Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Grammarly to the rescue

In my youth, a convoy of nuns at Sacred Heart School taught English, grammar, writing, shorthand and typing. The nuns are long gone to their heavenly reward but daily, I am grateful for my ability to string sentences together. These basic skills helped me make a living in the corporate world for many years, and then as a writer/author. Freelance writers without the early-childhood advantage of nuns for teachers can be grateful for Grammarly. This company stepped forward to provide a survey showing the value of good writing, at a time when good freelancers are in great demand. Grammarly is an online automatic proofreading service and grammar coach.

In a survey of nearly 500 freelance professionals, Grammarly analyzed how well the freelancers' online profiles at seemed to correlate to credibility, hireability or pay. The results showed the best-reviewed freelancers had the fewest writing errors per 100 words in their profile. Error rates by freelance writers were markedly lower than other areas, such as IT, engineering, sales and financial professionals. Across all fields in the study, writers earned more money per job than other professions.

Perhaps it is our attention to detail, critical eye, and love of words that make us so reliable and in demand.

To the left, you'll find an interesting infographic supplied by Grammarly... (click to enlarge)

Note: Grammarly made a donation to Reading is Fundamental, on my behalf.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Special event for teen writers

If you're in the Chicago area, here is something special coming up on Saturday:

JESSIE ANN FOLEY - Writing Workshop for Teens
Saturday, November 15th
3:00 pm at The Book Stall, 811 Elm Street, Winnetka, IL
Every story has to take place somewhere, and for writers from William Faulkner to Suzanne Collins, the WHERE can be just as important as the WHO and the WHAT.  In the “Take a Place” workshop, Jessie Ann Foley will introduce some techniques to "see" a setting in your mind and build out an entire story world from there.

The event is free, but space is limited. Please call The Book Stall: 847-446-8880 to reserve your spot. Recommended for teen writers ages 14-18. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Blogging is 20 years old!

WOW... Blogs have been around for twenty years!

Yes, 1994 was a long time ago and that's when blogs got started.

The Columbia Journal Review has a nice long piece here about the start of something that grew larger than anyone could have predicted.

NANOWRIMO inspiration break

If you're writing daily in November, and feel yourself running on empty, take a break and read this lovely essay by Sven Birkerts on

"It was going to New York City last week that finally did it, almost as if the point of going had been for me to be in Central Park on that fine crystal afternoon, to sit on a bench by the lake watching that cinema trick of a painting dissolving into motion. Something happened in that spot. I was touched in the core of my reverie by one of those unaccountable inner shifts. This one scarcely more than a flutter, really, but I took that flutter as the beginning of a larger turn, a motion counter to the deep inertia of the long weeks before.

"The matter sounds so simple. All of a sudden, I found myself wanting to write sentences again and, when I did, it felt to me like the rains had finally come, stirring up life in the dry land. I don’t know if I even shifted in my place, but whatever it was has since brought something back that had gone missing. The time hasn’t been that long, really, but by what clock? What decides long? The clock of days or the clock of the inside life? How long can a person feel unconnected and not feel that it’s too long? Writing, for me, is the mainspring, the momentum, that small tipping action inside that makes the watch keep real time."
Continue reading at

Friday, October 31, 2014

NANOWRIMO returns. Stop procrastinating.

If you're excited by National Novel Writing Month, you're in good company. See my 2011 post for more about NANOWRIMO. Some writers have novel ideas ready to go, and others will work on a memoir or use the event to make a commitment to writing over 1,600 words a day or even commit to daily blogging. The goal is a total of 50,000 words, a great first draft on your project.

Too ambitions for you? Any effort is better than none.Either way, it is an inspiring community of writers. Learn more at NANOWRIMO.

Also, Story Studio Chicago has events to keep you motivated here.

And if you need help, there is a new productivity app Stop Procrastinating, designed to help writers stay focused by combining psychology with technology. I just learned about this today, and if you want to find out more, visit this link. ( The app is ridiculously inexpensive and can finally help you focus on your writing instead of online distractions. Do

Friday, October 24, 2014

Thirteen places to hold book events

Lucky 13... Thanks to Caitlin Muir for these great suggestions. Get motivated to plan a book tour schedule for next Spring to promote your books. Pick a few close to home and do winter events too. People love to get out and hear authors talk about their work.

Find a Place To Give a Book Reading:

  1. Your local coffee shop
  2. A hospital
  3. A retirement community
  4. A rehabilitation center
  5. A local church
  6. A locally owned bookstore
  7. The library (try the five closest to your house)
  8. The local community college
  9. A school
  10. Wherever the main setting of your book is
  11. Google+
  12. Videos you upload to Facebook
  13. Goodreads--stay active on this site

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Even famous authors can get a bad review

Book reviews help our books get noticed. That's a good thing, right? Usually...

People reading reviews on Amazon understand that when a grumpy person writes a negative review, the author doesn't deserve to be attacked. We tend to dismiss reviews that insult the writer's integrity, or when the reviewer is being mean.

But, how would we feel if said review was in The New York Times Sunday Book Review, and tore into the author's work in such a highly visible way? The author I'm referring to is Joyce Carol Oates, and the review was of her story collection, Lovely, Dark, Deep.

The reviewer, who shall remain nameless here, has decided the book is "a fatally slack enterprise, a makeshift heap of first drafts, blighted by shallow emotion". Worse, he refers to offhand manipulation of trauma, and prose that feels virtually unedited.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Promote your events @ Poets & Writers

Poets & Writers has revamped their Literary Events Calendar. They cite its "beautiful new interface makes it easy to find readings and other literary events near you, and to post events you are part of." 

And, of course, its free! Post your upcoming events now, and they will also be listed in our their new app -- Poets & Writers Local -- coming later this fall!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Do reviews help ebook sales?

I;ll bet you think the answer is "Yes, of course."

Surprisingly, though, the chart below shows ebook sales attributable to a traditional media review represent only three percent. That means word-of-mouth and browsing are better methods of discovery. Of course, the best way is being a repeat author and having fans waiting for the release of your next ebook....

Thanks to Mark Coker of Smashwords for the chart below:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

NAMW... finally

I [finally] formally joined the National Association of Memoir Writers at They offer a rich variety of events, articles and resources for those interested in good writing, including but not limited to memoir.  I have long recommended this organization for my clients, but its time I take my own advice.

You may have seen the recent New York Times article featuring NAMW leader, Linda Joy Myers, PhD and Brooke Warner of SheWrites.

Helen Gallagher

Friday, October 3, 2014

Why is so much writing so bad?

From today's Wall Street Journal...

"Why is so much writing so bad? Why is it so hard to understand a government form, or an academic article or the instructions for setting up a wireless home network?"

The answer in Steven Pinker's article, The Source of Bad Writing, points to what he calls the Curse of Knowledge: a difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know.  It is an excerpt from his new book: The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Amazon launches Kindle for Kids

This might be a good time to re-issue a children's book in digital format.

Amazon has announced
Kindle Kids' Book Creator: 
Import illustrations, add pop-ups and preview your illustrated kids book with Kindle Kids' Book Creator.
Age and Grade Tools: 
Help parents choose the right books for their kids. Use our Age and Grade tools to reach the right audience.
Marketing Tools: 
Benefit from Amazon's powerful marketing tools and global distribution. Enroll in KDP Select to get more promotional benefits.

Here’s the link… and a “Get Started” button with more details. 

Learn how now...


Monday, August 4, 2014

Evernote users: Publish directly to Fast Pencil

Fast Pencil is a fairly well-known print on demand service for authors. Evernote is the smart note-taking and information database used by thousands if not millions. It has endless practical uses, from grocery lists to estate planning, is fairly easy to start, and is unstructured. Many writers use it for data gathering to writing drafts.

Now, because these two firms put their heads together, you can publish your Evernote content as a POD book. Once you organize your text and finalize your graphics and other content, you are ready to publish and distribute vie ebook or print.  A nice way to test out your book in draft form and move forward with publishing in 2014.

[Press Release] - excerpt...
FastPencil Creates Print Books and eBooks from Evernote Notes Instantly
New feature is first to enable Evernote users to easily import, self-publish and distribute notes as an eBook or print book regardless of device, location or previous publishing experience.

FastPencil, the fastest, easiest way to write and self-publish books, announced today they are offering all Evernote users the ability to instantly self-publish their notes using the FastPencil platform for ingestion, book building, transition to print and eBooks formats, online distribution and selling of the finished book. Available today, Evernote users can immediately take their notes and import them into FastPencil to create and publish in an eBook or PDF in a matter of seconds. The work can then be shared via the web or distributed through FastPencil’s publishing packages.

“This is an exciting partnership because it allows millions of Evernote users the opportunity to publish their work seamlessly through the FastPencil platform and push their book out in multiple formats,” said Steve Wilson, co-founder and President of FastPencil. “When we talk about bringing the capabilities of e-publishing to the masses, this is exactly what we mean and we couldn’t be happier to have such an amazing advocate in Evernote.”

FastPencil’s integration with Evernote allows users to create a print-ready PDF or eBook in seconds. Users simply take their specific notes – or full notebook – importing them directly into FastPencil’s self-publishing platform. From there, they will be able to edit, collate, format and create a table of contents. Then, they can choose which format they prefer, hit publish and share their newly published content. If users choose to print copies of their book, they can thru the FastPencil platform with their print partnership with Gung-Ho. Members looking to distribute their work will have the ability to utilize FastPencil’s vast distribution network channels including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, iPad, Sony eReaders, and the entire Ingram Network.

“Evernote is a powerful writing tool and this relationship further reinforces this,” says Chris Traganos, director of developer relations. “This integration provides writers and creatives with an effective way to publish their life’s work from Evernote with Fast Pencil.”

Read the full press release here:  Evernote and Fast Pencil

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rejection: Barbara Kingsolver's perspective

Thanks to Alexandra Caselle for posting this quote on her blog:  Alexandra is a native Floridian author and poet.  Her blog, Rhet Effects (,

Barbara Kingsolver quote on rejection:
 “This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘To the editor who can appreciate my work,’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address.’ Just keep looking for the right address.”