sallyhanan’s blog

A writer’s blog

Research resources February 4, 2010

Filed under: Writing — sallyhanan @ 1:43 pm
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I’m currently writing an article on how to get teenage boys to work when all they want to do is play video games and ignore their mothers. Because this epidemic is viral, perhaps I should charge for the advice. . . . 😀

So where does a girl go to get the information she needs for such an article?
The local bookstore
Personal experience
The local library

I went to the bookstore rather than the library this time, because I had to kill time and I wanted the most up-to-date books on the subject. I had my notebook, I had extra shots in my fancy coffee (that I deserved because I was working), I had half a shelf of parenting books; and I folded myself into a corner of the coffee area to take notes.

When it comes to personal experience, all most people want to know is a) that you can identify with their pain, and b) what you did to fix the problem. The same goes for stories from friends. If you can tell the story with humor, all the better. People need to laugh at themselves or they might cry.

I posted a question on a forum I enjoy—one that has a high level of interaction—and within hours I had many responses on what other moms do with their sons. While I won’t quote these in my article unless I have express permission from the women who wrote them, it’s always good to have a variety of opinions and suggestions. I never put last names in articles, especially, in this case, when moms are bemoaning the laziness of their children.

HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is something I am relatively new to, but it is a wonderful place for reporters and writers to glean from the savviness of experts. HARO sends out an e-mail 2-3 times a day to their 80,000 subscribers with a list of questions needing input. So let’s say I want to break open the story of a politician’s illegitimate child—I could post a query that looks something like this:

Seeking news on personal life of politicians. (Anonymous)

Reporter is looking for the low and dirty on politicians in the city of Washington D.C. All sourced will remain anonymous.

Ok, I am seriously just kidding about this one, because I hate people exposing others when they aren’t exactly shining angels themselves; nevertheless, I think you get the idea.

The library is also a fabulous place to find info. on just about everything. You have current magazines, books, reference books, etc. all waiting for you to delve into them. The librarians usually love being asked for help, too.

Perhaps you have loads of ideas for articles but you have no idea how to go about getting your writing into magazines. That’s another topic, but basically you find the magazines you’d like to write for (start small), and query the editors with your ideas. Here is some help on how to write those queries:
How to write a query letter.
How to write a successful query.
Writing a bulletproof article query.

Good luck!



Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

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Titles—use italics, quotation marks or roman? August 29, 2009

Filed under: Editing,Writing — sallyhanan @ 11:43 pm
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Most people get confused when they have to write the names of works. We all know about capital letters, but are the titles written in italics or left alone or set inside quotation marks?

The Chicago Manual of Style says the following about how to write these into pieces of writing:

Holy books are not italicized, i.e.
The Bible
The Verdas

Books, journals, plays, newspapers (and sections of a newspaper that are published separately) are italicized. Even if the is part of the official title, it must be lowercased unless it begins a sentence or is an official foreign language title.
She loved catching up on news with the Daily Mail.
El Confidencial had a good article in it today.

When the newspaper or periodical has a name that is the name of a building or organization or prize, it is not italicized.
The Tribune Tower unveiled a new column last week.

An italicized title within a title stays italicized but is set in quotation marks.
Insights on Golding’s “Lord of the Flies”

Titles of book series are not italicized.
the Harry Potter series

Parts of long poems or scenes of plays are given no special treatment.
act 2, scene 1

Movies, radio and television programs are italicized.

Ever After is my favorite movie.

Single episodes are set inside quotation marks.
“The Pilot, Part 1” of Seinfeld imitated the show.

Formal names of TV and cable channels are left alone.
the Barker channel

Stories, short essays, poems, articles; and parts, chapters, sections of longer works are enclosed in quotation marks.

Sally Hanan’s story “I Have a Gift” is in her book Joy in a Box (forthcoming).

If single books are put into a collection as one volume, the volume is italicized when quoted.
Toronto is a collection of most of the stories that Ernest Hemingway wrote as a stringer . . . between 1920 and 1924.

Unpublished works like lectures, theses, speeches, manuscripts are put inside quotation marks.

Titles of books about to be published are italicized, with the word forthcoming in parentheses after them.
Tibetan Weddings in Ne’u na Village (forthcoming)

Web site titles are left alone.

Musical works, artworks, and cartoon strips are italicized

Titles of songs are set inside quotation marks. Performers’ names are left alone.
Wide Awake’s song “Maybe Tonight, Maybe Tomorrow” is on their album Something That We Can’t Let Go.

Titles of paintings, drawings, and statues are italicized but the really old ones (whose creators are mostly unknown) are enclosed in quotation marks.

Garfield was created by Jim Davis.

So, to summarize, the big titles are usually going to be in italics. The smaller and not-so-important ones will usually be in quotation marks.



Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      





Copywriting July 18, 2009

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A copywriter, according to the Random House Dictionary, is a writer of copy, esp. for advertisements or publicity releases. In simpler terms, a copywriter is a person who writes advertisements with a view to persuading a reader to buy the products or services written about.

Copywriters are sniffed at by some who consider copywriting to be a lower caste of writing, as if anyone could write copy. I disagree. Copywriting takes creativity. Trying to breath new life into an oft-flogged horse can leave that horse lying just as limp by the end of the piece; it takes real talent to raise it back to vigorous life again.

Copywriting can provide you with an income and still leave you with a few hours at night to write what your heart beats loudly for. With an earning power of approx $60-$80 an hour, yes, $60-$80 an hour, it is definitely one of the few writing genres that can be lucrative.

Some books I recommend (these are reviewed on Amazon as being the best of the best):

Start and Run a Copywriting Business (Paperback) by Steve Slaunwhite

The Well-Fed Writer (Paperback) by Peter Bowerman

The Well-Fed Writer: Back For Seconds (Paperback) by Peter Bowerman

Writing Copy for Dummies (Paperback) by Jonathan Kranz

To get in some practice, read the advertisement pages of the magazines in your home. They will look like letters or bios—written and designed in a way to make you feel as if the ads are written personally to you. If the ads makes you feel like you can’t live another day without the products or services, the copywriters have done their jobs.

Some of you more honest folk might feel that you cannot possibly represent a product in this way—writing as if the reader will be sick or fat for the rest of his/her life if she doesn’t buy XYZ pills. That’s ok, there are plenty of other products out there that you can sell without guilt—your homeowner association’s latest activities, speeches for your favorite politician, business proposals, case studies, etc. Have a look around you this week—read the school news, the speech on the Web, the medical report. If you can put what you have read back down or close the page without having fallen asleep, then you probably have what it takes to write copy.



Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      





How to Get Published Clips July 7, 2009

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In order to be published by the better-known magazines, one has to start small. An absolute necessity is to buy a market guide—buy the one (or two) that fits best with the genre you prefer to write in. Because my two main forms of writing are Christian fiction and practical, help-yourself-style articles, I usually buy Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide and Writer’s Market.

Starting out, I worked with the list of best-selling magazines and steered my gaze toward the bottom of the list. Down there are the smaller magazines that pay less or nothing, but they will give you an opening into the world of published work. You need to get published here, as the better-paying magazines will not be interested in your queries if you have no previously-published clips. E-magazines are also good places to see your name in print.

Read the information about the magazines that you pick out of the guide. The description of what they are interested in will guide you as to what type of story/article/poem you can write for them. If you ask about sending a story about Aunt Gertrude’s strawberry jelly and they are only interested in fiction, then you have wasted both your time and theirs.

Most magazines are not interested in seeing the fully written piece; you must send a proposal first. In the front of the market guides are good examples of how a query/proposal letter should be written. You can also find out (in the guides) if the magazine you want to submit to is open to receiving that query by e-mail. They may want it sent the old fashioned way—by mail.

If you send it by mail, don’t forget to send a self-addressed envelope with it or you will not hear back. If you send it via e-mail, save the e-mail in a separate folder so that every month you can check to see if it was replied to. If, within two months, it was not, then you can send another e-mail to ask if they have considered your query yet.

Once you get a response and, oh joy, they want you to send in the piece, send it in as soon as possible. Editors are busy people, and their time should be honored. If you flake off at this crucial point of business, they will remember and not ask for your work again. Editors want people they can rely on.

Usually when starting out, pay will be either nothing but a byline (your name beside your work) or a year’s subscription to the magazine. That’s fine. All you need is to have that published clip for the bigger and better queries you will be sending out.

Good luck!



Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      





Interviewed about my book, Joy in a Box June 8, 2009

Filed under: Writing — sallyhanan @ 11:12 am
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Becky Cortino, author of three books on healing with humor, interviewed me the other day about many aspects of my life—when I started writing, what brought me to America, what my book is about, and what I offer to clients through my editing service.

Interview with Becky Cortino about my book



Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      





Interviewed about Joy in a Box May 27, 2009

Filed under: Writing — sallyhanan @ 1:53 pm
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Fran Lewis, author of the Bertha series, has interviewed me about my upcoming short story collection:
Fran Lewis’ blog


Writing an Opening With Home in Mind May 26, 2009

Filed under: Writing — sallyhanan @ 9:52 pm
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Home could really be anywhere—it could be the home you grew up in, the home you have created that you live in now, or the makeshift home of someone in transition. Again, I’m going to let my mind fling thoughts in and out of different homes I’ve lived in to see if I land anywhere.

I remember the huge dining room table we all sat around. We had to slide the salt and pepper across the table with an extravagant push to get it to the other side. There was a window into the kitchen, sort of like the place where the servants could serve up the food in the old days. It was such a huge table. I could have some guy bring home his girlfriend and his parents know that she’s “the one.”

I think this could work, so now I have to try and get a good opening line. What would make me want to read more? If I see this through the girl’s eyes, then readers can get in touch with her fear and want to figure out what it is she’s afraid of.

Samantha’s fingers played nervously with her shirt button. Now that she was sitting at the dining room table, with John frowning at her from above the rim of his wine glass, she wasn’t all that sure that discussing the art of grave-digging had been the best choice of conversation.

Ah! Perfect. This story could take off in so many ways, it’s unreal. I could make it humor, paranormal, science-fiction—literally, anything I like. It’s one of those classic openers that lights the muse within.

Have at it, you guys. 🙂


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