When I got home, I had the doodle in my sketchbook that became the cover of the book!

oatmeal_rasins3bThe Writers’ Loop would like to thank and congratulate the 4th graders of Mrs. Lycett’s class for their most engaging and relevant questions!

I followed up with Fred, asking him to tell us more about his current projects.  He responded:

“Holy cow! I have lots and lots of projects in the works. I got to illustrate a wonderful picture book titled ONE DAY, THE END by Rebecca Kai Dotlich that comes out in October this year. It’s a super-fun title that teaches kids about telling and writing stories. It’s already getting great reviews and lots of buzz.

one day

And then, in Spring 2016, Little Jumbo gets his sequel in SUPER JUMBO. It’s another romp of a tale, filled with Little Jumbo’s oversized antics and citywide mayhem as our elephant’s alter ego does his best to be a hero.

workingBeyond that, I have two more picture books to illustrate and several more at various stages of completion. It seems as though the publishers aren’t going to let me stop making books anytime soon. And that’s good news indeed!”

What a wonderfully happy predicament for any writer or illustrator to have—publishers who won’t let you call it quits!  Congratulations, Fred Koehler!   Thank you for being our guest this week, and for permission to post some of your fantastic work here.

To visit Fred’s amusing website for more information, go to:  Enjoy!

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What’s the Deal with Writers’ Conferences? 


Three years ago, I attended my first writers’ conference.  It proved to be all that was promised, and considerably wipmore.  So, if I got so much out of it, why am I registered for a conference in August?  Do I need another one?   Why?

The internet is chock full of articles like, “Ten Reasons to go to Writers’ Conferences,” and “Five Benefits of Attending a Writers’ Conference,” and, well, you get the idea.  Let’s look at the issue from a different perspective and not reinvent the wheel here.  I propose,  “Top Ten Reasons Why You Should NOT Attend a Writers’ Conference.”

10.  Don’t go if you already know everything there is to learn about the craft of writing, or, if you don’t like to learn, period.

9.    Pass it up if you’re an expert on the publishing industry’s process.

8.    Stay away if other writers and authors bore you to tears.

7.    Skip it if you’ve had it up to here with inspiration and can’t take another drop.

6.    Don’t bother if you have tons of positive feedback on your manuscript, and readers are picketing your home until they get a published copy.

5.    Forget it if the last thing you need or want is a one-on-one manuscript critique with a high-powered literary agent, editor, or famous author.

4.    Sit it out if you have nothing more to learn about establishing a platform.

3.    Don’t even think of it if you get creeped out by being around literary agents and editors.

2.    Bag it if you think best-selling authors have no business teaching a workshop on writing.

And the NUMBER ONE Top Ten Reason Why You Should NOT Attend a Writers’ Conference:

1.    Avoid it entirely if you really don’t care about being a successful author.




All kidding aside, I highly recommend taking advantage of writers’ conferences.  In my two experiences, I met literary agents who critiqued my work, encouraged me, and offered fresh ideas to improve my plot and characters. Among a vast array of workshops, I learned about pitching my book to an agent; writing with humor; “show don’t tell;” self-publishing; maximizing platform; query letter writing, and more.  Keynote speakers are typically best-selling authors who inspire and encourage, often telling the stories of their paths to success in publishing. I found that meeting other writers, connecting with authors, sharing ideas, and networking at conferences all provide a wonderful, energizing experience.

On August 15th, I’ll attend the Unicorn Writers’ Conference for the third time.  I highly recommend this conference.   It will be held at Reid Castle, Manhattanville College, in Purchase, NY.  From their website: “Unicorn Writers’ Conference brings together industry insiders to offer rare tutorials on what publishers really care about, including how to market a book, generate publicity, select artwork, write a query letter, improve writing, and negotiate a book deal. Leading filmmakers and bloggers will give tutorials on how to take advantage of cutting-edge technologies and social media services. Countless networking opportunities will be available throughout the day.”


To learn about Unicorn’s guest agents, editors, speakers, manuscript review sessions, and workshops, check out their brochure:  or email at:


Coming up soon is the Annual Publishing Conference held by Adirondack Center for Writing.  This conference  will take place on June 6th  and 7th  at Heaven Hill Resort in Lake Placid, NY. It will include workshops, literary agents, editors and publicists, with one or two day attendance options.  To learn more, check out their website:


These are just two of a year-long calendar of writers’ conferences that offer a vast menu of topics such as mystery, memoir, biography, children’s, horror, playwriting,  journalism, and non-fiction.  Shaw Guides is an excellent resource for locating a conference of your choice.  Check them out at:

Additional sources for upcoming conferences are:

Writer’s Digest and Poets & Writers




Growing Inspiration


I returned from the Break Out Novel Intensive Workshop in Oregon energized with fresh writing tools and recommendations for my novel. A flood of plans and possibilities crisscrossed my brain and each time I looked at my manuscript I thought, “Not yet.” The seeds of the workshop were germinating but not ready to sprout.

0406151229At the same time, I came back with beautiful images of the workshop setting in the Hood River area. Unlike my home in Saratoga County, New York, Oregon was in the full bloom of spring. Their trees flaunted a rich array of greens and pastel flowers of lilacs, hydrangeas, and mixtures of pink blossoms. Golden daffodils and red tulips lined paths along the conference center, and tiny daisy-like flowers peppered large sections of an adjacent park. If my memory serves me—from my childhood days of eating wild raspberries as fast as I could pick them—the banks along the Columbia River just outside our hotel, teamed with budding raspberry bushes. Everywhere I looked, there was color. Everywhere, new life.

At home, the trees were bare and grass was brown, but, alleluia, the snow was gone. Then, within two days, I noticed tiny buds emerging on sprightly branches all across my yard. I gathered up my gardening tools, and headed to my april 2015 004perennial beds to see what was or was not happening. Then I saw it. Just as the writing workshop’s seeds of inspiration were germinating, so was my garden. By the end of the week, my forsythia bushes sprouted blooms, april 2015 009 the chive was tall enough for salad, and the oregano and day lilies were wild with life. Energized by the season’s promises, I now feel ready to transplant my manuscript’s sprouts from head to page.

For me, working the garden and digging hands deep into the soil is no different from writing. Both tasks require careful, thorough april 2015 011planning. I learned this the hard way when I jumped into my first novel without a road map for my plot. Likewise, I jumped into my first garden by planting 36-inch tall cone flowers in front of 12-inch high lavender, another plot without a map. Fortunately for me, drafts are revised and rewritten, sometimes for years and years. (But that’s another story.) While in the garden, most plants can be moved easily and are usually quite forgiving of the change.

Patience is essential in both writing and gardening. Neither job can be rushed. Each needs its own time to develop, grow deeper, and flourish. Writing and gardening both demand tons of weeding and pruning, yanking and tossing what doesn’t belong, what detracts and chokes.

There are libraries of books on gardens with A to Z growing instructions, designs, and worlds of information. There are books on writing fiction, developing the narrative arc and characters, creating tension, and even producing a breakout novel. But in the end, it’s a personal path in both cases. Yes, we refer to the experts and then throw ourselves into the work, filling it with our individuality, creativity, passion, and preferences. Above all, we want others to take notice of our work and feel as moved by it as we do. We want to touch hearts and lives through the voice of our writings and gardens.

Beatrix Potter is one author who enjoyed gardening and found inspiration there for her writing and her painting.  Marta McDowell’s book, Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children’s Tales, is a beautiful accounting of Beatrix Potter’s love of gardening and plants, and how that passion came to be reflected in her work.  McDowell told Joyce Neuman of Garden Variety:

“There are many writers who garden and who write about gardening: Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edith Wharton, Eudora Welty, Emily Dickinson and, of course, Beatrix Potter. Why? Here’s my guess. Writing is a solitary, cerebral pursuit. Gardening is tactile, physical. Writing tends to be indoors, and it is divorced from nature.  All nature is imagined, during the act of writing. Gardening balances that, by connecting the writer to life—plant life, the life in the soil, the insects and animals that the garden attracts and sustains. You can feel alone at the keyboard, but never in the garden.  The garden is also the place to work out writing problems—other problems as well. Emerson said something like “All my hurts my garden spade can heal.”

Beatriix Potter's vegetable gardent at Hill Top, Cumbria, UK


You can read McDowell’s complete interview by clicking on the snoozing rabbits in Potter’s garden:

rabs slp

WE have a little garden,                    
A garden of our own,                                   peter r
And every day we water there
The seeds that we have sown.                                   

WE love our little garden,
And tend it with such care,
You will not find a faced leaf   
Or blighted blossom there.  

~ Beatrice Potter

View and read a bit about the inspiring gardens of famous writers such as Agatha Christie, George Bernard Shaw, Sir Walter Scott, Wordsworth, Roald Dahl, Virginia Woolfe, Beatrix Potter, and more at The Telegraph’s Twelve Wonderful Writers’ Gardens.  Click on Oregon’s hydrangeas visit:




Susanne Presents: Women’s History Guest Author Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner on Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Susanne Marie Poulette:

In celebration of Women’s History Month, I have invited guest author Sally Roesch Wagner, Ph.D. to present today. Dr. Wagner is the Founding Director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, and adjunct faculty member at Syracuse University. A founder of one of the first college-level women’s studies programs in the United States (CSU Sacramento), she holds one of the first doctorates awarded for work in women’s studies (UC Santa Cruz). Her publications include the influence of Indigenous women on the 19th century woman’s rights movement. She wrote the faculty guide for Not for Ourselves Alone, Ken Burns’ documentary on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and she has appeared in that film and other PBS women’s history programs. Her most recent publication is a chapbook series of Stanton’s edited writings, published by Syracuse Cultural Workers.  Dr. Wagner was selected as one of “21 Leaders for the 21stCentury” by in 2015.  

If you are unacquainted with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, let me introduce you. Stanton was author, lecturer, and chief philosopher of the woman’s rights movement, framing the agenda for woman’s rights that guided the struggle to the present day.  One of the most forward thinkers and prolific writers of her time, Stanton is often overshadowed today by her women’s rights colleagues who walked a less radical line.  In 1848, she and four like-minded women gathered and planned the first Women’s Rights Convention, held in Seneca Falls, New York.  Together they drafted the Declaration of Sentiments outlining the legal rights and privileges of citizenship that were denied to American women.  Eleven resolutions were adopted, but not without great controversy over Stanton’s inclusion of women’s right to vote. Even Lucretia Mott, one of the “founding five” women warned, “Lizzie, thou wilt make the convention ridiculous.”

Stanton continued her quest for the full rights of citizenship for women beyond the vote. Among them: college education, property ownership, wages earned, inheritance, women’s authority over their own bodies, equal guardianship of children, and civil responsibility.  Stanton accomplished much of this through writing.  She wrote some of the most influential books, documents, tracts, and speeches of the women’s rights movement. She wrote a monthly column in Amelia Bloomer’s magazine Lily, and with Susan B. Anthony, she published a newspaper called The Revolution.  Together with Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage, she published the first three volumes of History of Woman Suffrage, a seminal work documenting the woman’s suffrage movement.  Stanton published The Woman’s Bible;  her autobiography Eighty Years & More: Reminiscences 1815–1897; and The Solitude of Self,  which she first delivered as a speech at the 1892 convention of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association in Washington, D.C.                                                                            

I am proud and grateful to present Sally Roesch Wagner, Ph.D.


Sally Roesch Wagner as Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Sally Roesch Wagner as Elizabeth Cady Stanton



 By Sally Roesch Wagner


     We know the iconic Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the plump, grandmotherly founding mother of the women’s rights movement, with her white curls encircling her sweet Martha Washington look-alike face, working from early life until the end for women’s right to vote.   That sanitized Stanton would make her shake those curls in disbelief at the description.  She was much more.

     Stan­ton, in fact, complained that she was “sick of the song of suffrage” by the 1880’s.  The attempt by religious conservatives to destroy the sepa­ration of church and state by placing God in the Constitution and prayer in the public schools seemed to her a far more pressing concern than the vote.  “I would rather live under a government of men alone with religious liberty than under a mixed govern­ment without it,” she confided to a suffra­gist news­paper editor.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

     From clerical opposition to women speaking in pubic to wearing the “Bloomer” trousers to demanding equality, the church had stood in the way of woman’s progress. “I have passed from the political to the religious phase of this question,” she wrote a friend, “‘for I now see more clearly than ever, that the arch enemy to woman’s freedom skulks behind the altar.”  With her typical boldness, Stanton drew together a Revising Committee of scholars and ministers to compile a Woman’s Bible, which interpreted the Scrip­tures from the perspective of women.  Affronted by the name, as well as the content, clergy denounced the book as “the work of the devil himself,” to which Stanton calmly responded, “His Satanic Majesty was not invited to join the Revising Committee, which consists of women alone.”

     As suffrage faded in importance for Stan­ton, the larger issues of women’s rights be­came the most important ones.  She brought the strength of her voice and pen to attack the religious and legal denial of divorce to women who were sexually and physically abused in marriages.  The press, in turn, at­tacked her for her unorthodox views.  Still, after her lectures, a flood of women came up to share their experiences.  “Plantation slav­ery is nothing to these unclean marriages,” she wrote in her journal.  “The women gladly hear the new gospel so let the press howl.”   

Elizabeth Cady Stanton with daughter Harriot, 1856

Elizabeth Cady Stanton with daughter Harriot, 1856

     Every child born, she firmly believed, should be chosen, and every woman should be the “absolute sovereign” of her own body.  A woman should have the right “to become a mother or not as her desire, judgment and conscience may dictate,” contended Stanton.

       Nor did she give a hoot for public reaction to her ultra-views on economic injustice. “In this world of plenty, every human being has a right to food, clothes, decent shelter, and the rudiments of education.  Something is rotten in Denmark, when 1/10 of the human family, booted and spurred, rides the masses to de­struction,” she wrote in her autobiography.  For women, the burden was the hardest, for “woman is the great unpaid laborer of the world,” she correctly analyzed, “the upstairs maid with no wages.”

     At the huge gathering called by the National Council of Women to commemorate the 80th birthday of this grandmotherly figurehead of the woman’s rights movement, Stanton documented the progress women had made. Remembering back to how horrified “our con­ser­vative friends” were when she and a few women called for a meeting to “dis­cuss their disabilities,” in the summer of 1848, she recalled that they said, “You have made a great mistake, you will be laughed at from Maine to Texas and beyond the sea; God has set the bounds of woman’s sphere and she should be satisfied with her posi­tion.”  “Their prophecy was more than real­ized,” Stanton reminisced, as “we were unsparingly ridiculed by the press and pulpit both in England and America.”  How sentiments had changed in 47 years, as “many conventions are held each year in both countries to dis­cuss the same ideas; social customs have changed; laws have been modified” and “that first convention, con­sidered a ‘grave mistake’ in 1848, is now referred to as ‘a grand step in progress.’”

     With local and state victories under their belt, a full guarantee of women voting was only a matter of time.  “We who have made our demands on the State have nearly finished this battle,” for “the principle is practically conceded,” Stanton stated.

     Now it was time, she told the “thousands of welcoming faces” paying tribute to her on November 12, 1895 at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City,  to go to the source of the problem. “As learned bishops and editors of religious newspapers are warning us against further demands for new liberties, and clergy­men are still preaching sermons on the ‘rib origin,’ and refuse to receive women as dele­gates to their synods, it is evident that our demands for equal recognition should now be made of the Church for the same rights we have asked of the State for the last fifty years, for the same rights, privileges and immunities that men enjoy.” The Bible, like all documents written by man, is imperfect and limited by the prejudices of men at the time it was written.  From time to time these documents are revised, like we have done with the Constitution, to reflect the changes in society.  And now, she asserted, “We must demand that the canon law, the Mosaic code, the Scriptures, prayer books and liturgies be purged of all invidious distinctions of sex, of all false teaching as to woman’s origin, character and destiny.” It is time, Stanton said, to rewrite the Bible.

     “I shall not grow conservative with age,” Stanton had promised. She kept her promise to the end.


Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner

Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner


This segment is adapted from “The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Collection” chapbook series, published by Syracuse Cultural Workers and available for purchase from


        Heartfelt thanks to Dr. Wagner,    ~ SMPoulette

To visit Dr. Wagner online and link to her video performances, go to                                                                          To link directly to videos: http://        

Click on the photo for information about Dr. Wagner’s 2015 Elizabeth Cady Stanton Bicentennial Tour:                                                                                                          p_solitude_self


To learn more about Elizabeth Cady Stanton:

Address by Elizabeth Cady Stanton on Woman’s Rights, September 1848:

National Women’s History Museum:

PBS Not For Ourselves Alone:

National Park Service, Women’s Rights Historical Park:

Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “Solitude of Self,” address before the U. S. Senate Committee on Woman Suffrage, February 20, 1892:

Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “Declaration of Sentiments,”  delivered at the first women ‘s rights convention in Seneca Falls, NY, in 1848:




Lions and Tigers, and BESTSELLERS? Oh My!



I came across an article on the Writer’s Digest website by guest author Kevin Kaiser, entitled The Dark Side of Being a Bestseller. My glasses almost flew off my nose with my sweeping double take. There’s a dark side to being a bestselling author? What a notion.

What a notion to consider while I’m still agonizing over yet another revision of my manuscript. Is my protagonist sufficiently scintillating? Does my plot suffer from Swiss cheese look-alike? Has my narrative arc drooped in the center like McDonald’s golden arch? Will it ever be good enough to snag an agent? Would anybody ever want to read it—never mind, pay money for it? As a writer, I stew over these and more issues, but I always soldier on undaunted. Until this.

What a notion, this dark side. Now I’ll be facing Heathcliff’s bleak, windswept moors, and groveling for more gruel in Dickens’ workhouse, if Heaven forbid, I become a bestselling author. If the day ever came, would I find the courage to muddle through it?


All kidding aside, I’ll share some excerpts from Kaiser’s excellent article:

A New York Times bestselling novelist once told me, “You’ll never be as free as you are at the beginning. It’s easy to forget how to take risks and write as if no one is watching.” She went on to explain how success creates a cycle that few authors know how to handle expertly, especially when recognition comes early.

Success begets success…authors who were once large fish in a small pond find success… find themselves surrounded by others who have sold more books than them, command a vastly larger platform…they often slip back into the comparison game…the game always leads to self-sabotage and fear. Fear of missing out, fear of not being successful enough, fear of being found out as a fraud…No amount of money will quiet those fears, which is why refusing to play the game at all is so important.

Only one thing really matters.
The point isn’t having written, as many are so fond of saying, but the actual activity of creating that matters most. You see, once you’ve released a story into the world it no longer belongs to you. The reader brings their world to the edge of yours and what they experience from there is a process we don’t control… It’s the love of the craft, our surrender to the art of exploring and illuminating new ideas that matters most.

Act Like No One is Watching
Write as if no one is watching. Write as if no one will ever read it or judge your work. That’s where the magic lies, and that is ultimately what readers want to experience, too.… You’re never as free as you are right now, and the beautiful thing is that you can choose just how free you really are.”

I encourage other starving writers to visit and read his full article.

bhakti bestseller

There’s a plethora of epic tales out there today, on websites, in books on publishing, news articles, and told at writers’ conferences, all decrying the current state of publishing. The chances of breaking in as a new author border on the miraculous. An experienced writer and expert on self-publishing recently told me that she felt her chance of being struck by lightning was better than getting her first novel publishing traditionally.

Authors whose books are picked up and sold by major publishing houses are required to do more and more of their own marketing, often with minimal returns for their investment. Since writers are usually writers, and not marketers, I wonder how much actual writing time is diverted from art to business.

Traditional publishing is a changing landscape today, affected by a variety of factors including successful self-publishers and low returns of digital book sales. Bestselling author and ghostwriter Michael Levin, at Ghost Business, suggests that the concept of bestseller means less today than it once did. As one example, he cites authors’ popular strategy of tipping the scales by using Amazon’s hourly sales recalculations to create bestselling status.                                                                                                                                                                                  

robert KDeepak Chopra cautions and advises us in his article for the Huffington Post, Advice to New Writers: Go Where the Readers Are (and Why You Cannot Trust the Best Seller List). He points to a fading publishing industry, citing declining sales of traditional books and rapidly rising e-books sales.

Chopra writes about the “disappearing best-seller:”

“For two weeks I’ve been on a national book tour to promote a new novel called God: A Story of Revelation. The book sold more than twice the number to make most bestseller lists in its opening week, and enough to stay on the lists the second week. But neither happened. God appeared on no lists, and the explanations varied: a computer glitch that failed to register sales, the down-grading of bulk sales when lots of people attend a single event.
…Even established writers feel aggrieved when they deserve to make the best-seller list and yet don’t. Book chains base their future orders on these lists, and the week’s best-sellers get prominent displays up front.”

In order to break in, Chopra advises new writers to explore alternatives to the old system: “…self-promotion and going where the readers are…new writers can find their readers, target them, and speak directly to them as never before. This is thanks to the Internet, Facebook, blogs, Amazon’s open policy about e-books, Facebook, and other social media. Like it or not, successful writers are probably going to turn into book entrepreneurs at the same time. Publishers are becoming more and more risk averse. In a few years, no writers will be given advances except the most guaranteed sellers. The rest will enter into partnership with their publishers.”

Chopra also encourages new writers “…not to write for praise… Write to be noticed, which means in the end writing from the heart.”

Deepak Chopra

So yes, there are dark sides, down sides, and risks in getting our books out there. But if we’re writing from the heart, as Chopra advises, then maybe we’re already enriched. With or without that best seller or best earner, can’t we feel some fulfillment in our journeys of sharing our stories? I was recently asked to write my goal for an upcoming writer’s workshop that I plan to attend. It’s not about fame or money, or the New York Times lists, but oh, that would be so lovely!  For me, it’s about writing better stories that will help readers to laugh, feel happy, and be uplifted.



To read Deepak Chopra’s article, click here:






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Catch a Falling Star?


essier 107 ~  NASA

Messier 107 ~ NASA

It was February 7th, the day stars tumbled from the sky and graced those who would take notice. A low pressure system was sweeping from the Ohio Valley to southern New England, washing the sky in dusky gray hues. Hesitant  flurries were ushering in bands of snow, heralding yet another blizzard.  But before Winter Storm Marcus could dump its heavy swath of snow across Connecticut, an extraordinary discovery took place. Sheer crystalline gems alighted on coats, hats, gloves, hair, —  whatever concluded their airy descent; ephemeral favors bestowed on the  mindful and fortunate few.

That was the day my son boarded a plane at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.  We were all thanking our lucky stars that his flight took off before the next in the long chain of snowstorms hit the Northeast.  My son might have missed his flight if he had paused any longer for the magical moments of star-shaped snowflakes sprinkling all about him. He had just time enough to witness the “starflakes” and snap a photo before they disappeared.

star snow flake

Star snowflakes caught on my son’s suitcase.

“What about the notion that no two snowflakes are identical?  Falling stars?”  My son and I considered the curious phenomenon while viewing his star-studded photo; each of us on opposite ends of the North-South compass.

As it turned out, there were many “starflake” sightings in the Northeast during the recent winter storms.  The Weather Channel reported: “As Winter Storm Juno bears down on the East Coast, reports are surfacing of star-shaped snowflakes. At around 2 p.m. ET, spotted the unique snowflakes in midtown Manhattan. While it looks like magic, there is a scientific explanation behind the phenomenon. ‘If snowflakes stay separated from each other…and if you look closely enough, you can sometimes see the structure of snowflakes with your naked eye,’ meteorologist Chris Dolce says. ‘There are many different types of crystal patterns and these star-shaped snowflakes are just one example. The dendrite, a star-shape with varying patterns, is the most common shape of a snowflake.’”

By atsperaInstagram

By atsperaInstagram

Kathrine Brooks of The Huffington Post (at: ) reported:

 “The complex ice crystals are part of a natural art-making process that you might have learned about in your grade school science class. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a snowflake begins to form when exceedingly cold water droplets freeze onto certain particles in the sky, like pollen or dust. The meeting of water and particle creates an ice crystal, and as that crystal falls to the ground, water vapor freezes onto it to produce new crystals –essentially, the six points of the snowflake that make that stunning star shape…Winter Storm Juno descended upon the East Coast this week, bringing with it a mélange of wind gusts, icy temperatures and admirably geometric snowflake masterpieces…Residents of cities like Manhattan reported seeing a mix of star-shaped flakes falling upon them, posting impressive shots of the unique configurations across the Internet…”

Brooks invited readers to get a close-up view of snowflakes by macrophotographer Alexey Kljatov  at


By Alexey Kljatob

So, why all this snowflake talk on The Writers’ Loop?  What does it have to do with reading and writing?  But then, what isn’t reading or writing?

For reading: Throughout and at the end of this post you’ll find several links for more information about star snowflakes, as well as some fun and interesting weather-related information links for adults and children.

For writing:  I don’t think we need to be world travelers, great history buffs, or geniuses in order to write creatively.  Of course that would help.  We take the mundane, ordinary, everyday happenings and look at them from all sides.  Consider the ideas that can come from people watching, overhearing bits of conversations, news articles, obituaries, art, music, friends, nature, children, history, travel, sporting events, or even politics (oh dear). Find some facet that appeals, begs for commentary, or deserves elaboration, and jot down those thoughts.  As a case in (six-) point, star-shaped snowflakes inspire me.  I envision magical, miniature glistening stars streaming from the clouds or trailing a meteorite as it races across the universe…

By STARtorialist  twitter

By STARtorialist on twitter

Author Neil Gaiman says, “You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.”  You can check out his response to “Where do you get your ideas?” at:

I’d like to add advice to Gaiman’s comment.  When you notice that you’re getting ideas, jot them down on the nearest piece of paper before you forget them.

Thoreau on snowflakes

For more information: 

  • Terms used by meteorologists, forecasters, weather observers, and in weather forecasts:

For children (Not just for kids, I’ve learned a lot from these sites.):

Tycho's Supernova, left, and Nebula S175, right, in the Constellation Cassiopeia Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Tycho’s Supernova, left, and Nebula S175, right, in the Constellation Cassiopeia
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

  • To read about Tycho’s Supernova, visit: