Monthly Archives: August 2010

Interview with author Irene Roth

Tell us something about yourself?
I write for adolescent girls and tween girls about all kinds of different psychological and social topics. I have a blog devoted to adolescent girls at I am also in the middle of writing three MG novels and tween novels for girls.

Who is your favorite author? Favorite book?
Kristi Holl is one of my favourite MG writer for adolescents. I also enjoy reading Melody Carlson’s novels and Deborah Reber’s books. I ready widely and continually. I also have a book review blog that keeps me very busy.

Tell us a bit about your book?
I’m in the middle of three E-books about adolescent girl’s self-confidence, self-esteem, and happiness.

What are you working on now?
‘m revising a MG novel that I am planning to send off to a publisher in October. I am waiting for responses for three other novels.

Why do you think it’s important for kids to know about history?

I think that kids need to know what came before them in order to have a better appreciation of the present. But also, I think that there is not enough emphasis on history in schools. Schools have to find a way to really make history interesting and relevant for kids.

What can teachers and parents do to help kids become interested in
history and to learn more about it?

I think that parents can help kids by bringing history books home from the library and reading them with their kids. They should also talk about history after dinner or on weekends.

What do you want readers to take away from your book?
I hope that I could inspire girls to not worry about fad diets and outside appearances as much and focus on their inner beauty. Girls have to realize that they are much more than a physical body. They have a mind, and spirit that is worth cultivating. And one smile, if it is offered up genuinely, can make another girl feel so much better about herself. Girls have to be ambassadors for each other.

Any tips for aspiring writers?
I have a five tips for aspiring writers:
1. write consistently
2. try to do the best that you can to perfect your writing skills
3. have faith in the process of drafting and redrafting
4. never give up
5. send out queries often.

Where can readers buy your book?
My ebooks should be available at my adolescent blog around the end of november of this year.

Any last words?

Thank you for interviewing me. I really enjoyed this.

Blog Award

Margo Dill has passed on the Circle of Friends blog award to me.

(Stay tuned for an interview with Margo in September)

Kathy Stemke Education Tipster
Martha Ramirez Martz Books
Donna McDine Write What Inspires You
Jo Linsdell Writers and Authors
Lisa Gentile Moxie Mavericks

Meet Stephanie Burkhart, author of “The Giving Meadow”

The Giving Meadow

20 AUG 2010

Peggy Fieland’s Blog

I just want to thank Peggy for having me today on my blog tour for my children’s book, “The Giving Meadow.”

Just a little about me: I was born in Manchester, NH but live in Castaic, California with my husband, Brent, and two sons, Andrew and Joseph. I have fond memories of Manchester, but have made California my home. I earned a BS in political science from California Baptist University in 1995.

I have been writing since I was 5, first making homemade comic books. Now, I work on creating short stories and novels. I spent 11 years in the US Army and over 7 years in Germany. Writing is a passion that still challenges me. The Giving Meadow is my first book with 4RV Publishing.

Tell us a little about your book.

The Giving Meadow is my first children’s book, targeted for 3-7 year-olds. A caterpillar hatches from his egg in the middle of a meadow. As he travels along, he meets new friends who learn the value of sharing.

What would you like readers to take away from your book?

To understand the value of sharing and caring. Not only that, the transformation a caterpillar goes through to become a butterfly is something little children can understand. Jesus goes through something similar when he rises from the dead.

I understand you also write romance novels. How did you like writing a picture book?

I thought it was fun and a nice change of pace. It’s been a treat to let myself expand as a writer this way.

How did you get started as a writer?
Oh, I think I was five. –grin-. It was the 1970’s and I loved a children’s show called “The Electric Company.” They would have a Spiderman skit on the show. It inspired me to write Spiderman comic books. I’ve been writing ever since.

What are your favorite books and how do you feel they influenced your voice as a writer of children’s books? As a writer of romance?
Growing up, I don’t remember many picture books. I remember “Are You There God, it’s me, Margaret,” and “Blubber” by Judy Blume. The voice was pure and honest and I try to bring that to my children’s writing. As I read books to my children, they enjoy Dr. Seuss and the Skippy John Jones books. Both involve rhyming and repetition which attracts them. It gets them interested and once you have that, you, as a parent, can build on the interest.

Victoria Holt and VC Andrews were known for gothic romance and those influences still linger, but I think I gravitate more toward Holt. Dark, mysteries, secrets and omega males appeal to me.

If you could be any character in any book, who would you be?
Hermoine Granger! She’s a real cool witch.

Do you have a set time and place you write?
When I find it! I usually do the bulk of my writing when I’m at work during down time.

How do you go about editing? Do you outline? Edit as you go?

I write a chapter then go back and edit for typos, spelling, grammar and consistency. My beta readers do the same. Yes, I outline story arcs, For me, arcs are like acts. I usually have 3 major arcs in my romance novels.

What are you working on right now?

A ‘steampunk’ romance called “Victorian Scoundrel.” Modern day royal Prince Edmund Windsor travels through time because he wants his great-grandfather, Prince Albert, to build a dirigible. It’s up to his cousin, Alice Windsor, Princess of York, to sabotage him.

Steampunk romance takes place during the Victorian age and involves near-futuristic elements, but there’s no electricity. Everything runs on steam. The movie, “Sherlock Holmes” with Robert Downey Jr. has a steampunk look and feel to it.

Very different from “The Giving Meadow,” n’est pas? Thanks for having me, Peggy.

“The Giving Meadow” is wonderfully illustrated by Stephen Macquignon. Stephen primarily works in the medium of pen and ink and color digitally. He has had the privilege to work with Director Michael Sporn of Michael Sporn Animation Inc. He is also a monthly contributor for Stories for Children’s magazine.

Stephen’s children’s books with 4RV Publishing include Angeline Jellybean by Crystalee Calderwood and Colors by Dana Warren.

“The First Flag of New Hampshire,” by Stephanie, will be released by 4RV Publishing next year. It is a TW/Young Adult story.

GOODIE TIME Leave a post here on the blog. I’ll pick two lucky winners to receive an autographed postcard of the cover. Winners will be drawn out of a hat, and I’ll return on 21 AUG to announce them.

Where to buy Steph’s book:















“Romance Under the Moonlight.”
4RV Publishing
Desert Breeze Publishing.

Interview with author Margaret Norton

When Ties Break

Tell us something about yourself?

I was the youngest of four children. My father was a minister and we moved a lot when I was growing up. I got married while a senior in high school. It was an abusive relationship which produced two wonderful children. We divorced. I enrolled in college. I’ve had various jobs, including owning my own business. I wouldn’t say my life has been unstable but it has had much variety. I love reading, traveling, movies, the beach and dancing. I’m a Dale Carnegie Coach, a Stephen Minister and a Personal Life Coach. I volunteer with numerous organizations in my community and I’m a member of several writing groups in NC.

How did you come to write your book?

In 2004 I experienced the death of eight individuals. My brother, my mother-in-law, the mothers of three co-workers, a co-worker, the husband of a co-worker and the nephew of a co-worker. As 2005 began I was paralyzed with grief. I started writing to cope with my pain. Initially I did not plan to write a book but as time went by my writing took on a life of its own.

What do you want readers to take away from your book?

1. There is never a justifiable reason to mistreat someone. I hope my book will motivate others to get involved in eliminating abuse and thinking about how their abusive actions effect the lives of others.
2. Never give up. Many times in life circumstances and people beat us down. We want to quit, to bail out, blame others, or settle. We are responsible for our own destiny and our own happiness. No matter how hard it is, we have to keep trying. From our deepest pain comes our deepest growth.
3. Learn from our mistakes. So many time individuals blame others for their misfortune. We also blame God. We ask why. We look back, over analyze but often never get to the real issue – ourselves. Many times there is a pattern to our mistakes. If you can figure out the pattern you can change the behavior. We can’t go forward until we stop looking back.

You have suffered a lot of trauma in your life. What do you think was the most helpful in getting you through it?

My faith in God and my belief in myself. These were not instantaneous. I became a Christian at a very early age but as an adult I starting trying to figure God out.
I was introduced to positive thinking as a child too but when so many bad things happen you start to doubt yourself.
I complemented these with reading, counseling and connecting with other women who acted as mentors.

What advice do you have to others who are going through difficult times in their lives?

I often recommend writing or keeping a journal. You need to find acceptable ways to deal with your pain.
Join support groups. Whatever your problem is there’s probably a group in your area that addresses that issue.
If you need to talk with someone and can’t afford a counselor, I recommend the Stephen Ministry program. This is a church sponsored program – but you don’t have to be a church member to recieve care. Trained volunteers work with individuals, helping them deal with difficult situations – one hour a week at no charge.

Who is your favorite author? Favorite book?

Nicholas Sparks. All of his books. I grew up on an island in NC and have lived in many of the towns that he writes about.

What are you working on now?

I am four lessons away from completing the creative writing program with Long Ridge Writing Academy. My homework is the only writing I am doing at the moment
except for promoting my book. I’m spending a lot of time responding to questions, writing press releases,doing promotional pieces, etc.

Do you have a “day job,” and if so, how do you find the time to write?

I have been in the mortgage business for the past 17 years and trying to get out of it for the past three. Initially, I started as a loan officer – working with people but I ended up being an underwriter – crunch numbers all day with little human interaction. I’ve had many layoffs in this business, which is when I’ve done the most writing but it’s too inconsistent. I think to become a good writer you have to write on a regular basis. I’ve also traveled in my business – spending months at the time on the road. This gave me a lot of free time. I wrote my book at various Residence Inns.

Do you have a set time for writing? A set place?

I think the time and place varies according to the individual. I’ve read many responses from various writers to this question and don’t think I’ve ever seen the same time or place. You have to find what works for you. In a blog that I did last week, a reader responded to me that she was so happy to hear me say that I did not write every single day. She had young children at home and was struggling to find writing time every – was feeling guilty when she missed a day. One should never feel guilty about writing. Doing it daily might be impossible, but at least try to do it regularly.

What is the most helpful writing advice you’ve gotten?

If I had to sum it up in one sentence it would probably be to learn all that I could from other writers.

Where can readers get your book?

1. Writers can purchase an autographed copy with PayPal from my web site:
2. Can be ordered directly from Tate Publishing:
3. Available at the following locations: Jewell Day Spa, Greensboro NC; Cox Christian Book Store, Wilmington NC; Fiction Addiction, Greenville SC; Quail Ridge Book Store, Raleigh NC
and Main Street Books, St Charles MO.
4. Available through Amazon
5. Can be ordered from any major book store

Any last words?

My mission is to empower women to reach their fullest potential. I am available as a Personal Life Coach and a speaker. I am also available to book clubs by speaker phone Mon – Thurs from 7 – 10 PM Eastern time. I’m finding that many of the people who read my book are calling or emailing me with questions. I welcome this. Though book clubs typically read fiction books, I think my book would make an excellent selection. The issues that I talk about are difficult but the only way to eliminate abuse or find healing is to talk about the difficult issues.

Interview with EJ Wesley, my chapter buddy

Tell us something about yourself

Let’s see, I play the guitar/sing. I love to paint/draw, and particularly love comic book art. My wife is a physician (blood/cancer), and we’ve been married for 8 years. She’s also in the United States Air Force. We have to dogs that I love (a beagle mix and a chihuahua mix … both are rescues). I’m the youngest of 4 children, and my oldest sibling will turn 50 soon. Most people think I’m younger than I really am, because I refuse to act my age. I have degrees in psychology, and a graduate degree in counseling. I spent several years as a grant writer. That’s about it!

You started the Weekly Chapter Challenge group on the Writers Digest Community site. What prompted you to start it?

It’s not uncommon for writers to feel a certain amount of career isolation, which is ironic, because it’s what draws many of us to the pursuit in the first place. I’m no different. I had completely finished the draft of my first full manuscript in relative obscurity. (Only my wife and a few friends really knew I was attempting to write anything.) At any rate, I was feeling completely alone with my accomplishment. Furthermore, I wanted to start working on a new project while editing. The problem was that I was finding it hard to make time to write “new stuff”. I’d signed up to WD a few weeks before, and thought that maybe I could find a couple of more folks who’d like to partner up in a work exchange program. I created the Chapter Challenge as a tool to help keep me motivated and hopefully aid a few other writers as well. Now we’ve got 60 plus members and growing!

How have you found the experience of exchanging chapters so far?

As far as drafting the new story goes, it has become absolutely essential to my creative process. I literally write with the idea that Peggy will be reading my work imbedded in my mind. It pushes me in ways I hadn’t even imagined. Even more important to me is the idea that I’ll be reading her story in return. It creates such a reciprocal energy. If I’m fortunate to ever be successful at this writing thing, I think I’ll owe much of that success to my partnership.

How can readers join the group?

The only real qualifications are that you be interested in growing as a writer, have some kind of tangible writing goal, and be willing to read and offer feedback on the work of someone else on a regular basis. Whether that be polishing an existing work chapter-by-chapter, or creating new to content to share with a partner each week is entirely up to you. If you’re interested, then head over to the WD forum and check out the description of the group, and get some tips on advertising for a partner.

Here’s the link:

You write  YA fantasy. What were some of you favorite books growing up, and how do you feel they influenced you as a writer?

I was heavily influenced by Stephen King, which sounds odd for a young person, but he was the first writer that really grabbed me in my adolescence. His writing is extremely vivid and character driven. People generally think of King as the guy that comes up with all of these creepy ideas and scary books, but fans really know that the meat of his stories are all about the normal people that live through these incredible journeys. I remember reading The Stand, and weeping over the death of a character for the first time. I really try/hope to bring characters to life in my own work the way he did for me.

The other ‘watershed’ reading moment for me was Harry Potter. I was working with teenagers as a mental health counselor at the time the books first became really popular. I recall seeing some of the other counselors using these crazy wizard boy books in their treatment plans, and watching these kids from some of the worst possible situations eating them up! I read them, and instantly understood why young people would relate. That’s the moment I decided that I wanted to write for young people and try to make stories that would mean something to them.

I was probably also influenced subconsciously by a number of comic book writers!

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten? The

The best is from Stephen King’s book, On Writing. In it he says that he received the following advice from one of his early writing instructors: “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story; when you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are NOT the story.”

I keep that taped above my writing desk. Maybe someday it’ll sink in!

The worst advice I’ve ever gotten was to give up.

You have a day job. How do you find the time to write? Any special place or time you do your writing?

I tutor middle-school students during the school year, which leaves me with some unusual writing hours. I’ll squeeze my writing time in where I can fit it. Also, I try to write new material earlier in the day (before noon) as that tends to be my most mentally aware time. I write at home quite often, but I’m most productive when I leave the house and head to a local coffee spot or library. I can really focus when I’m out in public, but find myself constantly answering phones and checking e-mail when I stay home.

What do you like to read?

I’ll read just about anything! However, I spend most of my reading energy on keeping up with current YA content. In general, I’m reading whatever I see students walking around reading.

If you could be any character in any book, who would you be?

Hmm, I think I might like to be Hermione from the Harry Potter books. She’s so smart and brave! Sadly, I’m probably more like Neville … I also wouldn’t mind being Gandolf from the Lord of the Rings books. He gets to carry a walking stick, ride the best horse ever, and knows pretty much everything.

Have you had anything published?

Other than several grants, no. I’m working on a short story collection that I’d like to publish electronically on Amazon in the near (?) future, and of course I’d love to sell my completed manuscript once I’m finished editing.

Tell us a bit about your current work in progress. Care to post an extract?

The project I’m working on for the Chapter Challenge is a first-person paranormal action/adventure story about a teenaged boy named Abraham. Abe discovers that he is actually Abaddon, the Biblical being who’s going to bring about Armageddon, destroying the earth and everyone on it. It’s my version of an ‘angel’ story, and hopefully one that boys will want to read. Here’s an excerpt from when Abe learns his true identity from his grandfather:

Grandpa stood and walked over to his ancient writing desk. It was probably the only uncluttered surface in the room. He stooped to one knee, and began searching the underside of the desk for some unseen artifact.
“There it is,” he muttered. When he stood, I could see that he was holding a small yellowed envelope in his hands. After collecting the tobacco tin off the top of the desk, he returned to his chair. He handed me the envelope and began filling his pipe.
I held the letter with the tips of my sweaty shaking fingers, thinking about all of the things that could be inside. I turned it over once, then twice, trying to divine some clue as to its contents. There were no words on the outside, and no address. It was old, judging by how the once white paper had yellowed in every place but the very center. The paper it was made out of felt like nothing I’d felt before; it was thick—like animal hide—and had an incredible buttery smoothness. It was also evidently a formal letter for it had been sealed by wax, which had been parted at some point. I looked up at grandpa, uncertain what he meant for me to do.
He took a couple of puffs from his pipe, smiled gently, and said, “Open it.”
I parted the lips of the envelope. Only a single sheet of folded paper lay inside, which I opened. There were two sentences ornately scrawled in golden ink:
Watch over this child until he is of age. His name is, Abaddon.
“That letter was left on my doorstep fifteen years ago, along with a newborn child,” Gramps said, his words echoing to my ears like haunted shouts from a dream.
“Me?” I asked dumbly. I was begging him not to answer in my mind.
“Yes,” Gramps replied, his eyes filled with a terrible sadness.

Where can readers find you on the web?

My blog, The Open Vein, is here:

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Seeing as how I’m an aspiring writer myself, I’m not sure what I could offer other than what I tell myself every morning: If you stop dreaming, you stop trying. If you stop trying, you stop living.

Any last words?

Thanks, Peggy, for letting me share with your readers, and for being such an awesome writing partner!

Meet Donna McDine

Q. Tell us something about yourself
A. Isn’t it amazing as writers we are anxious to get our words/stories on paper, but when it comes to talking about ourselves we come to a screeching halt (at least in my case). For some reason or another I find it much easier to be positive for others than myself, especially in terms of rejection letters. In an effort to overcome my insecurities I’ve teamed up with a fellow writer as an accountability partner and it keeps me more focused and positive. Of course the virtual slap upside my head from time to time helps.

Q. Who is your favorite author? Favorite book?
This has changed dramatically since I began writing in 2007. My past favorite authors were always the big names, Danielle Steele, James Paterson, Stephen King…you get my drift. Now I tend to gravitate to the lesser known author’s who have as much talent and to be fair for those of you who’ve I enjoyed over the last several years I’m not going to name names in fear of missing someone. Especially since my list is ever growing. And to pinpoint one specific would be impossible for the same reason. My apologies for being so aloof.

Q. Tell us a bit about your book?

A: Be transported through time to the Underground Railroad, where high-pitched screams echo each night. David’s cruel Pa always chooses the same victim. Despite the circumstances during slavery, David uncovers the courage to defy his Pa.
Raised in a hostile environment where abuse occurs daily, David attempts to break the mold and befriends the slave, Jenkins, owned by his Pa. Fighting against extraordinary times and beliefs, David leads Jenkins to freedom with no regard for his own safety and possible consequences dealt out by his Pa.

Q. How did you come to write about the Underground Railroad?

A. History has always fascinated me, even as a young child. And when I found myself taking up residence (as an adult) in the historical hamlet of Tappan, NY (Rockland County) I became even more enthralled. Coupled with my father’s involvement with the Rockland County Historical Society in creating artist replicas of the numerous historical locations throughout the county I found myself further drawn into the past. Then as a student at the Institute of Children’s Literature I jumped at the chance to develop a historical fiction story about a young southern boy against slavery.

Q. What do you think the relevance of the Underground Railroad is to today’s kids?
A. Overcoming adversity against immeasurable odds and that with determination success in achieving your dreams is possible.

Q. How did you go about doing your research?

A. Initially online, then visiting the Tappan Library and thoroughly researching the Underground Railroad.

Q. What are you working on now?

A. As to no surprise another historical fiction manuscript based around the USS Constitution and how boys (as young as 11) were kidnapped by the Press Gangs and forced into hard labor on ships.

Q. What do you want readers to take away from your book?

A. With conviction of knowing between right and wrong one person can make a difference.

Q. Any tips for aspiring writers?

A. Get involved in a writer’s critique group, whether at your local library, community center, or online. Several resources online:
Children’s Writers’ Coaching Club
Muse Online Writers Conference <a href=" “>

Q. Where can readers buy your book?
A. The Golden Pathway is slotted for an August 2010 publication and exact date is forthcoming. Upon publication The Golden Pathway can be purchased at;; .

Q. Any last words?
A. I want to take the opportunity to thank all who have helped me along the way in achieving my dream as an author. Of course beginning with my loving and supportive husband, Tom and daughter’s Nicole and Hayley, my parents, in-laws, extended family and friends, and the dear writing communities I’m involved with both online and in person. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a nurturing personal and writing community to birth an author. Thank you!

The Golden Pathway, by Donna McDine

The Golden Pathway, by Donna McDine

The Golden Pathway by Donna McDine

Wednesday Poetry Prompts, Chapter Buddy, and other updates

Every week Robert Lee Brewer posts a poetry prompt on his blog This week’s prompt is to write a shopping poem

Here’s mine — it’s one of my series of “Blues” poems…

No Money, Honey, Blues

Pay is burning in my pocket, stop into my favorite store.
T-shirts, only twenty dollars if you purchase three or more.
I pick up six or seven though I’ve got a dresser full.
I start humming the no money, honey blues.

Next door is the bookstore, and I find I’m walking in,
buy a largish cup of coffee, wander by the bargain bin.
I buy myself a bag full though I’ve already read them all.
I am whistling the no money, honey blues.

Then I’m in the liquor store. I buy a case of wine.
Though I never drink it, salesman says it’s mighty fine.
I fork over ninety dollar. Now my money’s almost gone.
I am singing the no money, honey blues.

My house is overflowing, no more room to fit things in.
I can call Salvation Army, I can rent a storage bin.
I hand my money over and I clear my basement out,
while I chorus the no money, honey blues.

I got my chapter buddy EJ’s comments on my chapter 14 and rewrote parts of the chapter as a result. Ej’s comments are always a great help, and this time was no exception. I sent him my chapter 15, and I’m working on chapter 16. I’m close to the end of my book, and the chapters feel harder and harder to write. Of course, I already have an idea for a sequel. I also have several other book ideas, because I often finish a novel with “but I want to know what happens after that ..”

Renee Gray-Wilburn talks about technical writing

Renee, tell us a little about yourself.
I am married and a mom of 3–ages 13, 9, and 5. I live in Colorado Springs at the base of the Rocky Mountain Front Range. I have had a writing business (mostly targeted to business writing) for 13 years (since my oldest was born), and I began writing for publication in 2005. Since 2005, I have published about 130 pieces, including magazine articles, children’s curriculum, short stories, and devotionals. I still write for businesses as well as provide editing, proofreading, teaching, and critiquing services.

You started out as a writer doing resumes for engineers. Have you done
much technical writing, and how do you find that it differs from
non-fiction writing in general?

Tech writing is not a huge part of my business, but it definitely is a part. In fact, I ‘m involved with a tech writing/editing project right now. Tech writing differs from general nonfiction writing in that there really is not much creativity involved in tech writing. In other words, you can’t use fiction techniques, such as dialogue, conflict, or descriptive phrases in tech writing! But there are some similarities, such as organizational techniques and writing to meet your readers’ needs.

How important or not do you think knowing the product you’re writing
about to be? If you do think it is, and it’s one you don’t know, how
do you go about learning it?

I think the more you’re familiar with the product the easier it will be to write about it. If you don’t know about the product it’s easy to miss key information or processes involved in using it. You may also have difficulty ordering and organizing the information.

The best way to learn the product is, of course, to use it. For nearly all the tech writing projects I’ve done, I was given a copy of the product–or a prototype–to “play” with first before I wrote about it. If it’s not possible to obtain the product, it also helps to ready any and all information written about it, which may include marketing materials or engineering papers describing the product’s functions and components.

In writing a manual or a specification, it’s necessary to be both
clear, complete, and technically accurate. Which do you consider most important and how do you prioritize?

All three are crucial elements to tech writing, so I don’t know that one is really more important than another in that you can’t cut corners on any of them. For me, I probably strive for accuracy first, just to make sure I have all the information I need and that I have researched and double-checked my facts as much as possible. Along with accuracy, though, comes completeness, as it’s hard to be totally accurate if you’re missing information. After I’ve ensured that everything I’m writing is accurate, then I’ll go back through my draft and make it as clear and simple as possible. Sometimes (often) this involves getting extra pairs of eyes who are not familiar with the product to read through my instructions to make sure they “get” it.

As a working computer software engineer, I’ve found that organizing
technical information in a sane manner is one of my major complaints.
Any tips on how to organize, not just technical information, but
“how-to” type stuff in general?

This can be one of the most challenging aspects of any sort of technical or how-to writing. What I’ve found is that the product or process itself will determine the organizational method used. Sometimes a step-by-step process is necessary when you’re writing about something that must be done sequentially. This is the typical method used for a how-to piece.

Other times, you may need to organize your information by the various functions the product performs. If you’re writing instructions for how to operate a clock radio, for instance, you could organize the information by describing how to set the clock’s time, how to set the alarm, and how to pre-set radio stations.
You can also organize the information by describing the product’s features or components. If you used this method with the clock radio, you’d organize the instructions to describe what each button, knob, and dial does.

When I’m faced with a non-fiction writing task, I’m often overwhelmed
with the volume of information. How do you decide where to start?

My starting spot is normally based on the way I’ve chosen to organize the information. Once I’ve determined my organizational format, I will create an outline, breaking the information into large chunks to fit into each category or process step (these become the main headings). I then divide those chunks into smaller pieces of information (these become the subheadings), keeping a logical flow and smooth transitions from one piece of information to the next. I can always go back to my outline and re-arrange the headings to determine which makes the best starting place. I never work without an outline though. I would be lost!

Any advice for folks who want to break into technical writing?

Tech writing can be a tough field to get into. Writing in general is hard, but I think tech writing is even more competitive. I got lucky because I worked in a high-tech environment for many years and made some contacts who were willing to give me a break into the field.

I would recommend trying to start with small to mid-sized companies where you have contacts and where they may not have tech writers on staff. You can also put together some basic marketing materials, such as brochures, fliers, and writing samples to show prospective clients. You probably need to do this the old-fashioned way and cold call some companies, go to their HR departments, and show them your materials. Meeting the people involved will get you a lot further than just sending out emails.
You will see tech writing jobs offered online, but these are typically given to people with lots of experience. If you are brand new, a good place to start is with some online tech forums where people in the industry are sharing information. You can learn a lot from these other writers, and they can often steer you into some beginner jobs or contacts.
Another tip, regardless of how you find your clients, is to offer to do a small job or a portion of a job for free or at a cut rate, just to get your foot in the door. Many companies won’t want to risk paying a high price for someone with no experience who they don’t know, but if you’re willing to give away something just to show them you can do the job, they’re more apt to take a chance on you. This is similar to a nonfiction writer who writes for magazines free early in his career in order to build some writing credits.

Any favorite resources for non-fiction writers? For technical writers
in particular?

For nonfiction writing, I like the classic, On Writing Well by William Zissner for discussions on craft and grammar. For the business side of writing, I think Kelly James-Enger has an excellent book called Six Figure Freelancing. I also like pretty much any of the business writing books that Sheryl Lindsell-Roberts has written. I think they’re great for beginning and intermediate-level business writers. She also has a Tech Writing for Dummies book.

For tech writing, I recommend the Handbook of Tech Writing by the team of Gerald Alred, Charles Brusaw, and Walter Oliu. Probably more of an intermediate level book, but it has some great tips and resources, and it’s well organized for quick reference. I would also spend some time online, searching for “tech writing forums,” “tech writing resources,” and the like. You’ll have more information than you know what to do with!

Any last words?

Don’t be intimidated by the term “tech writing.” What I’ve found is that a lot of tech writing isn’t really all that technical. When you think about it, every company that makes any kind of product has to have some sort of instructions written about how to use it. Tech writers write manuals, instruction sheets, web sites, trade papers, industry correspondence, and more. And, they are in just about every industry–not just high-tech. So don’t think you have to have an engineering background to become a tech writer. Find an industry you know something about, and see what options might be available for you in that industry.
I also wanted to mention that if you go to my blog site, I have articles available that discuss how to create outlines and how to write how-to articles, which I mentioned above. My blog address is:
Thank you for the opportunity to share about technical writing!