Avoiding Plagiarism

All the recent focus on (possible) plagiarism in the work of a certain young writer has reminded me of an excellent book I reviewed little over a year ago. See my Community College Week review of Charles Lipson’s Doing Honest Work in College: How to Prepare Citations, Avoid Plagiarism, and Achieve Real Academic Success (University of Chicago Press), subsequently posted at Lipson’s Web site.

Lipson also provides many useful links to resources to help writers and teachers do honest work.

From Our Newsletter

Yesterday the newest issue of “The Practicing Writer,” our free monthly newsletter for fictionists, poets, and creative nonfiction writers, went out to our subscribers. As usual, this issue includes plenty of submission calls, contest announcements, and more (including many items not previously listed here at the blog).

Each newsletter issue also contains a feature article. Below you’ll find the one included in this issue, written to complement the recent publication of our newest resource guide, WRITERS’ MARKETS: Where to Sell What You Write When You Write About Writing. (UPDATE, July 19, 2007: This e-book is no longer available.)

Hope you enjoy this look into our newsletter! If you want to read past issues/articles, they’re archived (for subscribers only) here.

WRITING ON WRITING: 10 WAYS TO WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW BEST

by Erika Dreifus

If there’s one subject practicing writers know, it’s writing. And for those who’d like to convert this expertise into paid publication, opportunities abound. Not sure what I mean? Consider these 10 types of “writing on writing”:

1. Craft/”how-to” articles. Instructional pieces form the proverbial meat-and-potatoes of many, if not most, writing magazines and newsletters. You’ll need some genuine expertise here. Don’t try to tell other people how to write a (presumably publishable) short story if you’ve never completed one yourself. Don’t offer tips on book promotion if you’ve never promoted a book.

2. Market updates/profiles. These articles, often including information for those who want to break in to a specific niche, are also staples of many writing publications. I’ve written about literary magazines, alumni magazines, family history magazines, and more.

3. Essays on “the writing life.” If you have something new to say–something other than a familiar story about rejection, for instance–try some of the writing magazines that look for these pieces. (Humor is often a plus.)

4. Poems on “the writing life.” Yes, it’s true. Some publications actually do seek poetry specifically about writing. Again, better to “make it new,” as Ezra Pound advised.

5. Interviews/Profiles. Think outside the box here. Writing magazines publish interviews with agents and editors as well as with poets and writers. Find out where a writer went to college–the alumni magazine may well be interested in a profile. Where does the writer live? Look into the relevant city/regional magazines.

6. Literary travel pieces. You can pitch some writing magazines with these, but don’t forget travel publications, including newspaper travel sections.

7. Literary education pieces and/or reading lists. Time these to coincide with National Poetry Month (April, in the United States and Canada); National Book Month (October); Back-to School, etc.

8. Book reviews. Write about books on writing and/or writers’ memoirs. Don’t limit yourself to writing-focused publications for placements here. A memoir, in particular, may hold wide appeal for a general readership. (For more book review markets, consult our own Directory of Paying Markets for Book Reviewers).

9. College/Career Columns. Don’t forget that writing is a part of academic life. I once sold an article to a publication for college students advising collegians how to negotiate the senior thesis-writing process. I sold another article to a parenting publication advising parents on seeing their kids through the college application essay process. And while it may not be easy to remember during breaks between paychecks and publications, writing is a career option, and it’s one others want to know about.

10. Op-eds. Writers can (and have) opined, frequently in major newspapers and magazines, on everything from the writing section of the new SAT to the qualities that should define a memoir.

So go ahead, fellow writers. Write on.

© Copyright 2006 Erika Dreifus. All rights reserved.

Bio: In addition to her fiction and her other freelance work, Erika Dreifus has published more than 150 writing-related articles, essays, interviews, op-eds, and book reviews since 2003 in The Writer, Writer’s Digest, Poets & Writers, and many other print and online publications. Visit her Web site and/or her blog for much more writing advice and commentary.

This article may be freely reprinted provided it is unchanged and is reprinted in its entirety, from title through bio. Please send a courtesy reprint to erikadrei-at-yahoo-dot-com. Thank you!

Resource for Book Reviewers

Most publications that publish book reviews–especially those that publish daily, weekly, or monthly–seek reviews of new books only. Of course, the definition of “new” can vary. Some less frequently published literary journals will review books published within the past six to twelve months; if you read your local newspaper’s book reviews chances are only the most current releases are getting any attention there.

New book reviewers often want to know how (and where) they can find out about new books. They’re especially interested in finding out how to locate books that haven’t yet been published–this gives them the time to pitch a review, secure an assignment, and write a review that will indeed be “current.”

There are lots of ways to go about this–and I cover them all with the writers who study book reviewing with me. But this morning I learned about a new resource that will interest poetry book reviewers in particular. It’s a list of spring 2006 releases compiled by the Academy of American Poets. Check it out here.

From My Bookshelf

Drivers
Stories by Nathan Leslie
Hamilton Stone Editions, 2005

Everyone who knows me knows I don’t particularly like to drive. Many people–ranging from friends and family to the guy who inspects my car each year–routinely tell me that given how infrequently I use the car the fact that I own one makes absolutely no financial sense. A few years ago I thought I’d write a short story about someone who either didn’t like to or was simply afraid to drive. I started that story, but, as can happen, the piece soon turned into a story about something else; a story truly “about driving” eluded me.

So I wasn’t quite sure how I’d react to Nathan Leslie’s new collection, Drivers. In the end, I was a little surprised and quite delighted by this group of 23 stories, most of which have previously appeared in print and online magazines. (Leslie, the author of another story collection, A Cold Glass of Milk, is himself fiction editor for The Pedestal Magazine. He also teaches at Northern Virginia Community College in Sterling, Virginia.)

It’s tough to assemble a story collection, and it can help if you have a theme connecting the components. Leslie definitely has that. The “drivers” of this book, while mainly residing in Middle Atlantic states (Leslie was born in Minneapolis but raised in Ellicott City, Maryland) illustrate a variety of compelling “driver” characters and situations. That’s also an admirable achievement, because it’s far easier to write not-very-variable variations on a theme than it is to create distinctive yet related stories.

In “Stuck on Woodrow Wilson,” for example, a woman seethes behind the wheel while caught in accident-exacerbated traffic on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge leaving DC. In “Shape,” a car salesman evinces a surprising sales approach as well as a deep–if conflicted–concern for his troubled sister, to whom he lends a car (with problematic results).

The main character in “The Hit and Run” is a driving instructor making money off parents’ fears. He’s a pretty disturbing instructor: he makes it to his class through ice and snow “at 65, skidding all over the road and blaring right through the stop lights, stop signs, and anything else in the way.” He’s also responsible (though apparently not particularly remorseful) for killing a mother and her daughter in a hit-and-run.

Some stories reflect a sheer love for and/or knowledge of cars. Again, I’m no expert even when it comes to my poor neglected Honda, but the references to Duryeas and Hillmans seem authentic to me.

Whether you like cars, or like short stories, or both, you’re likely to enjoy Drivers. Find out more here.

New Travel E-zine Seeks Published Authors

Another market lead from Jen Leo at WrittenRoad.com. This time Ms. Leo spreads the word about Perceptive Travel. According to its writer’s guidelines, this e-zine “will be published bi-monthly, with four to six articles per issue, plus at least one travel-related book review and a few world music reviews.” Note that the editor is seeking submissions only from published book authors/anthology editors. Pay, for now, is $50 per article, on acceptance.