America, How I Weep

 

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Courtesy of “Beverly & Pack” via Flickr

 

America, How I Weep

A Poem, by Shari Lopatin

©Shari Lopatin, 2016

 

Oh America,

How I weep for thee!

My once beautiful muse,

My distant refuge.

Your maternal embrace

Protected our grace, and welcomed

My family whole.

 

But now I stand atop your dream,

In cowardice and fear I glean …

We watch with haste,

Such distaste,

And mourn the death of hope

And faith.

 

America, when will you rise?

And crush the hate which I despise?

With this prayer,

I say to thee,

Revive the truth in us … in me.

 

 

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Workspace Design Ideas to Increase Your Productivity and Creativity

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Today, I have a cool guest post from a company called Modernize. I don’t usually allow companies to guest post on Rogue Writer, but these guys pitched an idea on decorating your writing space to help inspire creativity and increase productivity!

So naturally, I just had to say yes. I found these tips helpful, and the pictures a lot of fun. I hope you do, too. 🙂

Workspace Design Ideas to Increase Your Productivity and Creativity

By Jane Blanchard

No matter if you’re an artist in a studio or a businessperson in an office, your work environment has a major impact on your productivity and efficiency. Because of your surroundings, you could be unknowingly making it harder to focus and concentrate. It’s bad enough when your work space isn’t conducive to getting tasks accomplished and making headway on important projects, but perhaps your work space is even physically and emotionally draining.

When you work from home and depend upon your own diligence to ensure that obligations are met and important duties are fulfilled, the design of your home work space is one of the most important factors in your productivity. In fact, studies have shown that the most important determinant in an your ability to focus is your physical surroundings.

With that said, here are some tips and design ideas for a workspace at home that will help make you as productive, creative, and efficient as you can be.

Ample Lighting

Though it’s often overlooked, lighting is crucial to a successful work space. Without sufficient lighting, you’ll be straining your eyes in order to see, which can cause debilitating headaches; you’ll also experience fatigue much faster than you normally would, and it’s been said that spending prolonged periods of time in dark spaces can produce depression or exacerbate depressive symptoms.

Via Modernize
Via Modernize

This home office has plenty of natural light coming from the large windows and skylights, but also has plenty of ambient lighting installed for working into the night time if need be. Additionally, experts have said positioning the desk in front of a window to give you a view of natural scenery can have a calming effect, helping to prevent you from succumbing to stress while also inspiring and promoting your creativity.

Desk and Chair

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Via Modernize

No matter what type of work you do, a good desk and a chair are incredibly important and are likely the center of your work space. Anyone who’s sat at a desk only to spend several minutes adjusting the seat and scooting the chair around to find a vantage point that lets you reach all the desk’s contents knows that, in terms of comfort and productivity, it’s incredibly important to have a desk and chair that fit your individual body. According to ergonomics, the top of your computer screen should be at or below eye level, both of your feet should reach the floor, and you should use an adjustable chair that allows you to recline occasionally to help reduce pressure on your spine and avoid back pain.

Color

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Via Houzz

You might choose your paint colors based on a whim or what strikes you as attractive on any given day, but you should be aware that colors significantly affect people on an emotional and even a physical level. According to color psychology experts, when you want to boost focus you should consider surrounding yourself with lots of greens. Teal and blue-green colors can inspire motivation, and blue has been said to inspire productivity specifically.


Hi! I’m Shari Lopatin. I’m a professional writer, editor, journalist, and social media strategist with a decade of experience in media and communications. I live in Phoenix, Ariz. and blog about finding a literary agent, writing tips, social media or tech trends, and sometimes current events. Oh yeah, I also edit novels for self-published authors or writers needing help before querying literary agents. Are we friends yet on Facebook and Twitter?


Up to 40 Rejections, and Counting

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I’m officially baptized into the world of creative writing. I’ve been rejected by 40 literary agents … and the number keeps climbing.

Is it frustrating? Yes. Is it angering. Definitely. Am I giving up? HELL NO.

Why? Because I’m a writer, dammit. And writers get rejected over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. We’re the foot soldiers of the artistic world.

Of course I sometimes ask myself, “What the heck are you doing, Shari?” Then, however, I read articles such as this one, from Fast Company: “Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s reassuring life advice for struggling artists.

COOL!

Did you know that Mad Men was rejected for seven years—seven freakin’ years—before AMC finally said yes? And before Mr. Weiner even had the success and connections to create Mad Men, he spent nearly his entire first decade of post-college life struggling as a no-name writer in Hollywood, getting told NO over and over and over and over and over and over again?

This man is a veteran, folks. Out of everything he said, I think this was the most important piece of advice:

“You can’t set a clock for yourself. If you do, you are not a writer.” –Matthew Weiner

May we all keep fighting along, and may we all realize that setting a clock is the ultimate defeat. Keep writing, my friends. Keep writing.


Hi! I’m Shari Lopatin. I’m a professional writer, editor, journalist, and social media strategist with a decade of experience in media and communications. I live in Phoenix, Ariz. and blog about finding a literary agent, writing tips, social media or tech trends, and sometimes current events. Oh yeah, I also edit novels for self-published authors or writers needing help before querying literary agents. Are we friends yet on Facebook and Twitter?


 

Do You Need a Proofreader or Copyeditor?

Punctuation Mistake

What’s the difference between a proofreader and copyeditor? You’ve heard the terms, but which do you need?

I’ll admit, it can be quite confusing. And depending on your project, you may need both (gasp!).

The Proofreaders

These are the guys with the eagle eyes. The ones who will catch the missed periods or the typos where you meant to say, “and,” but really typed, “ad.”

Proofreaders scan your writing strictly for the purpose of making sure it’s flawless. They look for misspelled words, grammatical mistakes, tense agreement, typos, and so forth.

However, proofreaders do not edit for style or flow, and they will not make suggestions on how you can improve your writing.

The Copyeditors

Copyeditors do exactly as their title implies: edit copy. Proofreading may often be included in copyediting services, but that is not the copyeditor’s main job.

If you hire a copyeditor, he or she will look for structure, flow, style, and ways to improve your actual content. If your project is a whitepaper, the copyeditor may look for ways to simplify text or improve your marketing “hook.” If your project is a novel, the copyeditor may read for story arcs, dialogue, narration and voice.

Which should you hire: proofreader or copyeditor?

If you need someone to edit a 10- or 20-page report, or possibly even some website content, I might recommend hiring a copyeditor.

However, if you’re a self-published author, I suggest you invest in hiring BOTH. Why? The copyeditor will look for ways to improve your story, characters, plot line, narration, flow, voice, story arcs, etc. However, for a manuscript that’s 80,000 words long, you’ll want to hire a second pair of eagle eyes—a proofreader—to ensure your work is flawless before sending it out for the world to read.

Other than that, which type of editor you need really boils down to you:

  • Are you happy with the way your project sounds, but just need someone to scan it for mistakes? Hire a proofreader.
  • Do you need stylistic or structural help? Call a copyeditor.

What have been your experiences working with copyeditors and proofreaders? Do you have anything to add to this blog post?


Hi! I’m Shari Lopatin. I’m a professional writer, editor, journalist, and social media strategist with a decade of experience in media and communications. I live in Phoenix, Ariz. and blog about finding a literary agent, writing tips, social media or tech trends, and sometimes current events. Oh yeah, I also edit novels for self-published authors or writers needing help before querying literary agents. Are we friends yet on Facebook and Twitter?


 

3 Lessons from My Year Without Blogging

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I’ve been back to blogging for a few months now, but before that, I stepped away from the blogging world for a year to finish my novel.

When I re-launched Rogue Writer, one of my longtime blogging buddies, Nina Badzin, commented, “I would love to see a post on how it felt to step away and how it feels to be back. Did you stay off social media a lot more, too?”

Nina girl, I can always count on you for writing prompts! Thanks to Nina’s question, I’m now writing this post. So here are the top three lessons I took away from my year off blogging:

1) If you’re working on a larger creative project, DON’T BLOG. It will get in the way of your goal.

I make my living off freelance writing, social media strategy, and content marketing. So trust me when I say this confession was hard for me to publish!

When I stopped blogging, I was working a full-time job as social media manager for a large health insurance company. I worked 50-hour weeks. During that time, I was also chipping away at the novel which I’m now pitching to literary agents.

I had only a few hours of writing time each week. If I’d continued blogging, none of that creative energy would have gone toward my novel, and today, I’d be blogging about how I want to finish my book.

Blogging is fun, but it can sap energy and time which you may need to reach a larger goal. There will always be room later to pick up where you left off on your blog.

2) Taking a blogging break allows you to just enjoy life. Seriously.

When you’re blogging every week (sometimes more), you get caught in the constant need for fresh content. You’ve developed an expectation among your followers that you’ll publish new stuff. After awhile, that pressure can add stress to your life, rather than release it.

When I stepped away from blogging, I felt a sense of relief. My mind wasn’t constantly “on,” and I was able to immerse myself into the world I created for my book. THIS was relaxing. I also enjoyed life a bit more, not having to turn every experience into a piece of online entertainment.

3) You step back and use social media for its original purpose: to be social.

While I was blogging, I tended to use social media for promotional purposes. Build my presence. Increase engagement. Yada yada yada.

But when I stopped blogging, I also stopped posting to my public profiles. I occasionally posted, but it was never on a schedule. Instead, I stuck to using my personal Facebook profile, where I connect with “real” friends and family. I commented on pictures of my friends’ kids, posted photos of my cat, and shared my progress toward finishing my book.

This type of interaction proved to be much more gratifying, and sometimes even fed my creativity!

Have YOU ever taken a blogging break? I’m curious, what did you learn from it?


Hi! I’m Shari Lopatin. I’m a professional writer, editor, journalist, and social media strategist with a decade of experience in media and communications. I live in Phoenix, Ariz. and blog about finding a literary agent, writing tips, social media or tech trends, and sometimes current events. Oh yeah, I also edit novels for self-published authors or writers needing help before querying literary agents. Are we friends yet on Facebook and Twitter?


The New Arm of my Business to Help WRITERS Launches Today!

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I am stoked. I am seriously, seriously stoked. For the past couple of months, I’ve been running my Countdown Series all in preparation for this day.

I am excited to announce that, as of today, I’m expanding my business, Shari’s Ink, to include novel editing services!

Specifically, I will edit novels for:

  • Self-published authors
  • Writers needing help on their manuscripts before querying literary agents

[Learn more about this new service!]

As many of you know, I’ve been an avid reader for years, so expanding my business to include editing novels is exhilarating for me. Part of my job will be to get lost in other stories and worlds. I’m a lucky girl.

My First Author Client Speaks Out

As part of my launch, a very special person—my first author client, Buck Barry—agreed to speak out about the work I completed for him. He says …

“I would highly recommend Shari’s Ink for novel editing. Working through my novel, I found Shari to be highly professional and timely in her feedback. More importantly, from larger structural issues to detailed edits, Shari’s insight was very helpful. Shari also communicated well in offering critique and reinforcing strong points of my novel.”

Buck is currently working on the second draft of his novel, but head over to his author’s website when you have a second to check out other samples of his soulful, southern writing. He’s awesome.

I’m a Writer, First

First and foremost, I’m a writer, above all else. In fact, I have more than a decade of experience as a professional writer, editor and journalist (some of my publishing credentials include the Arizona Republic, Phoenix Magazine, MilitaryTimes.com, The Officer Magazine, and The Daily Courier, among others). My marketing and journalism backgrounds allow me to offer a unique perspective on story structure, character development, dialogue, story arcs, narration and flow, especially when it comes to keeping the reader captivated.

I LOVE stories. I live my life to tell them, whether through articles, novels, short stories, photographs, or even social media. Now, I’m excited to read your stories, and help you shape them for the better.

Want more information? Shoot me an email at shari@sharisink.com.

How Reading Critically Changed My (Writing) Life

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If you’re like me (a writer), you probably love to read. Good books. Not crappy books. Crappy books bore me. They probably bore you, too.

Which is why, as a writer, I want to write those good books. You know, the ones everyone can’t stop talking about during lunch in the break room. I want to be that writer.

Call me a perfectionist. Call me arrogant.

But if I’m going to be a writer, I want to be one of the best. Not THE best, because in writing, there is no best.

Like Ernest Hemingway said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

In order to become one of the best writers, I know I have to read. A lot. Which I started doing a few years ago, literally binge reading book after book. It helped. But it wasn’t enough.

You know what really made the difference?

Reading Critically

What exactly is this “reading critically?” Simple, really. Reading critically is picking up a novel and reading it, not just for enjoyment, but with the intent of picking it apart and learning from it.

  • Did the dialogue drag, or sing. Why?
  • How was the tension, the story arcs? If they were good, WHAT made them good?
  • What didn’t you like about the book, and why?

Think of yourself as an editor for a writer friend, and the novel you’re reading is her book. She asked for your feedback before sending it to a literary agent. What good, solid, critical feedback would you give?

THAT, my friends, is reading critically.

And once I began doing this, my writing started to fly. I soared from the minor leagues to the major leagues. Heck, this was a better education than any MFA program!

Am I the best writer, now? Well … duh … of course not. But I’m always competing against my younger self. And compared to that girl, oh man …

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Shari Lopatin is a professional writer, editor, and social media strategist who lives in Phoenix, Ariz. She recently finished her first novel and blogs about the lessons she learns while finding a literary agent, among other topics. Want to follow Shari’s progress toward a book deal? Then join The Readers Club! Sign up here.

Literary Agent Tip #2: DON’T GO ROGUE

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Yes, I know this is in direct contradiction to my blog’s tagline, “Professional Rogue Writer,” but I refuse to go rogue with literary agents. Why?

Because if I don’t follow their rules for submission, they don’t see my pitch.

It’s that simple, folks.

  • If they ask for an emailed query letter with one sample chapter, don’t include the first five.
  • If they request all pitches go to a general email for query letters, don’t send yours to their personal email.

Trust me, this was a hard pill for me to swallow. I’m used to breaking the rules to make connections. It’s how I’ve met major magazine editors and pitched them article ideas; it’s how I’ve uncovered story leads from difficult-to-find sources. In fact, I can contribute much of my current-day success to going rogue.

But when I spoke to a director of submissions at a major literary agency in New York a few weeks ago, he told me this: “The better you follow their instructions, the better chance you’ll have of getting read.” In fact, he said circumventing the literary agents’ directions probably ensures they won’t see your pitch–and if they do, they may not want to work with you.

Following the literary agents’ rules shows humility. It shows your willingness to collaborate. Most of all, it shows that you respect their time.

And guys, I can tell you that I understand this.

When I worked as a newspaper reporter, I couldn’t stand when PR people wanted me to write a story on their company, but disregarded my requests. I was always more likely to work with PR people who respected my time.

If literary agents feel the way I did as a reporter, then guess what? I’d better listen to their submission rules. And you better, too.

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Shari Lopatin is a professional writer, editor, and social media strategist who lives in Phoenix, Ariz. She recently finished her first novel and blogs about the lessons she learns while finding a literary agent, among other topics. Want to follow Shari’s progress toward a book deal? Then join The Readers Club! Sign up here.

5 Literary Agents Who Blog About Query Writing

Snoopy writing

I hope that someday, when I land a literary agent (and then a publishing contract), I can share with you the magical query letter which sealed the deal.

Until then, I can’t tell you if I’m doing things right, but I know five others who can! Before I started writing my novel’s query letter, I conducted plenty of research on WHAT literary agents look for in a solid pitch. I asked myself:

  • Which queries generate interest, and why?
  • Is there a certain format that works?
  • What information should I exclude?

To answer those questions, I read a lot. But specifically, here are 5 literary agents (or agencies) who helped me the most. They either blog about the query writing process, or post general advice on their websites:

1) Rachelle Gardner: literary agent, Books & Such

2) The Knight Agency: A Literary Agency

3) Janet Reid, Literary Agent

4) BookEnds Literary Agency

5) Query Shark (read edited query letters from agent, Janet Reid)

And although this isn’t from a literary agency, Writer’s Digest published an awesome list of successful query letters which landed agents: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/successful-queries.

So if you’re hoping to be the next Gillian Flynn or James Dashner, I hope this list helps you!

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Shari Lopatin is a professional writer, editor, and social media strategist who lives in Phoenix, Ariz. She recently finished her first novel and blogs about the lessons she learns while finding a literary agent, among other topics. Want to follow Shari’s progress toward a book deal? Then join The Readers Club! Sign up here.

Literary Agent Tip #1: DO YOUR RESEARCH

Hand Holding Pen

I’ve pitched about 10 literary agents, as of today. Ten. Literary agents.

They include the reps for Gillian Flynn, Stephenie Meyer (we both live in Phoenix!), John Green, Dan Brown, and James Dashner.

Prepare the automated rejections!

But seriously, these folks are top, top grade agents. And why not start with the best? Which leads me to the first lesson I learned upon my quest for a book deal:

Do your literary agent research BEFORE finishing your book!

DISCLAIMER: I don’t consider my book complete until finishing the first draft and editing it. Therefore, I ended my book, stepped away for a month, then started the editing/rewriting process.

It was during this month—between finishing the draft and editing—that I began my literary agent research. And here’s how I did it:

  1. Decided the genre which best described my book
  2. Deciphered the audience (YA, new adult, middle grade, adult fiction, etc.)
  3. Brainstormed which published books were similar to mine
  4. Googled their authors’ names with the term “literary agent” (i.e. John Green literary agent)
  5. Got the agent’s name and visited his/her website

Then, I created an Excel spreadsheet.

I used to work as a public relations professional in corporate communications. Whenever we were preparing a splash, we always developed a list of target reporters, their beats, and their contact information … all wrapped with a bow in an Excel spreadsheet.

We separated these reporters into “tiers:”

  • Tier one consisted of reporters who covered stories most aligned with our pitch. They also had the largest reach, or influence.
  • Tier two expanded further out, and included reporters who worked for community publications with a smaller reach.
  • And so on …

As I began compiling my list of literary agents, I did the same thing, preparing everything in Excel. My thought was this: once editing is complete, I’ll have a list of top tier, and second tier, literary agents to begin pitching.

And now that I’ve reached the moment of truth, I can tell you … this works, kid!

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Shari Lopatin is a professional writer, editor, and social media strategist who lives in Phoenix, Ariz. She recently finished her first novel and blogs about the lessons she learns while finding a literary agent, among other topics. Want to follow Shari’s progress toward a book deal? Then join The Readers Club! Sign up here.