Category Archives: Essay

Building a Reputation

Pictures! Just cause. I took these at Jo’s work a couple weekends ago:

So, I need to write a blog entry this week, but I haven’t got the time. My solution? This is an essay I wrote for school. I’m going to share it in lieu of actually writing something fresh. I apologise, but it seems kind of appropriate because last week I edited a blog entry and handed it in as an essay for the same course LOL

Building a Reputation

So, you want to be a writer. I’ve got some bad news for you—getting published is easy, the tricky part to building a writing career is developing your reputation. Remember, you’re not just selling a story, you’re selling an idea about who you are. Each publication is a brick in the wall that will grow to become your brand and represent you as an author and the mortar between those bricks is your reputation.

Not only do you need to build a reputation with readers, but you will find that establishing one with editors will also affect your career. Every communication you have with an editor will flavor their impression of you. It’s important to set the tone of your future relationship in your very first email to a new editor. Make sure they know you aren’t doing anything as demeaning as submitting your work for consideration, rather you are offering them the use of it. Emphasize that you are doing this as a personal favor to them because your work is vastly superior to everything else they have published to date (even your mother thinks so, and she doesn’t usually read the genre you write in).

For example, it’s good to note that what is expected in professional correspondence is always changing. “Dear Mr. (or Ms.) Editor” may have been the traditional way to begin correspondence once upon a time but nowadays with the widespread use of email and texting, it is perfectly acceptable to start your email without a salutation. You may also skip the complimentary closing. Why bother with obsolete niceties? They take precious seconds out of your day.

If you do decide to include a salutation and address the editor by name, it doesn’t actually matter if you spell their name correctly, so long as they can figure out who you meant. Gender, also, doesn’t matter. If you address a letter to Mr. Doe and then discover they are actually Ms. Doe, at least you got the last name correct. In baseball batting .500 is fantastic. The same applies in publishing. Likewise, while it’s good to mention the name of the publication when you submit or query, if it has any unusual spellings, feel free to ignore them or, better yet point out the editor’s mistake in choosing to spell their magazine or publishing house the way they have.

You don’t need to bother making sure your work fits the genre of the publication you’re offering it to because it is so well-written any editor worth their salt will be happy to publish it regardless. If you happen to find an editor who isn’t willing to accept it because it “doesn’t fit their market” they obviously don’t know what they are talking about. Make sure you reply to their rejection letter and tell them so as emphatically as possible.

What’s more, don’t worry about following the editor’s guidelines for formatting submissions. You’ve formatted your story the way you have for a reason and they are called submission guidelines, which means they are more like suggestions than rules. On a related note, don’t worry about fixing typos or revising before you send your work in. That is the editor’s job. If you made it perfect before you sent it to them, what would they do to earn their pay cheques?

Finally, unless you want to be known as a pushover, once editing on your piece has begun it is vital you make sure the editor knows this is not an equal partnership. You are the boss. Make them fight for every comma they want to alter and absolutely refuse to budge on changing anything bigger than a single word or punctuation mark. It’s at this stage that phrases like “That’s my personal writing style” will serve you very well.

You can’t let editors mess around with your work or your style will be changed until it’s unrecognizable. Editors may say things like “This will make for a stronger story” or “But it’s nonsensical when it’s written this way” but don’t believe them. They aren’t trying to help you improve your work, they are dumbing it down and making it like everyone else’s.

You are not like everyone else. You are unique, special; like a snowflake. When you stick up for yourself, people, both readers and editors, will respect you. Don’t let yourself get pushed around and remember that no matter how many years of experience an editor has, when it comes to your work, you are the authority.

By following these tips you’re guaranteed to make an impression on the editors who work for you. That’s what you want, for people, editors and readers alike, to have an instant visceral reaction when they hear your name. That is what will help bind your work together and build a career, brick by brick, that will be beyond compare.

My grade, in case you are curious (and who wouldn’t be?) was 70% because my teacher couldn’t tell if I was being sincere in my advice or not. My original draft made mention about how editors talk to one another and compare notes, maybe I ought to have left that in to help clarify my position. Oh well. Next time I’ll make my tone a little more obviously sarcastic 😉

Also, in case you’re curious. Yes. Every example up there has happened to me when I’m wearing my Editor hat.

Lastly, in writing-related news, I have a couple zombie apocalypse poems up at Dark Chaos this week.

Lunacy

I used to write Monster Mythbusting columns for Dark Moon Digest. They changed formats a little while ago which meant my last column didn’t run. I didn’t know what else to do with it, so in the spirit of not just leaving it to collect dust on my hard drive I’m going to share it here. You’re excited, you know you are 😉

Monster Mythbusting: Lunacy

This issue of Dark Moon Digest features the winners of the paranormal romance contest so Stan suggested I might want to write about something that theme. Great idea, but I was stumped. I asked my Twitter followers about their favourite romantic monster. The winners were Beast from Beauty and the Beast, the Phantom of the Opera and Frankenstein’s monster. I agree with those choices but no clear bustable myth presented itself to me when I considered them.

Then it occurred to me. I was writing this column for Dark Moon Digest. Moon. What could be more romantic than the full moon? You’ve seen in it dozens of movies and read it in even more stories and poems I bet. Lovers, hand in hand, watching the moon, kissing beneath the moon, or sharing a plate of spaghetti in its light. The moon also gets blamed for a lot of things, so much so that the Latin word for it, luna, is the root of the word lunacy. Insanity. The full moon makes werewolves transform, dogs bite and people lose control.

Or does it?

To the first charge I think the moon is required to plead guilty, but I’m going to look at the others in this column. Does the moon really affect behavior? Are hospitals and police stations busier? What about suicides or accidents, are there more of them on a full moon?

The answer is no.

National Geographic News quoted a psychologist from the University of Saskatchewan, Ivan Kelly, as saying, “My own opinion is that the case for full moon effects has not been made.”[1] Kelly is not speaking from a position of ignorance either. At the time of his quote, in 2004, he had published 15 papers on the subject and had reviewed over 50 others. One of those reviewed papers covered 200 stories.

My own, less impressive, research has led me to the same conclusion as Mr. Kelly. I read about the results of 75 different studies[2]. They looked for increased violence, crime, anxiety, depression, suicide, hospital admissions, accidents, drug overdose and animal bites. Only five percent of the results showed an increase in those behaviors. Five percent, and even those were contradicted by other studies.

For example, a 1978 study of 11,613 cases of aggravated assault over a 5-year period showed that the attacks happened more often around the full moon[3]. However, a 2010 study of 23,142 cases of the same crime over a 7-year period, showed no relationship between the assaults and the full moon[4].

Still, despite the lack of empirical data to back it up, the popular belief seems to be that the moon does affect people’s behavior. When I began working on this article every single person I spoke to about it, without exception, believed I would end up proving the case for lunacy, not busting it. Why is that? Why do we so fervently believe that the moon, if I may over-simplify, makes us crazy?

I think it’s largely a cyclical self-fulfilling prophecy. People believe the full moon effects behavior. That subconscious belief may cause them to act differently during a full moon without actually being aware of their full motivations. Even people who do not act differently during a full moon may help perpetuate the myth. Influenced by a belief in the effects of the full moon, people may have a bit of a selective memory. They remember odd things that happen on a full moon but not when they occur on other days. Then, as if that’s not a strong enough cycle to keep the myth going, every once in a while, someone will do a news report or story about behavior changes during the full moon. The article, fuelled by anecdotal “evidence” or one of the vastly out-numbered research studies showing a correlation between the moon and behavior, will reinforce the belief in its readers and the cycle starts again.

Wheee!

For my part, however, I’m calling this myth completely busted. Except in the case of lycanthropes, of course.



[1] “Full Moon Effect on Behavior Minimal, Studies Say,” Last accessed May 5, 2011. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/12/1218_021218_moon.html

[2] “Neuroscience for Kids – The Full Moon,” Last accessed May 5, 2011. http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/moon.html

[3] “Human aggression and the lunar synodic cycle,” Last accessed May 5, 2011. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/641019?dopt=Abstract

[4] “Relationship between lunar phases and serious crimes of battery: a population-based study,” Last accessed May 5, 2011. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19840597

A Poet’s Coming of Age?

Marge Simon has honored me with the oppourtunity to guest-write her poetry column in the HWA newsletter this month. I think the newsletters have gone out now. I say think because I’m not an HWA member. You know what’s intimidating? Writing a column for a newsletter you’re not qualified to receive — that is intimidating. Interestingly, the title of my column was ‘Poetry is Intimidating’ so apparently I’m being intimidated all over the place 😉

I guest-wrote another column for Marge back in February 2008. To celebrate my new column going live, I thought I’d share the old one here. The introduction was written by Marge Simon. Enjoy 🙂

Blood and Spades: Poets of the Dark Side
February 2008 / Volume 19, Issue 91 HWA Newsletter

It’s my pleasure to welcome Niteblade Editor, Rhonda Parrish. Here is a lady who supports both writers and poets of the dark fantastic and I think she’s doing a great job! Rhonda says, “I wanted to start an e-zine, to see what things looked like from the other side of the rejection letter, as it were. I chose to make it a fantasy and horror magazine after reading somewhere that fantasy and horror were dying genres. Dying genres indeed! I intended to contribute to the vast mound of proof to the contrary. I think the quality of the work in the pages of Niteblade speak loudly to the fact that fantasy and horror are not dying genres. Now if I can just finish revising my first fantasy novel and get it into some slush piles …”

Check out Rhonda’s Web sites: http://www.rhondaparrish.com and http://www.niteblade.com.

* * *

A Poet’s Coming of Age

Rhonda Parrish

I used to love poetry, both reading and writing it. When I was younger I’d often get lost in a poem or catch myself composing verse in my mind when I should have been doing something else (usually math). In my small-town high school my familiarity with and love of poetry was well known and a point of pride for me. Alas, the disillusioning years subsequent to high school combined with a series of bad critique groups throttled my love of poetry (let’s call it Bob for short) and threw it, barely breathing, into a shallow grave.

Years later, after leaving my muse to rot in the same coffin as Bob, I cracked the lid. Sunlight burst in, and my muse and Bob whimpered and cowered in a corner. Much coaxing and cajoling later, they emerged, blinking and staggering. Though I nursed my muse, spoon-feeding her and helping her to grow before revealing her to the world, I denied Bob. Even as I wrote poetry I claimed, loudly and with vehemence, “I ain’t no poet.”

So it was, that when I first imagined Niteblade the poems were meant as filler–something to aid in marketing and fill the pages. Thankfully for Bob, the quality of poetry submissions I received inspired me to pay more attention to him, and he thrived. I stopped denying his existence, proudly telling people I was a writer, editor, and a poet. Bob is much healthier now, and growing stronger every day. It’s at his urging that I’ve written this short essay about what I look for in a poem for Niteblade.

When I look at poetry submissions to Niteblade I consider several things, many of which are intangible and strictly subjective, but some are pretty straightforward. First of all, I want to be entertained. To me, a poem needs to have something to say, a story to tell. I want to hear the tale and I don’t want to have to look too hard to find it. Basho’s haiku about the frog jumping into the pond may be considered by many to be brilliant because of its use of juxtaposition and what not, but to me it’s just a story about a frog jumping into a pond and, frankly, I don’t care. I don’t want to analyze a poem, I want to enjoy it. All the juxtaposition, alliteration, metaphor, and symbolism don’t mean anything to me if the poem’s story isn’t interesting.

Poems that have been accepted in Niteblade have told many tales. They’ve covered subjects from serial killers and killer plants to fairy babysitters and unrequited vampiric love. Each poem has its story to tell and does it with style and aplomb, capturing my attention with the first line and holding it until the last. As an example, here is a short poem I wrote which (I hope) tells a story in very few lines:

The Color of Shame

Drained of blood,
he traded his eternity for hers.
Sated, she smiled
With lips stained
the color of shame.

I’ve had to pass on many poems because I just had no idea what they were saying. I’m a bit lazy because of the whole “I don’t want to analyze a poem I want to enjoy it” thing, but I’m not stupid. If, after reading the poem three or four times I still don’t get it, I like to think the problem isn’t with me. I think implying rather than telling is a powerful tool for use in poetry–it can lead to those “ah-ha” moments we all love–but if the writer is too vague, the only person who can appreciate the piece is them.

Along the same line is my final point–a little cheese is not necessarily a bad thing, if you acknowledge it. I’ve written plenty of cheesy poetry; it’s fun and entertaining, so why not? The key, as I see it, is to not try and pass it off as high art. It’s fun, it’s fluff, and that’s all there is to it. For example, my poem “The Sepultress” is pure cheddar, but I like it:

The Sepultress

Her silken song of wind and wave
Called unto those beyond the grave
“Awake!” she cried, “And come to play!”
“I’ve only ’til the break of day.”

And to the shore the dead did come,
In groups of two and one by one
Once there they danced upon the sand
Whilst wicked waves served as the band.

A thousand corpses bobbed and swayed-
Cold bones ratt’ling a serenade
“Dance my children,” I heard her shriek
And terror made my knees go weak

From the shadows I watched their throes
While a foul stench assailed my nose.
With my shirt up over my face,
I loosed my guts, to my disgrace.

Above the bluffs, I spent the night
Afraid I might just die of fright
And when the dawn at last did break
All of the dead began to quake.

The power drained from empty eyes
As sunlight reached across the skies
Touched, she writhed upon the beach
Yet further still the beams did reach.

They swept across her gory crew
Who fell; puppets with strings cut through
I stood, transfixed as the tide rose
And shivered in my filthy clothes.

I watched the corpses float to sea
And knew no one would believe me
If I to them, did run and tell
About the night I spent in hell.

Because the water swept away
All evidence of their soiree
I lack the courage to be bold–
This pen’s the only soul I’ve told.

(Originally Published by NewMyths.com)

Bob is alive, well and satisfied that, no matter its role when I first envisioned it, poetry has taken a spot of equal importance as prose in the pages of Niteblade. In fact, I have it from a reliable source that the next cover will be based on a poem …

***

As an “interesting” footnote. It took a lot of willpower for me to not edit this column as I posted it, in particular I really wanted to remove the first line from “The Color of Shame” 😉

HWA Newsletter

Marge Simon honored me by offering me the chance to guest write the Dark Poetry column for the HWA Newsletter. I was so intimidated, I can’t even begin to explain to you — but I did it. The end result is online in their newsletter, you can’t read it if you’re not a member, but it’s there. Yay!

How To Save The World

What Can You Do?
By Rhonda Parrish

The ice caps are melting, oil companies are destroying pristine land, children are starving, genocides continue unabated, oceans are being over fished, forests pillaged and human rights are being trampled everywhere you look. What can you do? Everywhere you turn there are wrongs that need to be righted, things that need to be changed — but you’re just one person! What can you do?

Well, you can sit around feeling bad and thinking about how much better the world would be if people listened to you, you could talk to your like-minded friends about why the world is going to hell and why the human race deserves destruction or you could do something about it.

So you’re only one person, so what? What starts with one person can grow to be more — and if you’re just going to give up rather than TRY to do something to make things better what makes you better than all the people whose actions you despise? I hate to say something as trite as ‘if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem’ but to some extent it’s right. Sure, you can’t save the world all by yourself, but you can make a difference — if you try.

What are you doing to prevent global warming? To protect the environment, stop over fishing and over farming? What are you doing to stand up against the oil companies you rage against? Oil companies, the fishing industry and the lumber industry all spend millions, probably billions of dollars to protect their interests; they advertise, they lobby, they put their money where their mouth is — do you? Have you written a letter to your mayor? Your premier? Your senator? Prime Minister? President? Have you donated time or money to the causes you DO support? Do you refuse to buy products with too much packaging? Recycle? Compost?

Children all over the world are starving, living in poverty without clean water to drink, food to eat or schools to go to. What are you doing to help? “The governments of those countries are so corrupt,” you say, “that when we give them money only a fraction of it makes it to the people who need it.” So? So what? In a world where $100 can make a huge difference in a child’s life, isn’t it worth spending $400 to get that $100 to where it needs to be? So what if most of the money doesn’t get where it belongs –do you think not sending any is the answer? It’s only money. How much is a child’s smile worth? The feeling of a full belly? A mosquito net to prevent malaria? Clean water? How about supporting impoverished children in your home country? Are the food banks too corrupt to deserve your donation?

Genocides occur — still. Despite all the protestations of ‘never again’ they go on. What are you doing? Have you marched against them? Written letters? Sent money to support those who are there dealing with displaced persons and war orphans? Have you educated yourself about what’s going on in your world, or have you just covered your eyes and ears and waited for it all to go away?

Don’t say you can’t afford to do anything — many things that you can do won’t cost you anything — hell, lots of stuff will save you money. Have a yard? Grow your own vegetables. Walk to work instead of driving or take the bus if that’s not plausible. Write your government officials — let them know how you feel. Refuse to support companies whose practices you don’t approve of. Educate yourself and other people about issues going on in the world. And yes, put your money where your mouth is. It’s ridiculous to say that you can’t afford to donate anything to the causes you believe in when you sit in front of a big screen television every night, eat good food and have a roof over your head. Donate something — anything. Give $10 to the food bank, or to feed hungry children in other countries, or buy mosquito nets. Adopt a child in a developing country through Foster Parents Plan or a similar organization. Give money to Amnesty International or environmental groups.

Do something! Anything is better than nothing — the only thing that doing nothing accomplishes is ensuring the status quo. While one person may not be able to save the world all by themselves, they can make a difference. And who knows if people see what you’re doing they may just decide to follow your example and then you just might save the world after all.