Polishing Your Submissions

A Pen In Each Hand

By Baker

  1. Resolve to write good cover letters. You can use a template and personalize it as needed. Be brief. Refrain from writing more than a sentence or two about the piece you’re submitting. Include any publication credits. If this is your first submission, say so! Editors love discovering emerging writers. Read the “about the author” blurbs at journals to get ideas for a 50-word bio you can use in your cover letters. It’s fine to include your age, especially if you’re a teen or a senior, but don’t presume that your story or poem will be rejected due to your age (certainly don’t include that presumption in the content of your cover letter).
  2. Title every story and poem you send out. Include the title above the work. When discussing submissions, some editors refer to them by the name of the piece.
  3. Read a bit of the journal to which you’re submitting. Unless it’s part of your assignment or part of a journal’s guidelines, there’s no need to include your reason for selecting a journal in your cover letter. That said, including the title of a piece you enjoyed in the journal is a nice way to say you think your work is a good fit. It also shows that you’ve read what the journal publishes.
  4. Proofread your piece before you send. If possible, read it on a device other than the one you wrote it on (ex: Wrote on a laptop? Read it out of your cloud on your phone). Fresh eyes reading fresh screens can catch errors.

15 for Fifteen

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

This month we’re celebrating 15 years of Toasted Cheese. As we look back on some of our proudest moments from the past decade and a half, we invite you to do the same.

Day to day, progress can sometimes be so slow, it feels like you’re not moving forward at all. Pausing and reflecting from time to time is a good way to not lose sight of the big picture.

Make a list of 15 things you’ve accomplished writing-wise since January 2001. Big or small, anything you’re proud of can go on this list. If you have a writing buddy or group, this would be a great exercise for all of you to do and then share with each other.

Celebrate your accomplishments. Write a blog post or share on social media. (When you hit a low point you can look back on your list to give yourself a boost.) Invest in your writing life. Get yourself some new writing supplies or that software you’ve been meaning to purchase (if you don’t have it yet, Scrivener is well worth the investment). Do something fun! Freshen up your writing space, go to dinner with your writing buddy and toast your successes, throw a party for yourself and your writing group.

What’s next? Set 15 new short- or long-term writing goals. Tuck it away somewhere safe and revisit it in a decade or so to see how you did. Happy writing!

What Do You Recommend?

A Pen In Each Hand

By Baker

  1. Recommend on social media at least one thing you’ve read this year. If you don’t use social media, recommend in person. Independent authors are particularly grateful for recommendations.
  2. Create some recommendation business cards and leave them with your favorite works in the bookstore. You can print them at home. They could be as simple as the word “recommended” with a thumbs-up or a shelf card that lists why you recommend the book. Don’t put stickers on or in the books.
  3. Ask for recommendations at a used book store and/or independent bookstore. If you’re lucky, your local chain bookstore will have fellow book lovers who are well-versed enough to recommend as well.
  4. Recommend a book to a friend on Goodreads.
  5. While you’re there, write a recommendation of a book. If you’re stuck for one, think of a book you discovered on your own and write the review as though you’re speaking to your younger self.

Mashup

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

  1. Pull any four novels off your shelves.
  2. Flip through the first book randomly. Write down the first name you see. This will be your main character‘s name. Repeat at least one more time (so you have a minimum of two characters) but as many times as you like. (Remember you’ll have to incorporate them into your story, though, so don’t get too carried away.)
  3. Open the second book randomly. The first place name or description you see (e.g. London, bedroom, mountains) will be your primary setting.
  4. Flip through the third book randomly. Write down the first five events you see. These will form the backbone of your plot.
  5. Open the fourth book randomly. Base the theme of your story on the first emotion you see (envy, fear, guilt, grief, happiness, jealousy, love, pride, shame, trust, etc.).
  6. Make the story your own by using your own style to combine these elements.

 

Mix & Match

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

  1. Go to random.org and use the Random Calendar Date Generator to pick five dates between January 2002 and the present (leave the Sunday box unchecked).
  2. Go to the Calendar and find the prompts that fell on the dates generated in step one.
  3. Use all 5 prompts in the same story.

Example (5 random dates and their corresponding prompts):

  1. February 5, 2002: Write about a surprise meeting.
  2. July 2, 2003: Write about a remedy.
  3. April 30, 2004: Write about magic.
  4. February 16, 2008: They had a way of walking together.
  5. December 23, 2015: “He lied about being a scientist!”

A Podcast in Each Hand

Toasted Cheese presents A Podcast In Each Hand: original exercises and writing prompts from our archive to inspire you for the week ahead. Each podcast is briefer than the time it would take to sizzle up a toasted cheese sandwich. If you use any of our exercises or prompts, we’d love to hear about it!

Producer: Stephanie Lenz
Sounds: PacmanGamer and Corsica_S; Music: gadzooks. All shared under a Creative Commons Attribution license and available at Freesound.org

A Podcast in Each Hand

Toasted Cheese presents A Podcast In Each Hand: original exercises and writing prompts from our archive to inspire you for the week ahead. Each podcast is briefer than the time it would take to sizzle up a toasted cheese sandwich. If you use any of our exercises or prompts, we’d love to hear about it!

Producer: Stephanie Lenz
Sounds: PacmanGamer and Corsica_S; Music: gadzooks. All shared under a Creative Commons Attribution license and available at Freesound.org

A Creative Go-To

A Pen In Each Hand

By Harpspeed

I remember on one occasion back in my undergrad days in a creative writing classroom I was expected to complete a writing exercise on the spot. I felt tired from a long day already spent at my day job and overwhelmed—being at my lowest creative moment of the day. Regardless, I had to write something. So while my peers were scratching and tapping away in their notebooks and keyboards, I was zeroing on a single topic along with some describing words, and whatever literary mechanisms my tired brain could muster up.

In the end, I broke down the assignment from paragraphs and pages to consonants and syllables. I was much like that stereotypical driver driving on empty fumes and magically making it to the gas station before the engine finally conked out for good. In fact, I surprised myself with having wellspring of creativity inspired from my lack of it. Thirty minutes later, I shared a free verse poem about an evening walk with my dog. I borrowed this technique at a similar venue years later. I wrote about the juicy clementine I had consumed minutes before. Success had made free verse my official go-to for creativity-tapping.

So, here’s the thing, if you are ever in creative trouble, don’t get upset or overwhelmed. Instead, think different. Think smaller. Think poetry. You might even consider trying a tanka poem. Here’s the skinny: Tanka poetry originated in Japan and is over 1200 years old. It is similar to haiku poetry but contain more syllables as well as metaphor, personification, and simile. Tanka poems contain five lines. Subjects of tankas include nature, seasons, and emotion.

These are examples I found on the web: [1] [2] [3] [4].

A Podcast in Each Hand

Toasted Cheese presents A Podcast In Each Hand: original exercises and writing prompts from our archive to inspire you for the week ahead. Each podcast is briefer than the time it would take to sizzle up a toasted cheese sandwich. If you use any of our exercises or prompts, we’d love to hear about it!

Producer: Stephanie Lenz
Sounds: PacmanGamer and Corsica_S; Music: gadzooks. All shared under a Creative Commons Attribution license and available at Freesound.org

Writing Diverse Characters

A Pen In Each Hand

By Billiard

Create a character with a distinctly different gender/ethnicity/sexuality than yourself.

Looking for resources to help you write authentic characters?