Monthly Archives: December 2009

10 Writing Resolutions for 2010

1.  Become a Word Whisperer.  Logan Pearsall Smith said “What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers.”

 2.  Stop misspelling recieve and enviornment

 3.  Figure out a way to convince the IRS that every trip to Wal-Mart is a deductible writing expense.  It’s research!  After all, what better place can you go to find some crazy characters to write into a story?

 4.  Remember the difference between affect and effect.  Stopping to look it up each time has an unfortunate affect effect on the flow of my, uh, whatever I was talking about.

 5.  Reread at least five of my favorite books from childhood…you know, the classics, like Anne of Green Gables, Little Women and Superfudge. 

 6.  Pursue agents with greater tenacity.  (Hmmm…maybe ten-a-city is the right formula!)

 7.  Adopt a method for organizing the rejection letters piling up in my office. I’m thinking that something like the Dewey Decimal System might be adequate.  

 8.  Find a market for a story about my oddball hobby: listening to 1930s comedy radio shows.  (No, I’m not a 90-year old woman, thank you very much.)

 9.  Be a student of humor.  Author Patricia Case recommends improving your “funny” by studying comedy-writing techniques.  Or to quote The Cat in the Hat, “It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how.” 

 10.  Inspire others to work harder at their writing craft.  Then, when they are successful, they can encourage me to keep going.  (Hey, that’s YOU I’m talking about!)

 Happy New Year!  May we all achieve that multi-million-dollar book contract sometime in the next 12 months–that way, we’ll have no need to write a resolution list again next year. 

 Amy Dee Stephens

“Words carry time and culture.”


Filed under Inspiration for Writers, My Philosophy on Writing, Some Writing Humor

The Reality Show Version of Writing a Book


Tonight, I was in the mood for some humor.  If you can pull yourself away from your favorite reality show–you might enjoy this metaphoric piece I wrote shortly after the publication of my zoo history book.   

Book: Oklahoma City Zoo; 1902-1959

“Ding dong the book is put to bed!” That’s the song I’m singing right now, since my manuscript, The Oklahoma City Zoo; 1902-1959, is resting peacefully at the publishing house in Chicago.  It began its life four long years ago, whining and nagging to be researched—throwing guilt trips in my path that if I didn’t do it, no one else would. It was up to me to drag fifty years of forgotten zoo history out of the attic and begin a trip down the Antiques Roadshow lane. 

 Five-hundred hours later the scraps of information began to take on a personality; a strong storyline full of animal whimsy, with an occasional outburst of history. Once it was written, however, the ungrateful brat demanded a break and sat on the shelf for a year, wallowing in rejection. I finally had to force it to overcome its Fear Factor. I had put way too much effort into raising it for it not to be a Survivor. So, I reintroduced it back into society, sending out letters on its behalf to three reputable publishers. All three pursued the manuscript to a degree, but at the end of The Amazing Race, I had to tell the biggest Contender, “You’re fired!” and Apprentice it over to a smaller press.

 This meant my precious brainchild had to undergo an Extreme Make-over. Another 500 hours of Overhaulin’ was required. At first, cutting unnecessary words was painful. It resisted going on the diet, complaining that it was unfair to be The Biggest Loser. After firming itself into tight, concise little captions, however, its inner beauty began to show. It decided it might be America’s Next Top Model yet. The facelift included a city-wide search for over 200 Candid Camera photos to fit the manuscript’s pretty little text. Being confined to only 128 pages, the photos kept Trading Spaces, and in some cases, were cut altogether.

 Next came agonizing weeks of deciding What Not to Wear on the book’s cover. It needed Bachelor appeal if it was going to attract bookstore customers. Even after the final deadline, the editor and I were still searching, a bit desperately then, for the right photo. I scoured the options one last time, when suddenly, I yelled out, “I Want That! one.” Somehow we had both missed the best choice—two children looking at a leopard.

 Finally, my labor of love has become comfortable with its new image. No more tweaking or rearranging, no Starting Over. I’ve instilled as much historical integrity into it as possible, and it is ready to face the readers of the world with confidence.

 I, too, have changed through this process. I’ve learned to sacrifice words, interpret nearly-obliterated newspaper text on a microfiche machine, and harass companies for photo licensing. I’ve freed up space in my head where fifty years of history had been rattling around.

 In “reality” though, the best thing about raising this non-fiction book was knowing that it would spark good memories and conversations. I keep imagining a grandma saying, “I remember when Judy the Elephant came to the zoo. Let me tell you about it.” From the beginning, I knew that this book would not make me a Joe Millionaire, but Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? I’ll cash my small royalty check and take comfort in knowing that the next historian who gets a bug to write about the Oklahoma City Zoo’s past will actually have a resource to use. Just think how much less work they will have to do!

 Now that my manuscript is grown and gone, things are much more peaceful around This Old House. I’m living The Simple Life. I come home in the evenings and have time to piddle around with my new hobby—no, not watching reality television—writing. Writing glorious, creative, non-factual, no-photographs-needed fiction!


Filed under My Philosophy on Writing, Some Writing Humor, Zoo

Writing quotes to start a blog by…

Today, I’m opening this writing blog in order to connect with other writers and to promote myself as a freelancer.  It seems appropriate to begin with a few of the quotes that have kept me going after long hours at the computer.   

“Nobody ever wrote a book because he had the time.”

I don’t have the author’s name handy–but let me tell you, he/she speaks the truth!  Only busy people get books written.  ( Right, writers?) 

“The professional writer is the amateur who didn’t quit.” (Richard Bach)

This one gave me hope at the beginning of my career, and continues to give me hope–because, as far as I’ve come, I’m still not where I want to be!

And finally….

“The more people you know, the better your chances are for being heard.” ~ Ashley Kraas

This is why I’m venturing to start this blog.  (Special thanks to author, Susan York Myers, for encouraging me to take a break from writing to do some marketing.)


Filed under Inspiration for Writers, Uncategorized