Freelance Portfolio: Writing

Best Writing Tip: Fail Better

A short piece on moving on from writing rejections. And moving better on a path to publication. Published on The Writers College (New Zealand), in August 2023.

Story Structure Goes to Clown College

Using a Mad-Libs style of “fill in the next sentence,” I entreat readers to use my prompt sentences based on a crazy quilt of traditional writing structures to build a story. Chaos ensues. Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in November 2022.

Persistence Pays the Weary Writer

Write a book? Seems impossible. Write a book in half-hour increments, watching and working your progress over time? Seems possible. Quite. Published on one of my favorite writing/publishing info sites, Jane Friedman, in September 2022.

Scrivener Puts Ten Sets of Eyes on a Book

How to use Scrivener’s extensive organizational tools to reduce the complexities of writing a book. Sift, sort, shake out—works for writing recipes of all kinds. Scroll down a bit on the newsletter to get to my tale. Published on the always helpful Funds for Writers in September 2022.

This Pretty Much (Book) Covers It

The evolution of book cover design, covering the text and image exchanges between me and a NY design team, working on the cover for my shoplifting memoir. Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in June 2022.

Characters in Motion (Keep Readers in Motion)

How using the structure of a road trip, with encounters with unexpected characters, cultures and places, can work well for novel development. I provide explanations of brief examples, including my own. (Well, my own isn’t that brief, but hey, it’s my essay.) Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in November 2021.

Purple Prose and the Word Surgeon’s Scalpel

Unconscioiusly using too many “justs,” “verys,” “actuallys,” and other fluff evildoers in your prose? Cast them out! And those big words too. (Well, not all of them. Some are fetching.) Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in August 2021.

The Fictions of Our Minds

Hope this doesn’t read simply as a “woe is me” essay, when the woes of the world now have been legion. Thoughts on whether it’s been worth it pursuing writing for a living (and only catching its tail—or tale—now and then). Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in May 2021.

Writing Habits: 9 No-Burnout Practices During a Recession

Ahh, 2020, a vintage year … of anxiety and wretchedness. Writers were not spared. But there are some methods to take some of the pain away, and even brighten your day. Try some! Published in December 2020 on the excellent Make a Living Writing site.

Mark Twain and My Neighbor Swap Books in Heaven

The odd and even tender connections between a dead neighbor, a first-edition Mark Twain short story and a Zen meditation class 40 years ago. Published by An Idea on Medium, November 2020.

Missing Some Memories? I Might Have Stolen Them

Memoirs can take many turns—mine turns towards crime. Specifically, the years I spent as a high-school shoplifter, taking orders and selling the goods. Scandal! Here I go through the mechanics of writing memoirs, best practices and the galling lack of shame I had as a teenage hooligan. Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in September 2020.

Your Characters’ Flaws Are Story Draws

How the artful use of character quirks and eccentricities can pull readers into a fictional work, and have them anticipating and hungering for more. Looking at this as a tactic to drive reader interest, not as an overarching story-arc strategy. Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in August 2019.

Don’t Let Your Pitches Die a Premature Death

Why (and how) you should continue pitching article ideas that enthuse you, even if they’ve been rejected, even more than a couple of times. Published in July 2019 in The Writer magazine.

Cultivating Editor Relationships Bears Multi-Assignment Fruit

Editors, schmeditors, eh? Not quite. You might be OK with getting a one-off publication in print or online, and abandon that publication’s editor forever, but your writing and your relationships (and wallet) are better served by getting to know your editor, and them getting to know you. Published in February 2019 on Funds for Writers, Hope Clark’s great info resource for both fiction and nonfiction writers.

MarketingProfs B2B Forum, 2018— A Cornucopia of Marketing Goodness (and Good Cheer!)

Spent a couple of days on a media trip to the MarketingProfs B2B Forum in San Francisco. Lots of good stuff, from polished, informed and jolly marketers. Informative workshops, stirring keynotes, friendly atmosphere—and cocktails. Published in November 2018 on LinkedIn.

Writers: Fact to Fiction? Not So Fast

A story that haunted me for 40 years turned out not to be the real story. How you can mine your past for fictional prompts—and be surprised by what you find. Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in November 2016.

Wired for Story: Empathy and the New Brand Storytelling with Tom Gerace

An interview with Tom Gerace, the CEO of Skyword, which helps brands connect with creatives, on the company’s deep push into the power of storytelling, and his work with legendary author and teacher Robert McKee. Published in May 2017 in the Content Standard, Skyword’s marketing industry newsletter.

Storytelling: Using the Moth to Turn to the Light

Companies can feel creative constraints when they stretch to open their storytelling wings. This piece gleans the best storytelling advice from master tale-tellers, The Moth. Published in May 2017 in the Content Standard, Skyword’s marketing industry newsletter.

Writing from the Road

Looking at how to travel as a writer without emptying your wallet (and perhaps even fattening it a bit). Using house-sitting gigs, press trips and weekend jaunts to freshen your writing eyes and put some roving inspiration on the (published) page. Published in Writer’s Market 2017 in October 2016.

Writing to the Beat of the Vulnerable Heart

What pulls readers into the page? Often, it’s the vulnerability of the characters, felt though the reader’s own. This piece tries to piece together how that works and what it means for writers. Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in September 2016.

Writing Collaborations (or, Whose Hands Are on Those Pencils?)

The methods and the madness by which (over the last two years) I worked with another writer in collaborating on a novel. (And now on to the editing!) Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in July 2016.

What Happens When Your Editor Leaves? Advice for Freelance Writers

Having a trusted working relationship with a publication’s editor is a sharp boon to a writer. But what happens to your writing prospects when that editor leaves? Published in July 2016 issue on The WriteLife.

A Way with Words: Mining Writing Gold in Monterey County

A stroll through the remarkable number of writers—and how their writing was shaped by their environment—who frequented (or called home) the Monterey area since the Carmel Artist Colony days just following the great San Francisco quake. [Note: you can see the unfinished captions; the final print version will be up soon.] Published in the Summer/Fall 2016 issue of Carmel Magazine.

Characters Can Never Remove Their Tattoos (or Can They?)

Such a sordid, dark tale! But isn’t that the essence of high school? My story of betrayal and ambush, morphing into a writing lesson on backstory. Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in May 2016.

Tripping with Twain and Thompson

A road trip with Mark Twain and Hunter Thompson, in search of (duh) The American Dream. Published in January 2016 in Catamaran, a literary arts magazine.

Shatter Your Characters: Shame Them, Guilt Them

Shame, guilt and other delights you can visit upon your characters to deepen their behaviors, motivations and inner grindings. And of course, just to annoy them, because you can. Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in November 2015.

Sordid Confessions: Two Lovers (and I Love Them Just the Same)

What a fickle thing is man. Or some such rot. Anyway, I’m trying to write two novels at once (or trying to avoid writing them). Watch me squirm. Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in September 2015.

The Heartfelt, Unpublishable, Captivating, Shallow, Sound, Abandoned, Reclaimed, Worthless, Most Excellent Potential Novel

Damn, I better not write too much more after that title. Anyway, I’ve struggled with my second novel for oh, eight years. Hear my screams. Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in July 2015.

Why Super-Short Articles Can Build a Big Writing Career

How writing short, front-of-book (FOB) pieces for magazines is good income in itself, and positions you to write longer and more lucrative pieces later. Published in July 2015 on the excellent Make a Living Writing site.

Don’t Muzzle (or Muffle) Your Writing Voice

How can you draw upon those specific sensibilities—your love of language, writing influences, personality quirks, where you part your hair—and conjure your unique writing voice. Published in June 2015 on Writer’s Digest.

Here’s to the Oddballs

Some peculiar perceptual abilities of writers give them an advantage in going from perception to page—and those abilities can be improved. Published in June 2015 on Medium.

How Pedaling Your Bike Is Actually Pedaling Your Mind

How the cosmos showers you with writing inspirations, if you just move your mind via your body. (And wear your helmet, in case of heavy cosmos showers.) Published in June 2015 on Writing World.

When the Writing Grind Seems to Shave the Soul

When your inner writerly self tells you you’re a horse’s ass, just put on a saddle and ride. Published in June 2015 on Medium.

Editing, Uhhh! What Is It Good For?

You always wanted to know how editing is like mashed potatoes, didn’t you? You’ll find out here, along with buttery explanations of developmental editing, copyediting and proofreading. Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in January 2015.

High School: The Tattoos Your Characters Can’t Conceal

Oh dear, this Catholic confession thing might go too far: Me using my minor-league high school criminality and major-league awkwardness to illustrate using high school “types” to catalyze fiction writing. Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in November 2014.

Touch the Hearts of Your Readers: Entangle Their Emotions

Find your sources for character mishap and affliction in the pages of my own life: How to use deep, layered emotions in your fiction to touch your readers. Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in September 2014.

How Being a Presumptuous Asshat Can Help Your Writing

Turning the deadly sins of presumption and prejudice into advantages in your writing and storytelling. Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in July 2014.

Writers’ Anxiety: Less Prozac, More Presence

A look at how to apply a soothing salve to the nagging sore of writing anxiety. Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in May 2014.

On the Road (or the Road’s on Me)

You meet the nicest people hitchhiking. Except for the ones with guns, or the ones on acid, or the ones driving a stolen truck at insane speeds over the mountains. Hey, I still have my thumbs. Published in April 2014 on Medium.

Anatomy of a Writer

A frolicsome look at the sum of a writer’s parts, head to toe. Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in March 2014.

The Book-Promotion Balloon: Where’s the Helium?

The trials (and thin results) of promoting your book without appearing to be a self-obsessed asshat sleaze ball, housed at the wonderfully writerly home of WriterUnboxed as of February, 2014.

The Johnny Cash Approach to Novel Writing

Perhaps you aren’t acquainted with Johnny Cash’s fictional efforts. Me neither, but he makes for a great example of gathering stories, and putting them together, as odd and unrelated as the elements might seem. Published in August 2013 on Writer Unboxed.

Tequila and Cookies: Writing Perks to Push Your Pages

You probably thought writers used fervid affirmations to propel themselves to pile words on the page. Nope. Tequila and cookies, baby, tequila and cookies. Published in June 2013 on Writer Unboxed.

Take a Punctuation Mark Out to Lunch

You probably had no idea of the personality quirks and fervid emotional states of punctuation marks. I bare all to the world here (and you could lose an eye wielding that exclamation point, so be careful!). Published in May 2013 on Writer Unboxed.

Why Do You Write?

My Men With Pens post on what brought me, as a goggle-eyed adolescent, to look at writing as a form of deep expression and exploration. (Yeah, heavy dude, I know.) Published in November 2012 on the Men With Pens site.

My Lawn, My Life

A fun contest of the Gotham Writer’s Workshop, requesting a 50-word monologue on suburban life in the 60s. Just for being one of the five finalists, I won two tickets to the Broadway revival of Who’s Afraid of Virgninia Woolf. Published in November 2012 on the Gotham Writer’s Workshop site.

The Short, Happy Lives of Short Story Collections

Me waxing poetic (but short, mind you) on how short story collections are the weird sister of the publishing world. Published in May, 2012 on the Guide to Literary Agents blog.

How Word Seeds Make Word Trees

A bit of beguiling business on how you can face the terrors of the blank page by seeding it beforehand with a few budding or ripening “word seeds.” Published in March 2012 in Upmarket magazine.

Mark Twain, a Fiery Editor

Honorary Mention in the “100 Words or Fewer Writing Contest.” A little story biscuit about the master’s writing habits. It’s good fun to try to write within such constraints as a 100-word shoebox. You’ll have to search for my name among all those snooty winners. Published March, 2012

Tolstoy, Take a Hike

That Tolstoy guy wasn’t so hot—see how I reject that puff piece, War and Peace, in this Writer’s Digest article. Published in the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest.

Galileo and Leonardo da Vinci Walk into a Bar …

Galileo and Leonardo discuss the merits and demerits of a copywriter focusing on a single niche versus writing for a spectrum of clients and across genres. Leonardo wins. Published in the Sunday, November 27 edition of Bob Poole’s Daily Doughnuts.

How to Take a Writer’s Retreat

How to plan out—and accomplish—a personal writer’s retreat. The mindset, the means and an incomparable atmosphere. Published in the new 2012 edition of Guide to Literary Agents.

How Not to Write Like an Idiot

A series of editing tips (with bloody examples of my own editing fiascos) on this popular business writing blog. Published in May 2011 on Men With Pens magazine.

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far

A chance for me to trumpet my broad knowledge of writing in a dictatorial fashion, on the Guide to Literary Agents blog. (Well, really just me taking a shot at how to get some writing done, amidst all those publishing parties and Oprah invitations.) Published in April 2010.

East vs West Smackdown: Which Literary Agents Are Better?

New York has been the hub of the publishing world for a long time, but in Internet days, much about closing a publishing deal has changed. Or has it? Published on the Guide to Literary Agents blog, December 2008.

It’s All About the “I”

A first-person essay about writing first-person essays, published in Personal Writing, a special edition of Writer’s Digest magazine, April 2005. Reprinted in the newsstand Writer’s Digest, August 2005.

Letter Perfect

A light look at the source of article ideas, published online at AbsoluteWrite, 2003.

Breathing Exercises for Writers

My own methods for extracting words from brain to page. Published online at WriteThinking, 2002.

Checking Your References

A paean to the dictionary, published in the Summer 2002 issue of Verbatim, The Language Quarterly.


A light piece on writer’s procrastination, published online at AbsoluteWrite, June 2002.