My apologies to The Writer magazine

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I e-mailed them this week to report another issue missing, this one July 2009. The first time they credited my account with an extra month were prepared to send me another copy.

Lo and behold, rummaging through my book bag I found it!

I called them up and told them to cancel my complaint. They were very nice about it, although I felt very sheepish. I recalled how one classmate my senior year of high school told our teacher someone had “abducted” his pen; then he looked amongst his other pens in his book bag and—you guessed it—found his pen.

If you love to write but don’t have a subscription to The Writer (or even Writer’s Digest), I strongly recommend you do so.

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Almost done with my Writer’s Digest assignment

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I’ve gone through twenty or so drafts in my 750-word assignment for Writer’s Digest. The assignment is about a woman allowed to travel through time to change one thing she regrets. It’s been an interesting experience: using the Strunk and White adage of omitting useless words.

I’m basing the story on where I went to college, Pensacola Christian College. Some of the characters in the story are based on people I knew, but upon advice from my creative consultant, the lovely Mrs. Zowie, I have changed the names. Nothing bad, though.

Hard to believe I finished at PCC in 1995. Seems like a lifetime ago. I started off there as a commercial writing major but changed to history with an English minor. I wrongly thought at the time I didn’t need a major with so much graphic design. If I had to do it over again at PCC, I would’ve double majored in English and commercial writing.

Adventures in journalism

Back in 2002, while working at the Randolph Wingspread at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, I was given a dream assignment.

Go cover Air Force Day at Dallas Cowboys training camp.

Being a lifelong Cowboys fan, this assignment seemed too good to be true. I took my credentials, camera, notebook, pen and voice recorder and drove down to the Alamodome.

Inside, I chatted with a few people and marveled how tiny the Alamodome was. This place is way too small to house an NFL team, I thought. At the time, rumors swirled around San Antonio that the city was trying to court the New Orleans Saints. They’d also expressed interest in becoming the new home of the Arizona Cardinals.

And then the players came in for practice.

I recognized many. Dat Nguyen. Chad Hutchinson. Darren Woodson. Quincy Carter, a tall granite statue with no body fat. And, of course, Emmitt Smith. Joe Avezzano, the then-special teams coach and Dave Campo, the then-head coach.

During my time there, I even got to briefly interview Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. I was nervous. I asked him what he thought it meant to the team to have the Air Force come to visit. He gave a nice response.

I took lots of photos and right as I was about to wrap it up, I thought it would be a great idea to go to Emmitt and get some comments from him. But before I could, they announced that that afternoon’s practice session had begun.

Rats.

Writing news

I continue to plug away at my novel and at some short stories. Lots of re-writes on the novel, and I have a few short stories that I hope will be ready soon. One I’m starting to market out.

I wonder why so many magazines, in this day and age, still insist on snail mail submissions? Why not accept e-mail queries or manuscripts that are pasted into a text box? Why waste paper?

Having fun on the satirical side of my blog. You know you’re writing great satire when you see it elsewhere on the web and people respond to it like it’s real news.

Adventures in Craig’s List

You have to love Craig’s List. The only reason I respond to writing assignments, post jobs, etc., is because every so often, I’ll get a nibble that turns into something good. It can indeed be as frustrating as boating to the middle of Lake Huron in hopes of finding the two or three great fish amidst all the countless guppies.

Well, most recently I posted two ads: one for my writing services and another for my services as a cargo van driver (a family member has a cargo van they’ve told me they’d let me drive if they could find an interested company). Even though I clearly state I don’t want ads that require an initial investment on my part or get-rich-quick schemes, these indeed comprise most of the responders.

As far as the writing ads go, the funniest ones tell you they can pay $5 for a 500-word article. Well, for one client I get paid 25 cents per word. For a 500-word article, that would be $125.

It’s said in life and is no different in the professional world of writing: if you want to pay cheap, you should expect cheap writing.

Richard works on fiction

I’ve gone through about 10 drafts so far of my Writer’s Digest 750-word short story about the woman who travels through time. As I write, I wonder what’s the best way to approach the assignment: write, edit to 750 words and then work with what you have to create a great story or write a nice story, polish it and then edit down to 750 words.

These assignments are indeed challenging. James Cameron, who directed sci-fi classic The Terminator, once said he was forced to cut scenes he was “in love with” in order to get the movie down to a desired length. I see the same rings true in short fiction.

But of course, short fiction can be a great exercise in whittling away needless words and creating a nice, tight story. I’ve read books before and have thought afterward that they were 50 pages too long. I remember a sci-fi novel, where the author goes on for about 20 pages about creatures flying through the Saturnian atmosphere when five would’ve been sufficient. And then there’s the whole space opera where one astronaut’s wife divorces him and shacks up with her divorce attorney while one female astronaut tries to bed just about every man on the ship.

You get the point.

So, as I work on this story, I remember the stern but helpful advice Stephen King gives in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft: to write well, you must read a lot. I find myself reading Harry Turtledove and Ray Bradbury-style fantasy along with suspense, sci-fi and Christian-themed books since these are the types of fiction I would someday like to write.

Next story contest for Writer’s Digest

Delves into a woman who has the chance to travel through time and change one event in her life.

I’m excited since this is something I feel I can do something with. At this point, I’ll say this: at Christian colleges, some women go there for a certain type of degree. It’s called an M.R.S. degree. Anyone who’s ever attended one of those colleges (such as Pensacola Christian College [where I went], Bob Jones University, Hyles-Anderson College, Tennessee Temple University, et al) knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Job search

I interviewed for one newspaper job. Would rather not say where it’s at, but the interview went well. At the very least, it looks like I’ll be working there part-time. And it’s close to home.

I actually encountered a potential story as a librarian in the area (sorry, but I can’t say where yet) has the same surname as a famous Detroit hockey star. Her husband’s not related to him, but when the star was alive, the husband was good friends with him.