Welcome to The Persnickety Proofreader site!

February 20, 2009

Thanks for stopping by. Here you’ll find useful information to help your writing come alive, make your words leap off the page and dance around with glee. There’s plenty to see and do, so feel free to poke about. The blog is updated regularly – at least weekly – so check back often. Or you can follow us, to be automatically notified of new postings.


Three Ideas You Can Use to Write Your Book Today!

July 30, 2021

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”  – Leonardo da Vinci

You know a book is a powerful tool for a coach, trainer or consultant. You know it not only helps to establish your expertise in your market, but it can also exponentially expand your audience.

Not only that, but it’s the single best way to get the attention of mainstream press outlets, influential bloggers and podcasters, and to land paid speaking engagements. There’s virtually no downside to writing a book.

Except the actual writing of it.

If you don’t consider yourself a writer, you may think the benefits are out of your reach, but even self-avowed non-writers have options. The three following ideas can start you on your book-authorship path today!

Repurpose. This easy and popular option makes use of the hundreds or even thousands of pages of content you’ve already created, so there’s almost no writing involved. You may need to edit a bit for flow and to update ideas, but otherwise, you probably have a ready-made book sitting right on your blog.

Before you start thinking, “Why would anyone pay for a book that’s just pulled from my blog?” know this: People will pay for information that’s organized in a way that makes their life easier – even if that same information is available free elsewhere. In fact, Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.net used this technique to publish his wildly popular “31 Days to Build a Better Blog.”

Use Private-Label Content. Don’t have enough content to repurpose? No problem. There are companies that specialize in creating content you’re allowed to license and use as your own. It’s called private-label rights content, or PLR, and (depending on who you buy from) it’s high-quality, well-researched content that makes the perfect “jumping off point” for your first book.

Two things you need to know about PLR: First, because it’s sold to more than one person, it’s vital you edit the content to adapt it to your voice, your unique view of the industry, and to include your personality. Second, you cannot use PLR to publish a book on Kindle, as this is a violation of their terms of service.

Outsource. Want a book that’s all you without having to do the work? Hire a ghostwriter. These professionals will work with you to create a book that’s uniquely yours, and in the end you’ll have a well-written book with your name on it, all without typing a word.

Having a published book on your coaching resume can work wonders for your business growth. It will bring you clients, expand your audience reach and even attract some press. But it can’t do any of that if you don’t write the book in the first place. So, take one of these ideas and get your book written. You won’t regret it.

About the Author:
Linda Berry is the owner, consultant, coach, trainer and reader for the Spiritual Discovery Center in Southern California. She’s an international astrologer, summit & podcast host, and spiritual & inspirational book author. She is also the owner of Book Authors Support Services (BASS) where she guides authors in writing, publishing and marketing their books by developing an author “plan of action” that includes manuscript development and writing, the publishing path and the execution of advertising, public relations, and promotion of the book. Contact Linda at 951-665-7600 or lindaberry_@hotmail.com.



Sometimes Things Go So Wrong, You Just Have to Laugh

July 24, 2021

Sometimes things go so badly, all you can do is laugh. This morning was a terrific example of that. It would be an understatement to say this morning started out as an exercise in frustration.

I had to be up at 4:30 because we needed to leave the house by 5. So of course while I was getting ready to go, I noticed I’d misplaced my favorite hair clip (the shell and mother-of-pearl intarsia one my hubby gave me for Christmas nineteen years ago). After spending nearly ten minutes looking for it, I eventually found it hiding amid the covers on the bed.

Despite that minor time suck, we managed to get out of the house by about six past five. The sky was juuuuust starting to lighten. Why in the name of all that is small and furry would we need to be on the road that early on a Saturday morning? Good question. I had to drive Hubby to a Knights of Columbus event at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Knoxville (registration started at 7 Eastern and we live just over the line into the Central time zone, which meant as soon as we crossed into the next county, it’d be an hour later than when we left.

With the smoke particles from the Western fires in the atmosphere, the sun and the moon lately have been strange and wonderful colors. This morning was no exception. As the sun rose, it revealed itself to be an enormous glowing pink disk peeking from behind the mountains in the eastern sky. Almost worth being awake to see. Okay, it was well worth being awake to see that. It looked kind of like this – only in reverse, because that image is a sunset… but the atmospheric conditions were the same. Hubby said it reminded him of how the sun would look when they’d get up early to drive to the beach. Unfortunately, there’s no beach in my plans for the day (and hearing Billy Ocean on the radio on the drive here didn’t count).

My agenda for the day, after jettisoning the hubs, included three stops:

  • Panera Bread, to do some writing (namely this blog post)
  • Costco, to pick up a few things (including items for my upcoming book-launch party)
  • Token Game Tavern, for a Guardians of the Galaxy pinball fix

I dropped Hubby outside the cathedral just before 7:30 local time and decided I’d be an adult for once in my life and get my chores (shopping) out of the way before getting to the fun stuff (writing and pinball). So I drove across town to Costco… where I quickly found I had my pick of parking spaces, because they don’t open ’til 9:30 on Saturdays. Rather than drive all the way back to where I’d just been – the Panera location my hubby entered into the GPS was less than a mile from the cathedral – I decided I’d go to the one a few miles up the road from where my oncologist’s office used to be.

That would have been great, because it was only a few miles from where I was. Notice I said, “would have been.” I couldn’t find the darn thing. Couldn’t even find the little shopping center it’s in.

Oh well. I’d just go back to the one near the cathedral. I followed the GPS directions precisely. Pass the cathedral, turn left at the light, continue past the veterans’ cemetery… and it’d be just up ahead on the left. But where it said Panera Bread was… well, it wasn’t. There wasn’t even a building there. All I saw was a grand, swooping brick-and-stone wall heralding a residential community. But no Panera Bread.

Muttering to myself, I checked the GPS display and noticed if I kept going on that road, I’d be back on the main drag in short order. I turned back onto Kingston Pike and headed back toward the general direction of Costco, intending to find a little café or something where I could get coffee and a bagel or some other breakfast sustenance… and as I approached a traffic light, I saw, just ahead on the right, a Panera Bread. And two hours later – with my bagel long since eaten, my coffee gone cold (just how I like it) and my earphones merrily playing the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack – things are seeming distinctly brighter.

Wishing you a weekend filled with laughter and unexpected delights.


The Dreaded “R” Word: Research… Blech!

July 16, 2021

I don’t know about you, but research has never been at the top of my list of favorite things to do. In fact, if I had to categorize it, I’d put it between colonoscopy prep and trimming the entire lawn with a pair of scissors (and we have a big lawn!).

All through school, I constantly put off doing research projects. I’d leave them ’til the last possible second – often to my own detriment. But I couldn’t help it. Research wasn’t something I ever wanted to do. To be blunt, at times I’m apt to do just about anything to avoid sitting down to research something – and yes, my diversions might even include cleaning the bathroom or washing the kitchen floor (just don’t tell my husband those are viable options, okay?).

This morning, I was supposed to research crowdfunding resources for a church building project. Was I doing that? No, I was not. I suddenly decided I needed to look into planning a launch party for my forthcoming novel, Second Chances.

Yes, you read that right: I put off doing research by diving into doing research. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? Well, I never claimed to be reasonable – or rational – did I? If you check the small print somewhere on this blog (it’s somewhere, I just know it), I’m pretty sure you’ll find something about my being decorative and not necessarily functional, and under no circumstances am I to come across as even mildly rational.

But my procrastination has a purpose. My next book comes out in a little over three weeks – 25 days if you’re counting actual days. That doesn’t give me a whole lot of time to plan. I’ve already read a dozen blog posts about how (and how not) to throw a book-launch party. Naturally, that sent me down a rabbit hole toward an enticing article about putting together a digital press kit… and another about exotic (read that, “spendy”) locales for launch parties – yeah, like I’ve really got $250 an hour to drop on renting someone’s backyard in Rancho Cucamonga.

I’m thinking more low key… like a local community center. With punch and cookies and a bunch of my favorite local peeps and folks who’ve enjoyed my prior books. Oh, and maybe even some balloons.

Thus far, all I’ve done is order two medium-format posters of the front cover of Second Chances (and a whole lot of postcards to promote my first four books). I’ve got an idea of where I want to host this shindig, and the kinds of food and beverages I want to feature… I’ve even toyed with a guest list of sorts. Now I just have to reach out to my team of folks who told me months ago they’d love to help me plan and execute my launch party.

That just leaves me with one obstacle: I still have to research crowdfunding options. Anyone care to weigh in here? What are your preferred crowdsourcing sites?


Striking Back at Alzheimer’s Via Prayer and Hope

July 10, 2021

Last week we touched on a few indie authors with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working over the years. This week I want to shine a spotlight on one of those authors.

We met at the inaugural meeting of a loosely formed writers group in Manchester, Connecticut, in the middle of August 2000. We met at the cozy home of the woman who had gathered us together from various places. I met Connie at a writers workshop; others she met at bookstores, libraries or elsewhere about town. We were an experimental amalgamation of writers; we agreed we’d meet each Thursday for an initial six weeks, and then determine whether we wanted to continue in some form.

One of those aspiring authors was the Rev. Dr. Peter R.K. Brenner, who was far more unassuming than that impressive-sounding name might suggest. Completely unassuming, actually. At the time our group formed, Peter was working on a particularly dark novel about a hired assassin in Boston who would stalk his female victims and then strangle them with their own long blonde hair.

That story came as quite a shock to the rest of us in the group, who’d quickly found Peter to be a sweet, gentle and soft-spoken gentleman. That juxtaposition led to plenty of good-natured ribbing and later led me to give him the nickname “the sinister minister” – a moniker his wife and two grown sons still enjoy chuckling over today.

How Peter would laugh whenever one of us would call him that! His ever-bright eyes would twinkle with merriment and this delightful belly laugh would emerge from his diminutive frame – it was like listening to a younger, trimmer Santa!

That six-week experiment in critiquing one another’s work proved enlightening. We shed some of our initial members, welcomed others and evolved over time into what we fondly referred to as the Fabulous Fictional Five. We continued to meet fairly regularly until Peter left; and then sporadically afterward. I broke up our merry little band for good by moving out of state in 2013 (apologies to Sarah, Beth and George).

Within a couple of years, Peter grew comfortable enough with the rest of us to set aside Jake and his sadistically murderous ways in favor of something far more ominous… which had plagued him from his earliest memory. Before then, I’d never heard of the Lebensborn program – a ghastly attempt by the Nazis during WWII to further the Aryan race. In his case, his mother, an unmarried Norwegian teen, had been deemed a “worthy” candidate, and young Peter was destined to be one of the Lebensborn success stories.

Fortunately, some years after the war ended, he was adopted by an American Air Force pilot and his wife; still, years spent in an orphanage had already wreaked their treacherous havoc on his tender psyche.

While Peter had struggled with his novel, once he set aside fiction in favor of penning this memoir, he hit his stride. His writing flourished and he developed a writing style that was both beautiful and wrenchingly painful.

In 2010, Peter retired from active ministry and once his wife, Bonnie, a longtime school music teacher, retired at the end of that academic year, they relocated to the cottage his adoptive parents had owned in Chatham, Massachusetts. The following year, he published Behind the Smile: Orphaned by Hitler’s Madness.

Two years later, Peter was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. (Alzheimer’s is the thief that claimed both my husband’s maternal grandfather in 1995 and my own mother in 2015, along with various other loved ones along the way.)

Bonnie entered Peter into a day program at the Alzheimer’s Family Support Center of Cape Cod in Brewster, Massachusetts, which provides a range of activities to keep its participants’ minds engaged and bodies active. All of the center’s services are provided free of charge.

When the coronavirus pandemic struck in 2020 and isolation set in, Bonnie struggled to devise creative ways to keep Peter’s mind active. Together they culled through boxes of his sermons and prayers, amassed from his 40 years of ministry. They selected some 70 prayers they believed might inspire others to experience the comforting presence of God in their lives. The couple compiled these into a book, complemented with photos from Yosemite National Park – where Peter and Bonnie first met while both were engaged in park ministry.

As was the case for much of 2020, the December launch for Prayers for the Essence of Our Spiritual Life occurred online, with Peter reading several prayers and Bonnie providing background information on the project’s evolution.

My copy is on its way – it should arrive next week. If you’re so inclined, I would encourage you to purchase one. It’s $20 plus shipping, and the Brenners are donating all proceeds from sales of this book to the Alzheimer’s Family Support Center. When we spoke on Thursday, Bonnie said she and Peter will be presenting a check for $5,000 to the facility next week.

About the Author:
Rita M. Reali is an international award-winning author and longtime editor who most enjoys editing memoir, general fiction and romance, along with inspirational writing. She’s self-published three novels: Glimpse of Emerald, Diagnosis: Love and The Unintended Hero – the first three in the seven-volume Sheldon Family Saga – and her fourth novel, Second Chances, is due out next month. As a former disc jockey in her native Connecticut, Rita used to spend her days “talking to people who weren’t there” – a skill which transferred perfectly to her being an author. Now she talks to characters who aren’t there on “a little chunk of heaven in rural Tennessee.” Contact Rita.


A Celebration of Independence… from Big Publishers

July 3, 2021

This year, in honor of Independence Day, I’d like to offer a different take on independence and shine a spotlight on some of my favorite indie authors. Most of them are folks whose writing I’ve edited, or whom I’ve recently shepherded through the publishing process. But first among them is someone I met as a member of the Fabulous Fictional Five (a merry little band of writers in Connecticut), who was the first of us to publish a book.

Rev. Dr. Peter R.K. Brenner is a retired Congregational minister who began life in WWII Germany, born into the Nazi Lebensborn program. Over the course of Behind the Smile: Orphaned By Hitler’s Madness (Xlibris), Peter uncovers what lay beneath his lifelong dread of crying babies and his terror at the wail of sirens. This memoir is a gripping read. His second book, Prayers for the Essence of Our Spiritual Life, is available exclusively through his family’s website, with all proceeds going to the Alzheimer’s Family Support Center in Brewster, Massachusetts.

Mummy: A Journey Home is an autobiography by Darren Timothy Numer (rndproductionsla/Steel Star Publishing). This heartbreaking – although sometimes hilarious – book tracks Darren’s life in and out of the ’70s foster-care system near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, through homelessness, prostitution and drug addiction… to an astonishing conclusion. As I wrote in his Amazon book description, it’s “a tale of survival against – and triumph over – the bitterest of odds. And love that outlasts everything.”

To Win Hearts and Minds: Vietnam to Iraq is retired colonel Terry J. Mitchell’s memoir of life and service in the U.S. Army. Weaving in his love of music and his service in the U.S. Court system, Terry offers a compelling firsthand account of historical events as they shaped his life and military career.

Linnhe McCarron… where do I begin? Linnhe has woven a captivating series of novels in the Riverwood series, novels set in Tennessee’s Big South Fork region. From Fool Me Once, the first book in the five-volume set, right through the exciting conclusion in Far and Away, readers will be swept up in the lives and loves of the residents of the Riverwood horse community.

Christina M. Eder’s KNEE DEEP: A 9-Month Whirlpool of Handwritten Letters to the Creator, book three in the FROG Blog series (Felicity Press), is her most personal foray yet into obedience to the will of God. In it, this inspirational writer embarks on a nine-month celebration of daily missives to the Creator. Frequently thankful, sometimes pondering, often funny, but always genuine, Christina brings the reader on a journey of submission to the divine will.

Peter J. Marzano gleaned the kernel of Litany of Sorrows (Swan Publishers) from a disturbing dream. Some of the best stories come about as the result of dreams and this is no exception. It’s the story of Karl von Richter, a ruthless Nazi SS officer during WWII – and the chilling lengths to which he goes to advance Hitler’s Final Solution – and Katrina Amorino, a young woman on the run from Karl.

There! That ought to get you started on your summer reading adventures. Have a safe and wonderful Independence Day!

About the Author:
Rita M. Reali is an international award-winning author and longtime editor who most enjoys editing memoir, general fiction and romance, along with inspirational writing. She’s self-published three novels: Glimpse of Emerald, Diagnosis: Love and The Unintended Hero – the first three in the seven-volume Sheldon Family Saga – and her fourth novel, Second Chances, is due out next month. As a former disc jockey in her native Connecticut, Rita used to spend her days “talking to people who weren’t there” – a skill which transferred perfectly to her being an author. Now she talks to characters who aren’t there on “a little chunk of heaven in rural Tennessee.” Contact Rita.


When the Saints Come Marching In: June 29 – Saint Paul’s Day

June 26, 2021

“Saints were saints because they acted with loving kindness whether they felt like it or not.”
Dan Millman

It all started at a second-hand store with a tattered book – held together by aged masking tape – staring at me from a shelf. It called out to me.

The biography of a 16th-century saint, Martin de Porres, started me on a journey of study I call “saintology.” It’s a modern-day devotion similar to the belief in ancient deities.

Saints have dominion over certain areas of life and nature, becoming spiritual allies in a manner similar to angels. Hundreds of years of belief continue to this day for each saint’s ability to intercede on behalf of those who invoke their aid.

June 29 worldwide celebrates the first-century saint who intervenes for individuals in the writing professions. Authors, writers, publishers, publicists and journalists can all turn to Saint Paul, the patron saint of their trade. Today is his day.

This determined man with a delightful sense of humor spent his life communicating ideas he passionately believed in, spreading his message to those who needed his inspiration. He now oversees the messengers who continue this mission in their lives.

If you are experiencing a trying situation in your life and need some guidance, turn to the saints. Let them march in for you!

About the Author:
Linda Berry is the owner, consultant, coach, trainer and reader for the Spiritual Discovery Center in Southern California. She’s an international astrologer, summit & podcast host, and spiritual & inspirational book author. She is also the owner of Book Authors Support Services (BASS) where she guides authors in writing, publishing and marketing their books by developing an author “plan of action” that includes manuscript development and writing, the publishing path and the execution of advertising, public relations, and promotion of the book. Contact Linda at 951-665-7600 or lindaberry_@hotmail.com.


What’s the Big Deal with Transitions, Anyway?

June 20, 2021

In communication, as in life, transitions are critical. They enable us to shift from one topic to another smoothly, without jarring the audience (whether it’s one person reading our work in a book or magazine or an auditorium full of students in a lecture hall). When writing or speaking, it’s important to create a sense of flow to carry the audience along.

Because of this, it’s vital to ensure our transitions efficiently sweep the reader along from one idea to the next, so our communication not only flows well but is as effective as possible. Much like driving a standard vehicle, you can’t shift from first gear directly to third gear without transitioning into second. Believe me when I say your engine would not be happy about that; plus, you’d cause some appalling crunching sounds whilst grinding your gears in a most horrendous manner. Ideally, you want to ease from one gear into the next. You want a smooth transmission transition. 🙂

So it is with speaking or writing. You can’t jolt your reader (or listener) from one idea to another. How exasperating would it be to attempt to carry on a conversation with someone who kept changing the subject? It’d be like trying to talk to a golden retriever obsessed with watching a squirrel in the back yard. I’d envision it going something like this:

“Are you going to the store?”
“Yes. I need to buy milk and eggs. And we’re running low on blueberries.”
“That’s nice. Have you ever gone horseback riding?”
“Not lately. What about you?”
“On Tuesday, I’m going to paint the garage. What do you think of light blue?”

That’s not a conversation. It’s a disjointed series of questions. And it would become frustrating really quickly!

Keeping that in mind, as a creator with words, you want to be aware of your verbal shifts and the auditory cues you present to your audience. When it’s time to transition from an initial topic to a different one, you’ll want to make the change seamlessly, gracefully, to avoid surprising your reader or listener.

A transition could be as simple as a single word. Or a phrase. Sometimes it takes a sentence or an entire paragraph – it all depends on what you’re transitioning from (and to). If you’re shifting from one concept in an essay to another, a word or phrase may be adequate to signal that shift for the reader.

If you’re a novelist transitioning from one scene to another within a chapter, you may need to use a slightly longer or more complex transition – maybe an entire sentence – to carry the reader from the prior scene to the upcoming one. Like this:

“Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Harriet had just broken the news to John.”

But in some cases, as in a scene shift, you may choose to use a blank line or a trio of asterisks to denote a scene break. This gives the reader a visual cue that something is different without your having to employ a linguistic shift.

***

However, sometimes you don’t want a smooth glide between subjects. At those times, you might prefer to employ a literary technique that delivers an unexpected left turn to haul your reader up short. So, despite what I just spent several hundred words explaining, there’s actually an appropriate time and place for abrupt shifts, without transitions.

For instance, on occasion you want to leave your reader hanging at the end of a chapter, to make them wonder what’s going to happen next. It’s known as a cliffhanger, and it’s designed to impel your reader forward, to discover what’s about to occur. Often, though, authors use chapter breaks to shift the focus from one set of characters to another, leaving the reader with a sense of (deliberate) anxiety about what’s about to befall the characters from the previous chapter.

But for the most part, you want to create smooth shifts in your writing, to convey a continuity of thoughts or ideas, to communicate more readily with your audience.

Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, provides this handy reference guide for its students (and others) who may be writing essays, theses or other research documents. It’s jam packed with delicious transition words and phrases you can incorporate into your own writing, in case you happen to find yourself at a loss for coming up with some of them on your own.

Not to be outdone, the thoughtful and clever folks at The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin have likewise amassed a handy compilation of transitional words a phrases.

So, going forward, henceforth and forthwith, make it a point to incorporate a fitting transition or two within your writing. Yes, I realize I kind of overdid the transitions in the previous sentence; I did that on purpose, to make a point. Don’t overdo it with the transitions.

Now, to borrow a directive from my adopted sister and primary motivator, Monica Hackett: “Get to work and write something!”

About the Author:
Rita M. Reali is an international award-winning author and longtime professional editor who most enjoys editing memoir, general fiction and romance, along with inspirational writing. She’s self-published three novels: Glimpse of Emerald, Diagnosis: Love and The Unintended Hero – the first three in the seven-volume Sheldon Family Saga; her fourth novel, Second Chances, is due out this summer. As a former disc jockey in her native Connecticut, Rita used to spend her days “talking to people who weren’t there” – a skill which transferred perfectly to her being an author. Now she talks to characters who aren’t there on “a little chunk of heaven in rural Tennessee.” Contact Rita.


Contests: A Great Way to Seek Validation as a Writer

June 12, 2021

I’ve got a friend who enters sweepstakes. Just for fun. She’s done it for years and has won quite an array of prizes. I think she’s even won a crate of mangoes, a baby platypus and a lifetime supply of Doritos. Don’t quote me on that, though. It doesn’t matter what the prize is; Linda simply enjoys the thrill of sending off entries to dozens of contests each month, then waiting to hear if she’s won. It’s kind of a small-scale scenario of what genius Laslo Hollyfeld did in the 1985 film, Real Genius.

Who’s Laslo Hollyfeld?
The former student at the fictional Pacific Tech churned out a mind-numbing 1.6 million entries to the Frito-Lay Sweepstakes, for a statistical probability of winning 32.6 percent of the advertised prizes. It was based on an actual stunt undertaken by a handful of Caltech student geniuses who, in 1975, flooded a McDonald’s sweepstakes with 1.2 million entries, expecting to garner approximately 35 percent of the prizes; their final haul ended up being a mere 20 percent (including the car).

But on the topic of entering writing contests… literally dozens of organizations sponsor writing contests practically year round, for just about every type of writing you can imagine: flash fiction, essays, 53-word stories (I’m not making that up!), poetry (sonnets, 5-7-5 poetry, humorous poems, etc.), short stories, creative nonfiction, horror, new voices…

All you need to do is find one that suits your preferred writing area and read their submission guidelines carefully before submitting (especially if there’s an entry fee involved – you don’t want to spend money only to learn your submission doesn’t meet their parameters and find your entry disqualified.

Entering writing contests is a great way to hone your craft. Writing community Reedsy promotes weekly short-fiction writing contests based on a variety of writing prompts. If you’re new to entering writing contests, you may want to start small, taking on a prompt that appeals to you. If you win, great. If not, keep writing. And keep submitting your work.

Writing contests are a terrific means to receive validation of your skill as a writer. Not that Aunt Martha’s consistent praise isn’t welcome… but let’s face it: The folks who love you are naturally inclined to say your writing is terrific. What’s really a thrill is receiving impartial confirmation of your writing abilities in the form of recognition (e.g., a prize) in a legitimate writing contest. That can work wonders to bolster your sense of worth as an author.

Where Can You Find Contests to Enter?
Do an online search for writing contests. A search I just did for “writing contests” returned in excess of 69.7 million results. If you wish, you may narrow it down a bit by adding your preferred genre… unless you like plowing through thousands of pages of results.

Some of these contests are free to enter; others have entry fees. The ones that have fees sometimes offer discounts for early-bird entrants. You’ll also want to be aware of entry deadlines and parameters. Some contests are open only to books published within the past year; others accept books published previously. Some are even open to unfinished (but promising) manuscripts. It bears repeating: Read the entry instructions carefully.

In addition to its spectacular array of writing prompts, Reedsy also has a great listing of writing contests you’ll want to check out. So does Smart Blogger.

Jerry Jenkins lists a slew of contests – many of them international (with prize amounts listed in pounds). You can also check out Poets & Writers. Their list of writing contests, grants and awards is extensive and easily searchable.

And this recent post from The Write Life lists 40 writing contests that feature cash prizes. Cha-ching!

Is My Writing Really Good Enough?
Is your work good enough to enter into a contest? You’ll never know until you give it a shot.

Probably the best way to ensure it’s up to par is to engage the services of a professional editor – even if you’re “just” entering a short story competition. Your work deserves to be the best it can be, no matter the length. It deserves to shine!

One woman recently approached me because she wanted to enter a novel excerpt into a contest and knew it needed some polishing. She was thrilled with my editing recommendations and, although she didn’t win a prize in that particular contest, she came away with the foundation for a stronger finished novel.

Check out some of these contests, select the one(s) that best suit your work, and give it a whirl. And if you want a set of professional eyes to give it a once over before you submit, contact me for an estimate. And when you submit, you may end up winning… and few experiences are as gratifying as seeing these two glorious words in print: “You won.” Trust me on this. 🙂

About the Author:
Rita M. Reali is an author and longtime professional editor who most enjoys editing memoir, general fiction and romance, along with inspirational writing. She’s self-published three novels: Glimpse of Emerald, Diagnosis: Love and The Unintended Hero – the first three in the seven-volume Sheldon Family Saga – and her fourth novel, Second Chances, is due out this summer. As a former disc jockey in her native Connecticut, Rita used to spend her days “talking to people who weren’t there” – a skill which transferred perfectly to her being an author. Now she talks to characters who aren’t there on “a little chunk of heaven in rural Tennessee.” Contact Rita.


Confessions of a Wholly Unrepentant Author

June 5, 2021

I have a confession to make. Two, actually.

I admit it. I’m in love with a younger man. And an older man. Shocking, right? But – probably most shocking of all – my husband of almost 29 years is okay with this arrangement. He doesn’t mind, as long as they remain fictional. Which they will.

Gary (the younger man) and Marc (the older man) are characters in my Sheldon Family Saga (a seven-book series). The second and third volumes recently took honorable mention in the 2020 Kops-Fetherling International Book Award competition. Diagnosis: Love won for romance in the Legacy category (for novels published prior to 2020); and The Unintended Hero won for popular fiction.

But back to my confession…

I’ve been in love with Gary Sheldon since he first materialized in the middle of Sister Teresita’s freshman English class. I was fourteen and wholly smitten by this amorphous, disembodied voice in my head who was yammering about the price of broccoli. I didn’t even care that he was enchanted by another woman. He also wasn’t younger than me at the time – he was 21… which (aside from the fact he existed solely in my head) put him squarely off limits.

I tried to get him to shut up. But he and Michaela (the young woman he was trying to amuse with his cruciferous rantings) were so immersed in their banter, I didn’t stand a chance of getting them to cooperate. So there I was, trying to pay attention (I still don’t remember what Sister T was talking about), and they’re discussing broccoli and trading recipes.

Finally, they piped down long enough for me to get the gist of whatever it was the good Sister was saying… but they showed up again during Sister Christine’s earth science class.

Over a period of months, Gary took shape. And what a shape it was! Aside from his pleasantly resonant voice (did I mention he’s a radio announcer?), the first thing I noticed was his expressive grey eyes… and his six-foot-two frame – broad shoulders tapering to a trim waist; tanned forearms and nicely toned biceps from a summer spent helping his grandfather tackle an outdoor construction project. He looks equally hot in a suit or jeans and a t-shirt. Altogether yummy! Although even after forty-plus years, I’m still not sure of the precise shade of Gary’s hair. It’s dark enough to be called brown, but light enough to be marginally lightened by the summer sun. Of course, considering he’s in his mid-50s now, it’s shot through with grey, which just makes him look distinguished.

Gary’s a complex character. He’s smart, playful and mischievous, and he’s certainly made more than his share of mistakes over the years, but he takes his family and his faith seriously. He prays the rosary regularly, teaches first-grade CCD at his parish and has even taught a first-year confirmation class. He seems like he’s got it all together, but underneath it all, he’s a wreck… still, he’s a work in progress and he tries to keep that in mind, even at his most vulnerable.

As Gary’s work life evolved, Marc Lindsay showed up. Truth be told, Marc’s real surname is Lindemeyr (and he’s highly protective of his identity, so don’t tell anyone I told you that). At first, he was just the nighttime guy at the radio station where Gary was afternoon-drive announcer and music director – little more than a peripheral character. But then (and this didn’t happen ’til decades later) he went and fell in love with Gary’s sister, and merited his own story. That required a fair bit of character development. And little by little, I had a character I found thoroughly irresistible. Did I already describe Gary as altogether yummy? Scratch that. Gary’s handsome. Marc is the one who’s altogether yummy! Five-foot-nine, half Norwegian and half Portuguese, with a compact swimmer’s body (you should see that guy in swim trunks!). This onetime lifeguard (and architecture student at Yale) has his dad’s light-brown hair and his mother’s mahogany eyes and Mediterranean skin tone.

But it’s Marc’s sweet, unassuming nature that made me fall in love with him. He’s tender and affectionate; kind to children and animals; and he’s so emotionally damaged you want to (in my niece’s words) “take him home and give him a hug and a cookie.”

My combination life/writing coach and I have been fighting bitterly over Marc these past several months. She insists he’s hers, because I already laid claim to Gary years ago. But I’m proving far too tenacious (ever wonder where the phrase “stubborn Italian” came from?) and – in a word – selfish to relinquish either of them. I created them; they’re mine and I’m not giving them up.

So there you have it: my literary confession. I’m in love with my fictional characters and I’ll fight any woman who tries to come between us.

Okay, now it’s your turn. Fess up: Which literary characters are you (or have you been) besotted with?

About the Author: Rita M. Reali is an author and longtime professional editor who most enjoys editing memoir, general fiction and romance, along with inspirational writing. She’s self-published three novels: Glimpse of Emerald, Diagnosis: Love and The Unintended Hero – the first three in the seven-volume Sheldon Family Saga – and her fourth novel, Second Chances, is due out this summer. As a former disc jockey in her native Connecticut, Rita used to spend her days “talking to people who weren’t there” – a skill which transferred perfectly to her being an author. Now she talks to characters who aren’t there on “a little chunk of heaven in rural Tennessee.” Contact Rita.


Never Wish Someone a “Happy” Memorial Day

May 29, 2021

It happens every year at this time. Someone will invariably wish me a “Happy Memorial Day.”

I’m sure these ill-informed folks mean well – certainly they don’t mean any offense. But in reality, that’s tantamount to saying, “Someone you love is dead. Gee, isn’t that terrific? Let’s grill up some burgers!”

We Americans have all sorts of days devoted to recognizing those who now serve or who have served in the U.S. military. Armed Forces Day (celebrated annually on the third Saturday in May) honors those who currently serve. We celebrate Veterans Day (note the absence of an apostrophe) on November 11. Formerly Armistice Day, established to commemorate the signing of the armistice that ended World War I, this annual national observance now recognizes and honors all those who served in various branches of the military. An interesting side note: In Britain and Canada, November 11 is known as Remembrance Day; in France it’s still referred to as Armistice Day.

Some other military remembrance days include Four Chaplains Day (February 3), Vietnam War Veterans Day (March 29), V-E Day (May 8), Peace Officers Memorial Day (May 15), D-Day (June 6), Women Veterans Day (June 12), Korean War Veterans Armistice Day (July 27), Buffalo Soldiers Day (July 28), Purple Heart Day (August 7), Navajo Code Talkers Day (August 14), V-J Day (September 2), Patriot Day (September 11), POW/MIA Recognition Day (third Friday in September), VFW Day (September 29), Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (December 7) and Wreaths Across America Day (third Saturday in December).

You can learn more about these and other significant days for military personnel here and here.

But Memorial Day (also called Decoration Day) – observed on the last Monday in May – is the one day set aside to commemorate those brave men and women in uniform who gave their lives in the service of their country. Notice I didn’t say, “celebrated on the last Monday in May,” because honoring the dead in war is always a solemn affair. Always. And Memorial Day is a time to pause amid the revelry of cookouts and beach outings to recognize the sacrifices of those who gave their lives in the name of freedom and preservation of liberty – at home and abroad.

To you I say, “Have an appropriately respectful observance of Memorial Day. And go ahead and enjoy a burger or two… and maybe a lovely beverage.”

But, on this solemn occasion, to those servicemen and -women who willingly gave up their freedom – and their lives – I say, “Thank you for your service and your sacrifice.”

About the Author: Rita M. Reali is an author and longtime professional editor who most enjoys editing memoir, general fiction and romance, along with inspirational writing. She’s self-published three novels: Glimpse of Emerald, Diagnosis: Love and The Unintended Hero – the first three in the seven-volume Sheldon Family Saga – and her fourth novel, Second Chances, is due out this summer. As a former disc jockey in her native Connecticut, Rita used to spend her days “talking to people who weren’t there” – a skill which transferred perfectly to her being an author. Now she talks to characters who aren’t there on “a little chunk of heaven in rural Tennessee.” Contact Rita.