The Scribe

winter 2013


Published by St. Louis Writers Guild Copyright 2012 St. Louis Writers Guild -- All rights reserved



TEN FATAL MISTAKES THAT AMATEUR AUTHORS MAKE By Nancy L. Baumann, The Book Professor (pg 4) FROM THE PRESIDENT'S DESK By Brad Cook (pg 7) TAKE YOUR READER ON A JOURNEY By Linda O'Connell (pg 8) MY THOUGHTS ON MEMOIR WRITING By Lynn Obermoeller (pg 10) SAVING FAMILY LETTERS By Ellen Gray Massey (pg 12) WRITING A MEMOIR THAT WILL SELL By Linda Austin, Moonbridge Publications (pg 14) BOOK MARKETING 2013: A BRAVE NEW WORLD By Dianna Graveman (pg 16) WORKSHOP FOR WRITERS: Paul Lesko: The Author's Guide to Copyright and Fair Use By Jennifer Stolzer (pg 18) SLWG LECTURE SERIES: Robert Randisi By Lauren Miller (pg 21) WORKSHOP FOR WRITERS: Brad Cook: The Dreaded Synopsis By Jennifer Stolzer (pg 22) SLWG LECTURE SERIES: Marcel Toussaint By Jennifer Stolzer (pg 24) PARIS I LEAVE YOU By Marcel Toussaint (pg 25) BEFORE BEING ERASED By Marcel Toussaint (pg 25) POETRY EVENTS (pg 27) FUTURE EVENTS (pg 27) IN THE NEXT ISSUE (pg 28)


By Nancy L. Baumann, “The Book Professor”
I own a professional publishing company and receive numerous submissions each year from writers who want to be published. I only work with nonfiction, so the manuscripts are usually from nonprofessional writers who have experienced or learned something that will either save lives, change lives, or have a positive impact on society. Because the writers are amateurs, their writing is usually substandard, and I rarely find a manuscript I can publish. Here are ten common mistakes that send their work to my recycling bin: 1. They think they have a great idea. Before you start writing, make sure you have an original idea. How do you do that? Research, research, research! Read other books in the same genre and on the same topic, and if you find that your message has already been delivered, then save yourself the time and aggravation of writing a book. Better yet, find a unique angle about that topic and write to that perspective. 2. They love their own writing. Seasoned authors know the value of outside criticism and will seek it at every opportunity. Amateur writers think that if they scored well in high school English, that they write well and don’t need any feedback. That’s a big mistake. You’re probably not as good as you think you are, and neither am I. An overconfident attitude produces the kind of sloppy writing I toss aside. 3. They think writing will be easy. Writing isn’t easy and it never has been. It’s a hard discipline and very few can hack it. If it were easy, you would have already written your book! No one has ever accidentally written a book, and neither will you. You must create disciplined deadlines and be accountable to them. Write all the time; practice makes perfect. As Agatha Christie said, “Write even when you don't want to, don't much like what you are writing, and aren't writing particularly well.” 4. They don't know how to start a book. Think about how you would start any multilayered project, like building a house. You’d start with a plan wouldn’t you? Your book project should also begin with a plan that you can execute, which will carry you from concept to cover. You must know what you’re trying to accomplish in order to hit the goal. Begin by answering these


foundational questions, then write a book that is targeted to your answers. • What purpose will the book serve? • How is it different from other books published on this same subject? • What is the main theme of your story? Secondary themes? • What new information or angle does your story present that hasn’t already been heard? • Why will people want to read this story? • Who is your audience? Define your primary and secondary markets. • How will this work impact that audience? • What change do you want to invoke in the reader? • Why would others recommend this book to others? • Finish the sentence: “The purpose of this book is to ___________________.” • Who would you like to endorse your book? Another expert in the field? A celebrity? Figure that out, then write the kind of book that person would endorse. 5. They don't exhaust the language or expand their style. Readers appreciate a varied vocabulary, but are impatient with the repetition of words, phrases, and sentence structure. Be sure that your writing is interesting, that there’s a mixture of sentence styles, that you’ve employed active language, and that your verbs are sharp and distinctive. Language matters. 6. They don’t understand grammar and punctuation. You may not understand the rules of grammar and punctuation, but that doesn’t mean that others don’t. They do, and they’ll spot your mistakes in a flash. There are strict rules for both grammar and punctuation, and you better sharpen those skills if you don’t want to be dismissed. 7. They won’t invest. So maybe you’re not good at grammar and punctuation? Hire an editor. Not sure if there are mistakes in your manuscript? Hire

a proofreader. If you want to self-publish, then hire a professional cover designer and interior designer. Just because you can do everything yourself, that doesn’t mean you should. This is a specialized, professional industry, and you should work with professionals. 8. They trust the opinions of their friends. Friends and family are great, but they have limitations when it comes to offering you objective feedback. When it comes to writing a book, their opinion doesn’t count. They are inexperienced, care too much about your feelings, and may only tell you what you want to hear. Seek an outside opinion from a professional editor who is trained to critique writing. But brace yourself—this could hurt! Be eager to make the necessary changes to meet professional standards. 9. They don’t know how to end the book. Your opening line is important, but the ending can make or break a book. How and where do you stop? Decide if you want to tie your story in a neat bow or allow it to continue. Write three or four endings, then choose the one that is most satisfying. Moreover, be sure to tie up loose strings on all subplots, and revisit those foundational questions to be sure you’ve accomplished your stated goals. 10. They are in a hurry. Amateur authors often set unreasonable deadlines, then latch onto them for dear life. Come hell or high water, they’re going to get their book finished by Christmas, or their birthday, or by any other manufactured deadline that has nothing to do with the book itself. Know this: by the time you’re in the home stretch, you’re going to be sick of your book. You may even hate it. But that doesn’t mean that you push it out the door just to get rid of it. Pull back and be thorough with every edit, with every research item, with every jot and tittle. Exercise a firm discipline and slow down, so


you can produce a professional and polished manuscript and become an author, not merely a writer. This article is reprinted from Nancy Baumann's guest post on The Writers' Lens following her Nov. 3, 2012, workshop for St. Louis Writers Guild.

NANCY L. BAUMANN is the owner of Stonebrook Enterprises, LLC, which operates under two distinct branches: Stonebrook Publishing and Stonebrook Studios. Stonebrook Publishing is an independent press dedicated to publishing highimpact nonfiction works that will either save lives, change lives, or have a positive impact on society. We are “Publishing with a Purpose.” To learn about our new release, A LIFE IN PARTS, go to: Stonebrook Studios is the education, coaching, and contract-writing branch of Stonebrook Enterprises, and is home of “The Book Professor.” Nancy used her experience as a university professor and a professional publisher to develop a methodology that steps a writer through each phase of writing a book—from concept to cover—so they may produce a marketable manuscript that is what publishers want. Upon completion, the author may selfpublish or seek an agent and professional publisher. Websites:



nonfiction and memoir for their realism, no need for leaps of faith or the suspension of disbelief, just an engaging story grounded in our common reality. Memoirs and Nonfiction have always been popular genres within St. Louis Writers Guild. When I first joined, it was the largest genre, but has since yielded to fiction. So, live life with passion, become the most interesting man or woman you can, and maybe someone will write a memoir about you. Until then, develop a platform, find the truth about that old family legend, and continue the traditions of the first writers – the scribes.

Everyone Has a Story to Tell
By Brad R. Cook One day we’ll document our entire lives and won’t need memoirs, they’ll probably call it Lifebook or something like that, but until then, someone… some writer…will have to tell these tales. Memoirs and nonfiction books are the stories of our lives, and by “our,” I mean collectively; a story of your particular life would be an autobiography. Memoirs retell some family tale, mark the life of the extraordinary and the ordinary, or simply take us deeper into the mind of someone we thought we already knew. It is memoirs that reignite our memories, and because we will always be fascinated to learn more about a person, they will always be bestsellers. We all have a sister or brother doing some great deed; a mother or father who changed our world while affecting everyone else’s; a grandmother or grandfather who inspired us; a crazy uncle or a strange aunt; maybe you need to warn the world about a cousin, and these are the tales that need to written. Every family has a story, and memoirs allow us to capture these moments of time, to share what would have been lost from history. Nonfiction should probably have been called real life, but I suppose that’s not as catchy on a plaque above the book shelf. They are stories, sometimes about a person, sometimes about a place, but always grounded within the fertile soil of reality. If fiction soars through the clouds as dreamers often do, then nonfiction is gritty down-toearth brain food. Facts dug up, vetted and woven into an exciting narrative, we love


By Linda O'Connell
I recently discovered an old greeting card with a personal message from my late grandmother. Her handwriting and brief message triggered sights, smells and sounds of my childhood. Her words evoked memories, and I travelled back to a time when life seemed easier and slower, before real life monopolized my free time. Leaving a legacy for future generations begins when you capture and reveal your memories in print. Whether you are considering writing a memoir for personal satisfaction, a creative nonfiction piece, or a personal essay for possible publication, you must take your reader on a journey. They don't want to take a short jaunt through the headlines of your life; they expect the nittygritty of your personal experience. If you hold your reader at arm's length and share sparse details, you chance losing them. Self-disclosure and honesty are main components of writing personal essays, but it is essential that in the process of revealing truths, you do no harm. Do not lie, deceive or distort the truth to make your story better. Write as factually as possible with authenticity. No one can remember verbatim dialogue, especially from years past, so at times you may have to create dialogue. Insert a disclaimer in your story such as, "To the best of my recollection," or "The way I remember the incident, Mama sobbed, 'You kids are going to stay with Grandma for a month.' " Sometimes writers recall vividly an incident, a person, place or thing, but they hesitate to tell the complete story because they have uncomfortable or unresolved issues regarding them. Not all memories are pleasant. Conflict occurs but it doesn't have to be harsh and in your face. There are many ways to begin. You can open with an interesting fact, a shocking revelation or a universal truth. You can whisper, shout or make your reader gasp or chuckle. Whatever approach you choose, you must draw your reader in and entice them with a hook sentence that makes them want to read on. The reader wants to hear your voice, not just your words. When you hear the names, Stephen King or Anne Lamott you automatically recognize the voice, the tone of their writing. You must strive to develop your own unique voice, not mimic someone else's. Creative nonfiction should be compelling, convey conflict and resolution and have a take away message. Build momentum. Vary sentence type and length. Increase the pace and tension. Short concise sentences have more impact than rambling ones. On average, a typical sentence should be about seventeen words or less and you should be able to be read it aloud in one breath. Writing is hard work, like physical exercise. It takes discipline. Begin with a sentence, create a paragraph, then a page. Charles Schultz said, "Life is like riding a


ten-speed bike and most of us never use all the speeds." Wherever you are on your writing journey, just sitting and thinking about writing your memoir or actually pursuing it, I encourage you to put the pedal to the metal and hit as many gears as you possibly can.

LINDA O'CONNELL, a member of St. Louis Writers Guild, is an accomplished writer and seasoned teacher. A positive thinker, she writes from the heart, bares her soul and finds humor in everyday situations. Although she has won awards for poetry, prose and fiction, Linda considers herself an essayist. She blogs at


By Lynn Obermoeller
“You should write a book!” If I had a dime for every time someone said that to me, I’d be living on easy street. Anytime I talk about my life experiences with a person, that’s what usually pops out of their mouth. I thought it was something folks said out of politeness because they didn’t know what to say after what I had shared. After hearing it so many times, I gave the matter some consideration. I’ve written letters to people all my life, so it was easy to share my ups and downs. I finally worked up some courage, and wrote a short piece for a contest. Much to my surprise, I received an honorable mention in the memoir category from the National League of American Pen Women. I submitted more articles, some were accepted or awarded, some not. I love writing so much, I tried my hand at fiction. I shared a piece with my daughter. Yes, I know, you’re not supposed to share your writing with family, but my three children are ruthless. They don’t feed me flowery reviews like, “Oh Mom, that’s so beautiful.” They’re brutal. They say, “How could a character do that? Seems unlikely, even for fiction.” Even so, they mean well. They know I’m striving to be a better writer. This time my daughter said, “No offense Mom. Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re a much better nonfiction writer.” I told her I had to agree, “But who cares about my story?” She put her hand on her hip, “Mom. Seriously. You’ve had so many experiences that you’ve gone through and survived, it will help people.” She made a good point. Why not share your discoveries to help others? Part of me still resists—I assume no one cares what I’ve gone through. People have triumphed over bigger conflicts. The other part of me thinks if I help just one person with my story, isn’t it worth it? Yes, it is! Memoir can also be important because it gives a true account of your experiences, based on your memory rather than someone else’s. At least as truly as your memory serves. But it beats second-hand or even third-hand information. Have you ever researched family—wanting to know something about someone several generations down? You ask someone still alive who may have known, “Well… I think they….” Think? Not sure? But if you had that person’s written word, there’d be no guessing. Do you want to write, but are not sure? Start with your life. We each have a unique story. Imagine how excited future generations would be when they’ve researched true accounts of your observations—knowing it is your word, not hearsay. Think of the satisfaction you’ll receive from expressing your adventures. Or the possibilities of what you may learn from the process—what nuggets you’ll glean to help you uncover valuable truths. Perhaps you’ll discover gems of wisdom to benefit someone in need.


Memoir writing has a multitude of treasures for both the present and the future. LYNN OBERMOELLER is a member of St. Louis Writers Guild and Saturday Writers. She also belongs to a critique group, WWWPs (Wild Women Wielding Pens) and talks weekly with another writer friend. You can visit her at her blog, Present Letters (, on Facebook, or Twitter @Obermoeller. And if you want to communicate with her the oldfashioned way, she’d love to write you a letter – send her your address at oberwriter(at)gmail(dot)com


By Ellen Gray Massey
Today, letters hand-written or typed and sent through the mail are rare. Even well-constructed family correspondences using email are limited. Texting--short abbreviated notes without regard to punctuation, grammar, or spelling--is how we keep in touch. Immediate, but sterile. No evidence of personality. No depth. No soul. No interest beyond the moment. It is a sort of modern shorthand. Therefore, the publication of the round robin letters, OUR ROBIN IS READ, is a breath of the past. These letters were written from 1944 to the early 1970s by siblings of the Gray family originating from their farm, The Wayside, near Nevada, Missouri. When the youngest of the eight children left home, the siblings began the series of letters to the scattered family. Miriam the eldest wrote the first letter, sending it on to her brother just younger. He added a letter and send both to the next sibling, and on down to Carolyn, the youngest. She added her letter and mailed all eight back to Miriam. She removed her first letter, added another and sent the Robin on its way, creating the round robin letters. It traveled through the U.S. Post Office system for over 35 years to many places--Washington, D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Indiana, Connecticut, Illinois, Texas, Ohio, and England. The letter writers were of many occupations-teachers, editors, scientists, dietitians, librarians, homemakers, executive directors, farmers, social workers, writers. These letters were chatty, humorous, and full of news, both of the family and national events. More than just a list of what the family did in the interval of letters, they contained first person accounts of historic events, philosophies, and much humor. Two of the siblings were adept at satire. Vernon satirized the busy-ness others wrote about. Gertrude’s satire was her portrayal of an urban homemaker’s day and her report of an American family in London, England, right after World War II. Some letters were sad, such as the tributes after the deaths of the parents. Others were full of pride of their part of the country or other family members. And humor, including then-current jokes. It is a record of a middle-class family, from the Middle West in the mid-1900s. As a Christmas gift to my siblings in 1970, I went through all the letters which a brother-in-law had saved, and arranged them chronologically by topics. I retyped them (this was before word processors), mimeographed them (before home printers) and sent each one a manuscript copy which I called, Our Robin Is Read. With footnotes and explanations to help non-family members, the letters are now published by Goldminds Publishing. But this didn’t end the family practice of keeping in touch through the mail. The next generation of 23 cousins wanted to keep in touch. By the late 1900s everyone had computers, so the cousins’ solution was do it by email. Remember people don’t like to write personal letters anymore! Katie, the oldest cousin, coordinated the “Robin 2" endeavor. She assigned a specific month to the children of each of the


original siblings. For example, August is the month for my children. During that month they each send their email letter to Katie. She then emails it out to her complete list of relatives, so that once a year at the same time, we all receive a personal letter from a member of our family. And these letters are not texted, abbreviated, or short. Like those of the original robin they are chatty, humorous, and newsworthy about the family and the nation. The geographic range has expanded from Connecticut to Florida and Washington state and places in between. And these letters are then printed out and saved. ELLEN GRAY MASSEY is a speaker, writer, and teacher. She has published numerous articles, short stories, essays, and books. In 1995 she was inducted into the Writers Hall of Fame of America. From 1973-1983 she directed high school students in Lebanon, Mo., who published BITTERSWEET, the Ozark Quarterly. OUR ROBIN IS READ is her latest book.


By Linda Austin, Moonbridge Publications
Memoir is very popular these days and it seems everyone, from public figures to pop-culture celebs to the next-door neighbor is writing one. Is the market saturated, is the fad fading yet, is there still time to jump the bandwagon? Memoirs have been around for quite a while, birthed from autobiography, matured to the modern, 20th century memoirs by well-known people or ghostwritten for them. With the recent development of quality digital printing and print-ondemand services, however, everyday people are now self-publishing personal life stories that would never have caught the eyes of inundated, risk-aversive trade publishers. The genre is not going away, and you might be thinking of writing your own story. The question is, will YOUR story sell or is it best left as a (priceless) gift to your family? Because there are so many memoirs published, a commercially viable memoir must stand out from others of its type. This is particularly important when it comes to surviving illness, abuse or other trauma. It may seem cold-hearted, but from an agent’s viewpoint it is not enough these days to have

survived cancer. How does your cancer journey differ from the others written about? How can you put a unique angle or perspective on it? Is there a niche audience that needs your special story? This is where Amazon and Barnes & Noble become your research laboratories. Study the descriptions and reviews of memoirs already out there that would be related to yours and, better yet, read some of these books. If there are only a few, then go for it! If there are many, you’ve got your work cut out. If your story incorporates history or culture (often they go hand-in-hand), you may have a better chance at sales because there is a wider audience for this; people enjoy learning—or reminiscing. While you write your story, be conscious of including dates and historical or cultural details. Not only do they add to setting and sense of place and time, they offer an education without the dullness of a history book. For this type of memoir it is important to determine the age of your target audience as some stories can be adapted for young readers. As with any other book project, getting the words down into a draft is really the first


order of business. It does help if you can determine the age and gender of your audience first and keep that in mind. Take a look at the first draft, determine the focus and angle of your writing and confirm the audience. From then on the writing becomes very similar to writing fiction except that what you write is true to the best of your knowledge. Cut out anything that doesn’t pull the story forward—you can NOT include everything that happened during that time in your life. A memoir may be one continuous story with a trajectory that includes character development, setting(s), plot, dialog, tension, and conflict. This type of memoir must come to a resolution or have a takeaway to leave the reader satisfied. There needs to be a point to the story - what did you learn from your experience, how did you change, how can you summarize your journey? If your memoir does not have a resolution, then it’s not yet time to publish it, and maybe not even the time to begin writing the draft as you might not be through living the story. The other memoir format is a series of short stories bound by a common theme; for example, growing up during WWII or life in a boarding school. These are more likely to include culture and history. They may follow a chronological order or be grouped by topic. Each story will have a beginning and an ending, or at least a lead-in to the next story. The final story should be either an overall summarizing or another short story that concludes with a satisfying overall ending. Usually each story is long enough to be a chapter, albeit sometimes they are very short chapters. Most important, a memoir is NOT a means of revenge, rather it should be a culmination of the process of living through a particular life journey, of learning and of coming to an understanding. Spearing other people and leaving them with a onedimensional and ugly portrait only reflects badly on the character of the author—and

may result in a lawsuit, which is a whole ‘nother subject. Whining is also unattractive. One of the important elements of memoir that writers easily forget is the author’s thoughts and feelings. It is not enough to state what happened or explain the details. Readers want YOU to be a welldeveloped character they can empathize with or at least understand to some degree. They also relate to you more if you do not come across as perfect, so be sure to include your quirks and mistakes and fess up to your part in bad relationships or situations. Finding a publisher for a memoir by an unknown author without much following or “platform” may be more difficult than for other genres. Even agents who accept memoir seem to lump them into one eyerolling category of “here we go again.” This is why your memoir must stand out. Independent presses might be a better bet, and many authors simply choose to selfpublish. No matter how your book is published, though, you must be its best advocate and play a major part in publicizing it. Big publishers may reject your memoir, but many readers love real-life stories. Your memoir may help others heal or support them through similar troubles, show new perspectives and experiences, or delight others who have similar memories.
LINDA AUSTIN wrote and published CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN TWILIGHT, her mother's memoir of growing up in Japan around WWII, and became an advocate of lifewriting. She encourages others via her website to write their stories or that of their elders as legacy gifts for their families. Recently Linda published POEMS THAT COME TO MIND, a collection of short poems, mostly haiku and tanka, inspired by the journey through her mother’s Alzheimer’s care.



2013: A
By Dianna Graveman
Congratulations! You’ve published a book. Now what? Today’s savvy authors know that the work doesn’t end with the book’s release. If you’ve decided to self-publish, you already know the marketing responsibility is yours. But most small presses won’t do a lot of marketing for you, either, and even very large publishers aren’t doing as much as in years past. So where should you start? And how do you know which strategies will sell your book? You don’t. The best you can do is evaluate your book’s potential readership and carefully consider how best to reach that audience. Establish your goal, then determine which tools will most effectively help you achieve that goal. If you don’t have time to use all of the social media platforms, do what you think will matter most. Speaking of social media, most authors are sick of hearing about it. We already know we should be using Twitter and Facebook, but many authors don’t use them effectively. Try this: • Tweet catchy or intriguing short quotes from your book that may have the potential to be retweeted. • Create a hashtag with your book title and use it every time you tweet about your book’s topic to create a dialogue stream.

• Ask questions related to your book’s content to encourage conversation. Reply to those who respond! • Find out if your book’s topic is trending and use that hashtag, too (or alternate hashtags). For instance, a writer whose book is about the apocalypse used the hashtags “#endoftheworld” and “#Dec21” throughout December. Her tweets became part of the dialogue stream about those topics—and of course, she always included a link to her website or book. Here’s a great way to combine several social media platforms: create lists. • For example, if you wrote a book on holiday entertaining, your list might be “Five quick desserts your holiday guests will love.” A list for your historical fiction might be “Five little –known facts about the Civil War.” • Publish the list on your blog with a link to purchase your book on Amazon. • Post the list (with graphics or Word art) as separate pins to a Pinterest board. • Publish those pins one at a time on your Facebook page—“how-to” lists and “little-known facts” lists tend to be shared on Facebook by those with similar interests. • Tweet your list as separate tweets (with your book’s title as a hashtag). • Add the list to • Make sure each time you post the list or one of the items from the list that you include a short link to your website or to your book on Amazon.


Nobody denies that blogs are a great promotional tool, but like everything else, they eat up time. If you use Wordpress and only have time to write one or two posts a week, reblog occasionally. Log into, then click on the “Reader” tab. Enter a keyword in the search field and find a blog post you like, then click “Reblog.” Introduce the blog post with a comment of your own, and you’re done! You’ve just gifted another blogger with a link to his post, saved loads of time, and connected with another blogger who will hopefully follow your blog or return the favor. Tumblr has a similar feature. Finally, don’t forget the power of Goodreads. If you already have a profile, send a request to join the Author Program ( m). Once approved, you can set up giveaways, post book excerpts, and interact with your readers in multiple ways. With over ten million members (and book lovers!), Goodreads is one of the best deals around for self-promoting authors. DIANNA GRAVEMAN is a writer, editor, and designer, and the owner of 2 Rivers Communications & Design. Learn more at


WORKSHOP FOR WRITERS: Paul Lesko: The Author's Guide to Copyright & Fair Use
By Jennifer Stolzer 18

2012, Paul Lesko, Intellectual Property attorney with the Simmons Firm, addressed the Writers Guild on the topic of Copyright, Fair Use, and Copyright Infringement. Copyright is a legal concept that gives the creator of an original work exclusive rights to determine who can adapt, perform, or financially benefit from it. Copyright only covers fixed works, meaning things that are written, typed, recorded or filmed. It does not cover titles, slogans, or short quotes-those fall under Trademark. Unlike many government facilities, filing registration with the copyright office is as easy as visiting the official website at and paying a small fee. When an author registers his/her work with the copyright office, it is protected from infringement. Although the mere act of creating a tangible work automatically earns it copyright protection without additional paperwork or government involvement, it is hard to defend works against infringement without filing them first. Copyright infringement is the theft or copying of works. For authors, this covers the work itself, not necessarily the idea behind a work. A perfect example can be seen in popular fiction. Although Stephanie Meyer's TWILIGHT is a famous tale of romance between a human and a vampire, the scenario is not protected under her copyright, which is why bookstores worldwide are full of paranormal romances. That doesn't mean a lawsuit cannot be filed against these other novels, and if the competing work shares significant similarities such as names, places, or specific exchanges or situations, it can still be ruled an infringement.


n Sept. 8,

A number of plaintiff copyright cases are contingency-based. “[Copyright] is a plaintiff's dream if run correctly,” Paul Lesko said of copyright infringement cases. “There are only two things you need to prove: access to the work and copying. That's it.” The best defense in such cases is independent creation. If there is proof that the defendant was not exposed to the original work, it is enough to acquit, although it is often hard to prove. In addition to protection against copying and stealing, copyright gives authors some rights to control distribution of their works. It does not cover second-sales of domestic works originally sold in the U.S. Reselling is normally not considered infringement, although buying and then copying for additional distribution certainly is. A copyright registered with the United States Copyright office is enforceable worldwide with the help of the International Specialized Book Services. The ISBS is a full-service marketing and distribution company that represents around sixty publishers and a broad range of genres and topics. The ISBS polices against copying, stealing, or false-attribution, which is the act of removing or changing the author of a book without permission. It will help authors stop the infringement of their copyright at home and overseas. Once identified, an infringer must be taken before a judge to determine damages and punishment. Damages in copyright can be significant. Actual losses are difficult to determine, so plaintiffs are allowed to seek “statutory damages” up to $30,000, or as much as $150,000 in significant cases against willful infringers. Some forms of copying are protected under Fair Use. Fair Use is a defense to copyright law that permits limited use of copyrighted material. When confronted with a Fair Use defense, a jury must consider four different elements: the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount being copied, and whether or not the copying interferes


with sales of the original product. These rules are subjective, so accurate predictions of when the Fair Use defense is available is tricky. Although it is easier to be lenient to a nonprofit using a portion of a larger work for a local event than a person stealing works in their entirety and reselling it for personal gain, it is up to the judge and jury to decide. In the end, it is safer to avoid sampling other works as much as possible. Any copying done without permission of the originator, even if credit is applied, can be considered infringement. This is especially true for song lyrics. Many authors decide to sample lyrics in their stories, but even a small sample like “Beat it” can invoke the essence of an entire song. “[If] you're making money off the lyrics, and you haven't asked permission, it could be infringement. You might try to justify in your mind that you haven't taken the whole song, but remember, songs aren't that long, so sometimes it does not take much 'borrowing' to capture the essence of a song,” Lesko said. That doesn't mean using lyrics is off-limits. Authors can contact the musical artists or their agents and ask permission for use. They might enter a joint venture and allow the use with acknowledgment or for a small fee. Still some artists dislike copying under any circumstances, which is why asking permission is important. Some works have passed into public domain. Patents and copyrights were designed to be limited so that new artists and authors may build on past ideas, although corporations have lobbied for the extension of the rule. At present, a work is copyrighted through the author's life plus 75 years past death. For corporations, it extends to 150 years, thanks to legislation passed in the 1970s. Generally works created before 1923 can be assumed to be in the public domain. It is estimated that 90 percent of the copyrighted works created prior to 1963 are also in the public domain. However, authors should keep in mind that a high proportion of works created after 1963 are

likely still protected by copyright. Given this landscape, researching each work individually is wise. In the end, it is better to be safe than sorry. Proper research and permissions can protect writers from lawsuits, while proper paperwork can protect an original work from theft. It's relatively cheap to register a copyright, and the document on file doesn't have to be published. To keep expenses low, authors can wait until a work is ready for publication before registering, and don't need to keep re-registering after edits as long as the work stays substantially similar. In the end, originality is the strongest ally in a copyright case. Authors should protect their work under the law and seek permissions for any sampling they attempt. Of course, some things are exempt from copyright laws; facts and works of the federal government are not copyrightable, so authors can sample those to their hearts' content. It's still nice to give due credit to sources, even if it is only out of courtesy.


By Lauren Miller
What do Lawrence Block, Sue Grafton, Walter Mosley, Bill Pronzini and Rick Riordan have in common? They're all past winners of the Shamus Award, given annually by The Private Eye Writers of America (PWA). Collectively, they have fewer published novels than Robert J. Randisi, who founded both Shamus and PWA. On Sept. 20, 2012, when Randisi spoke at the St. Louis Writers Guild Lecture Series, he had 585 books published. He's had at least one book published every month since 1982, when he started his prolific career in New York. He also networked by hand-delivering his manuscripts and taking editors out to lunch. Since then, he's broadened what he wrote to meet the needs of the changing market. He's gambled with the market like a cowboy playing poker, writing under multiple pseudonyms for different publishers at the same time. And the industry keeps changing. "The publishing industry today is lazy," Randisi said, pointing to ebooks that writers can publish without any kind of professional editing. "There are too many books out there [...] that are virtually unreadable. The market is flooded with books that shouldn't be published by people who shouldn't be writers." Randisi also criticized traditional publishers who now encourage authors to market their own work. “[Publishers] are trying to get you to do their job for [them]." He said social media, unless it brings you readers, is a waste of time. Too much time marketing leaves little time for writing. For that reason, he doesn’t have a website or a blog. Writing is a business--one he chose early in life. "I was very fortunate, but I was also very determined with what I wanted to do. When I was 15, I decided I was going to write for a living by the time I was 30. And I did. And I'm still doing it. Don't ask me how." For those of us who still want to know how he does it, here is a distilled list: - Writer's block is a luxury working writers cannot afford. - Too much outlining can prevent you from working. “Just sit down and start writing.” - Write at your own speed. - Traditional publishing is still the way to go to get established as an author. Multiple submissions are okay while waiting to hear back from publishers. - E-publishing is a good option for established authors who want to get their backlist out there. If you decide to go the ebook route, don't low-ball yourself.


WORKSHOP FOR WRITERS: Brad Cook: The Dreaded Synopsis
By Jennifer Stolzer For ages, authors have lived in fear of the synopsis. Brad Cook, president of the St. Louis Writers Guild, is no stranger to the struggle. On Oct. 6, 2012, he shared tips for authors tackling the frightening feat. “I've done a lot of research into this and everyone has their own rules,” Cook said. The most common request is for a one- or two-page synopsis, single-spaced, with paragraphs indented. If a synopsis reaches the third page, it must be double-spaced. Publishers or agents may ask for other lengths. Some synopses can reach as many as 50 pages, although the trend is to ask for a chapter outline instead. The synopsis should be in the same voice as the book, so if the novel is written with a dark, literary tone, the synopsis should also be written that way, Cook said. This is not the same for point of view--the synopsis should always be present tense, third person. There are no exceptions to the rule. It doesn't matter if it's fiction or nonfiction, biography or genre. Put the characters' names in ALL CAPS the first time they appear. Use only one name, usually the one by which the character is most readily known, and stay consistent with the choice. Every synopsis must have a narrative arc. Include all important elements of plot from the first page to the end, and include the ending. Unlike query letters, synopses are not designed to entice or intrigue the reader. Agents want to know exactly what kind of book they will get, which includes the twists, the secrets, the emotional arcs and major subplots. If it was worth putting in the book, it must be in the synopsis, he said. The final document will be like a condensed version of the novel, so show all the peaks and valleys. Use active voice-show, don't tell. Pull no punches. “You can remove stuff later,” Cook said. “It's going to get to the point that every word means something.” Think of the synopsis as a more informative book jacket. Start with a hook and clearly identify the novel's main character. Focus on the main character throughout to imbue the synopsis with the needed human element. A main character is what's going to sell a story. Make them sympathetic, include their faults and values, and apply the same attention to the rest of the cast. Is the villain sympathetic? What makes us dislike them? Make the reader invested in the conflict between characters so they care what happens in the end, and tie up all the loose ends so there is no confusion. Be specific and colorful. Don't generalize or use cliches, instead weave a story of vivid and unique details. Tell the story with vigor and intensity. This means no lists, no awkward transitions, no flowery prose or unnecessary tangents. Don't waste space on dialog. Start at the beginning and end at the end. If the book is part of a series, describe only the first in the synopsis. If you pitch more than one book, summarize and condense the rest of the series into a page or less. Selling the first treatment is the goal. Cook suggests breaking the novel into smaller chunks like acts in a play. Each section should have a beginning, middle and end. Tell the whole story first regardless of length, then whittle it down to what is absolutely needed. If there is more than one sentence about any one point, it's too much. Sometimes it helps to outline first, then build paragraphs and acts based on the listed points. Cook pointed to many online resources about synopsis writing. Jane Friedman recommends starting with a paragraph to


establish the setting, then transitioning through the plot. Nathan Bransford emphasizes the need to bring a work to life. Try to strike a balance between covering the characters with conveying the book's spirit and tone. When it's time to start writing, begin with a header declaring the page as a synopsis and stating the title. Also include the name of the author, the genre, word count, and author contact information. Make sure to follow any specific rules set down by the agency or publisher. Google some successful synopses for useful examples. And good luck! BRAD R. COOK, President of St. Louis Writers Guild, is a historical fantasy writer who daylights as a freelance technical writer. A founding contributor to The Writers’ Lens, a resource blog for writers; his poetry was published in ST. LOUIS REFLECTIONS, and his short stories have placed in several contests. He began as a playwright and still pens a few scripts, but every once in awhile he has to sit down with a centuries’ old book.


SLWG LECTURE SERIES: Marcel Toussaint:

Writing with a co-author
By Jennifer Stolzer

“Co-Authoring a novel is one of the most pleasurable experiences you can have. We had a whale of a time, Cyrus and I.” -- Marcel Toussaint
Award-winning poet and novelist Marcel Toussaint graced the Writers Guild Thursday night lecture series on Nov. 15, 2012, with anecdotes about co-authoring his most recent novel, TERMS OF INTERMENT, with collaborator Cyrus Pars. Marcel has been writing since the age of 12. Growing up in North Africa, he was influenced by the uplifted language of French poets and authors. Writing, as he says, is “in his skin.” “If you are two people writing a novel, it clashes,” Toussaint said. In the past, he's had bad experiences co-authoring books when there were too many collaborators, but he and Pars had a well-balanced relationship. “Cyrus came to me and said 'You're a writer, will you write a book?' And I said 'I don't know. What is it about?'” For TERMS OF INTERMENT, Toussaint was head writer. “Cyrus is a superbrain and he is funny – he can come up with ideas but I'm the writer, so I have to

write the dialogue and craft the story.” He planned the whole thing over the course of one month. Three months later, he finished his first draft. He went through his last edit on a hard copy before submitting it to his editor. Toussaint shared some tips for collaborative writing. The atmosphere with a co-author cannot be tense--the two have to be compatible. Find someone creative, who will enjoy working on same project. “We would look at each other and start laughing,” Toussaint said. “He would be like, 'What did you write today?!'” He studied funerals and the process of death, and Pars brought his medical knowledge so that they could compare notes on scenes. Authors must learn compromise, Toussaint said. Changes will be made--one author may remove parts the other likes, or add things the other will not expect. Sometimes the story branches off into something unexpected or co-authors introduce new situations or new characters. “It becomes a game,” he said. “It is the most interesting and rewarding experience. It's so much fun, I can't believe what it's like!” He and Pars put their characters into many confrontations. “Some people say 'the character told me' and there is some truth to that because when you create a character, they can overwhelm you.” Toussaint has written thousands of poems and five novels. When approaching a work, he writes what's on his mind. “Do not waste what's fresh in your mind. You have


to save it, then you can always change it. Don't get stuck with novel 101 and A-B-CD, write what your mind tells you and you'll love your story.” “I have taught myself to be happy with my mind, so I always have an agreeable companion in my mind. I write to communicate my mind," Toussaint said. "Writing makes me happy.”

resounded constantly, forgotten are the lowered windows the voices of drivers barking words, that one cannot repeat, furious at the audacity of each other. Paris, you are in the twenty-first century tailored to a modern life more or less tolerant of the restlessness of a quick life, blind to the road infractions at all moments. Paris, I do not recognize you, at least, the rain stopped. Without a guide, I would not have succeeded taking the train for Oisy. Without a guide, I would not have succeeded what to do, where to confirm my airplane ticket. Without a guide, I could not have passed the customs, the conventions, then from high see you under the clouds to lose you once more. Paris, I leave you without sun and without a smile. To leave you sad I am not, hoping to return in the spring, when you will be, more charming.

By Marcel Toussaint Paris, I leave you leaving your grey sky. I regret these last moments without sun and without a smile. Paris, I do not recognize you, at least, the rain stopped.

I do not shed any tears, for three weeks were of good times to visit your fascinating neighborhoods, to observe your pedestrians, walking, running, marching, to understand that all moves in unison motorcycles, cars, tramways, bicycles, each bluffing its road rights, or creating new ones. Paris, I do not know how this engagement succeeds moving itself in unison without skirmishes without accident? With rolling motorcycles on sidewalks, cyclists not fearing obstacles returning to cut the path, of the nonchalant pedestrians, you remain without emotions. Forgotten is the car horn that in 1969

By Marcel Toussaint

In the darkness of the chamber, to the rhythm of a spry draft, the candle’s flame fluctuates


stretching out here and there gently like a soft petal, a translucent orange glow, a visual pleasure moving the shadows on the walls in dancing patterns. Still alive, my mind surfaces dark outlines, a backdrop of colorful vistas, pastoral quietude, moments of sadness and pride, of passion and hate, of pain and healing, of growth and hesitation. The end is not too far – the date a mystery of life to avoid burdening us with fear of death. We are like a tree cresting to the sky, blooms in Spring to fruit in Summer. leaves falling in Autumn anticipating Winter. Crawling like a snake, time has passed leaving traces in the sands of my mind. A recount is due to bring on a cohesive replay before being erased as if I have never been, as if not even a dream, as if an imaginative story not deserving to be seen again.

MARCEL TOUSSAINT, born bilingual in French and Spanish, added English to his repertoire as he got to be twelve. He studied Theater Arts at the Conservatoire in Rabat and was on French radio theater for six years. He was most devoted to languages and literature. He translated an American comic strip at the age of fourteen and presented it to the radio station director. This was the first rejection received by the budding writer. Toussaint holds eight gold, one silver, one bronze, and honorable mentions in poetry. His poetry is translated in various languages French, Spanish, Catalan, Dutch, German, Korean and English. Published in two dozen of anthologies, his articles and poetry appear in university journals. He was invited to read his poems at the Club des Poets in Paris, then in Valencia Spain 2008. He was featured in Observable Readings in 2008 and participates in many open mikes. He has read his poems on National Public Radio, educational television. His “Elle se Souvient” was played and sung with the Symphony Pops at Powell Hall 2000. He has taught poetry in grade and high schools. Most recently he was featured in the PBS Special “National Veterans Creative Arts Festival filmed in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Published Novel: TERMS OF INTERMENT, Poetry: POETRY OF A LIFETIME.


EVERY WEDNESDAY open mic for poetry and music at Stone Spiral Coffee & Curios, 2500 Sutton in Maplewood. Great food and beverages. Open mic gets started around 8 and runs to 10 p.m.
NEW: EVERY SATURDAY open mic 8 to 10 p.m. for poetry and music at Wired Coffee, 3860 S. Lindbergh, Sunset Hills.

POEMS PINTS & PROSE. First Tuesday of each month, Dressels Public House, 2nd floor, Euclid Avenue just north of McPherson Ave., music at 7, poetry starts around 7:30. EVERY FRIDAY URB Poetry Open Mic at Legacy Books & Café, 5249 Delmar. Doors open at 8 p.m. Admission after 9 p.m., $7. Slam competition the last Friday of each month. EVERY OTHER TUESDAY, starting around 8, open mic at The Historic Crossings, 7th and Ann. Curated by Lenny Smith. LAST FRIDAYS at Abode Coffeehouse (formerly Café Nura), 117 E. Lockwood, Webster Groves, last Friday of each month, 8 p.m. Poetry and music. St. Louis Writers Guild has a poetry and prose open mic at Kirkwood train station, Argonne Drive and Kirkwood Road, EVERY SECOND TUESDAY of the month, 7 p.m. 2nd FRIDAY NOTES at Whole Foods Town & Country, Clayton and 141, 7 to 8:30 p.m., SECOND FRIDAY of each month. Two featured poets and music. Chance Operations. Usually the LAST MONDAY of each month. Duff’s 392 N. Euclid. 7:30 p.m. $3 at the door. See Facebook. Poetry at the Point, 4th TUESDAY of each month at Focal Point, 2720 Sutton, 7:30 p.m. See for more details. Check, [temporary site] and for lots more poetry- and writing-related activities. FUTURE EVENTS Feb. 2 - Workshops for Writers: Faye Adams on Tax Tips for Writers


Feb. 12 - Station Open Mic Feb. 21- SLWG Webinar (members only): Social Media 101 March 2 - Workshops for Writers: Sit Down and Pitch March 12 - Station Open Mic March 15 - Special Event: The Missouri Poet Laureates April 1 - Deane Wagner Poetry Contest Opens April 6 - Workshop for Writers April 9 - Station Open Mic April 18 - SLWG Webinar April 26-28 - Missouri Writers' Guild Conference & SLWG Open Mic Check future issues of Here's News! for more information. Our temporary website is at

Our goal is to make The Scribe a newsletter you'll look forward to reading and be proud to share. Help us reach that goal by providing us your articles, opinion pieces, short fiction (1,500 words or less), and poems about spring or the theme for the next issue: GETTING PUBLISHED. Please contact for additional information, if needed, or send your submissions by March 15.


• • • • • Mohnish Soundararajan Brad R. Cook Jennifer Stolzer Lauren Miller T.W. Fendley