Some of my MVTs: Most Valuable Tweets









Verlyn Klinkenborg: Being a Writer vs. Occupying the Writer’s Space

Written by Brendan O’Meara

I attended an author event at Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt where author and essayist Verlyn Klinkenborg talked about many, many things—all writing.

What struck me was what he opened with: do people/aspiring writers want to be writers or occupy the writer’s space? There’s a huge distinction. It’s my feeling that most people who want to occupy the space fail to realize how much hard work goes into writing. They like this idea of isolation, liquor, snow falling, long talks over coffee at a Parisian cafe, HUGE book advances. Being a writing is tough. You make little money. The best writers make it look so effortless that aspiring writers feel they can just waltz in and do it. Cardiac surgeons make open-heart surgery look easy, but I’m not going to cut open anybody’s chest because I want to occupy the operating room.

Time for me to get out of the way. Klinkenborg talks about perfect vs. perfect enough, shooting clay pigeon sentences, imagining sentences, and writers as manipulators.

It’s a great talk. Enjoy! (And please pardon the resolution. It’s all I’ve got!)

What did you take from the talk? Did anything strike a cord?


Questions for Verlyn Klinkenborg?

Written by Brendan O’Meara

After I sign books at the Saratoga Horse and Tack Expo at Saratoga Race Course tomorrow, I’ll be heading to Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Ctr., Vt to attend an author talk with Verlyn Klinkenborg. He’ll be talking about his new book “Several Short Sentences About Writing”. It’s great, by the way.

Do you have any questions you’d like me to ask him? I plan on video taping the talk and posting the video here, as well as write about it. Write questions in the comments or Tweet them out to me.


A Guest Post and a Preview

This is how you book tour on a budget!

Written by Brendan O’Meara

I’m crashing on the couch of Richard Gilbert’s Narrative blog this week. He allowed me to be a guest and write a post about memoir and reportage. Lots of fun and a great discussion going on in the comments. Go on and read it.

Also, and this is exciting, I plan on visiting Northshire Bookstore Saturday night to see author Verlyn Klinkenborg talk about his new book “Short Sentences About Writing.”

I will video the talk and publish it here and on my YouTube channel.

So, stay tuned and go over and say hello to Richard at his blog.


Links! Of! The Week! 9/10/12

Written by Brendan O’Meara

I’m starting what I hope will be a regular segment here at the Hash Tag for Writing blog. I’ll compile some links from blogs I like and dump it all into one little post. Like Richard Gilbert’s insights into Verlyn Klinkenborg’s Several Short Sentences on Writing as well as his review of Richard Ford’s novel Canada.

Mathina Calliope at her blog-I-cannot-pronounce riffs on “agency.” She also links up a modern-day hero of mine in Tim Ferriss, so that’s cool by me.

And just starting her own food blog is Lauren McKinney. Welcome back to the blog-o-verse! Here she writes about pizza. Mmmmm, PIZZA!

If you dig some great environmental writing, check out Melinda Copp’s posts. She got pretty mad this week about selected conservation. She followed it up with this.

What else? I like this funny post by the insightful lit agent Rachelle Gardner. Then one about the perfect pitch.

I’d say that’s probably enough for this week. I hope you get a chance to read them! I may as well leave you with a music video. Whenever I feel down, I just crank this.


Literary Awards

Issues, much?

Written by Brendan O’Meara
Follow the Birdie: @BrendanOMeara

I was looking through my scrapbook today (Yes, I had a scrapbook in high school. Go on, get it out. Hey, when you write your memoir, you’ll wish you had the shit I kept on hand.) when I came across the only literary awards I have ever won.

The story, which I no longer have, was called O’Meara in the Rye. Catcher in the Rye was the first book I truly loved and we had just read it that year. OitR was a self-deprecating tale of a guy who couldn’t get the girl. As you can tell, it was critically acclaimed. I kept these “ribbons” for a reason. What I should be asking myself is why was this story I wrote when I was 16, and why was this story I wrote when I was 13, the best work I’ve ever done?

My best answer is that awards of all kinds are political and/or popularity contests. My OitR story was OK. It was kind of funny. But the class liked me and I was popular so when my story went up against, oh, I don’t know, the clarinet player with talent, I won because that’s what popular do: they win.

Now I’m not as talented as the heavy hitters in my genre and I can’t win a popularity contest anymore, so up shit’s creek, as they say. Awards are nice and they make you look good, but it’s wise to understand that people are doing the voting and if they begrudge you just a touch, they won’t vote for you out of principle, even if your work is superior.

Maybe I wrote such good stories before I ever kissed a girl because I didn’t over think it. I had fun writing stories that were entertaining, that had these wounded, likeable characters. Nowadays I kick my own ass by writing about horse racing and string for local newspapers and websites when I should be in bigger markets.

It’s time to be as good as I used to be!

Subscribe to the Hash Tag for Writing blog. It’s easy. Here’s the link.

EZ Shoe Trees

Written by Brendan O’Meara

Beyond talking about writing and self marketing, I’ll write about looking the part. It’s my feeling that suiting up and taking your appearance seriously helps you get the story and win the trust of your characters. We’re billboards for our brand. If we look put together then by extension people will think our work is put together. You know the saying about first impressions. I’ll take my chances in a suit. Now for today’s post!

Want to have shoe trees but don’t feel like spending $20 for every pair of shoes you own? I’ve got an easy alternative: water bottles.

What works best are the eco-friendly bottles that have a thinner plastic. They are more pliable, but still have shape and structure.

1. Squeeze out a little bit of air.

2. Screw the cap on.

3. Slide the narrow end in first.

4. You’re done! Your shoes now have structure.

Before you recycle, think about reusing. This is one way to put those bottles to use.

Hope you liked this little tip.

Wisdom from Ben Franklin

Sexy and I know it.

Written by Brendan O’Meara

Ben Franklin, the only hombre on American currency who wasn’t a president, had it goin’ on. Sure, he came down with syphilis, but who hasn’t?

I read his autobiography a few months back and it’s tough to get through. The edition I have doesn’t have paragraph indentations. Try reading that. There’s no white space. I need a break.

But, Franklin was nothing if not methodical and that’s important for the writer looking to make a living in letters. Franklin had a list of 12 Virtues to follow for self improvement, and maybe I’ll talk about those another time. What I want to talk about is his daily structure. Here it is:

The Morning Question: What Good Shall I do this Day?

5-7: Rise, wash, and address Powerful Goodness; contrive Day’s Business and take the Resolution of the Day; prosecute the present Study: and breakfast?—

8-11: Work

12-1: Read, or overlook my Accounts, and dine

1-5: Work

6-9: Put Things in their Places, Supper, Musick, or Diversion, or Conversation, Examination of the Day

10-4: Sleep

There’s something simple about this schedule I like. Also, it works in time to decompress and work on other things unrelated to work or craft. There’s time for music, recreation, reflection, etc.

I write well in 45-minute clips. I have some music records that are 45 minutes and I put the headphones on and blast away until the record is done. Then I get up and walk around, do pushups, pet the dogs.

I’d encourage you to adopt a form of structure, something easily digestible. It’s easy to get derailed. All writers know that.

What is your schedule? Is it random? Or do you carve out time each day?

iQuery: The Query Letter, the writer’s fast ball

Written by Brendan O’Meara

Today’s post deals with the ever-important query letter. It is the fundamental document of any freelance writer looking to make a living. It irons out what your pitch is about and who you are and why editors/agents should take a chance on YOU.

Here’s what got me into Vegetarian Times’s Vegging Out blog:

I opt for very quick and easy to read letters. One, editors are short on time. Two, they’re reading on a computer screen and most people want to read short pieces on a screen.

First, I called Vegetarian Times and asked for the name of the editor I should pitch to. Next, my opening paragraph is the hook and why the story will be interesting to Vegetarian Times readers (important, not what’s important to ME, but what’s important to THEM. Sometimes you have to alter—as in cater—your voice. Nothing wrong with this.)

Then I jump into my credentials so the editor doesn’t think I’m some yahoo (which will be totally discredited when they see I wrote a book on horse racing, but that’s neither here nor there). I also tag a page on my website where the editor can click and find clips of my work. If they want hard copies, I’ll send them, but in two clicks, the editor will have a broad sample of my writing capability.

Ultimately, my approach comes down to two things:

1. Get in, get out
2. Take Your Time with the Query (this applies more to book queries)

The letter needs to be read quickly and have some semblance of voice and a tightness of language that will be indicative of a longer piece of work.

With the second point, it’s important not to rush when querying an agent or a publishing house because it’s a painfully long process and sitting on your query for an extra day or week won’t kill it. Rushing will make it sound rushed. Treat it like a piece of art. It needs time. The publishing process is long. I’m as guilty as an when it comes to a trigger finger when sending a query or email. But let the query breathe. Your book won’t be published for at least two years. Hanging out for a few more days will help, not hurt it. Here’s my query for Six Weeks in Saratoga that had a few agents biting and sold SUNY Press.

This is a tad long, but it grabbed the attention of enough people to be moderately effective.

Undoubtedly my queries will get better as I learn more about them. As I learn more and experiment with what works and what doesn’t, I’ll be sure to share that information and samples. I may even try to get a friend or two to write a guest post about the subject.

(This is a great query blog post by the ever-valuable Nathan Bransford. RSS his blog. Just do it.)

How have your query letters been received? Where do you need to improve?

30 Markets in 30 Days: Boston

Written by Brendan O’Meara

I’ve said it often, and I’ll say it more, as much as I thought I had my shit together for marketing Six Weeks in Saratoga, the truth is I didn’t. The truth is it would’ve sold better had I exercised more tact with media exposure—specifically blogs.

I did some TV and radio, but I could’ve done more TV and radio. I didn’t get enough print exposure and, like I said in the previous graf, not enough blog exposure. This would’ve been easy. Bloggers need content, fresh, topical, dynamic content. But because of time, they often can’t put in the work. So you spoon feed them just about all the information: questions they can ask you, press release-type stuff, etc. You get your message out and they can new content for little effort.

In my efforts to have my second book do ten times better than my first, my marketing campaign has already started.

And I don’t have an agent yet.

And I don’t even know if anyone will publish the book.

Because it’s incredibly time intensive and overwhelming, I’m hitting 30 markets in 30 days: one day for each major league baseball city. Today I’m working on Boston and here’s what I have so far:

Boston, MA



Standard Times

Brockton Enterprise

Boston Globe

Boston Herald

Lakeville Independent

Middleboro Gazette

Cape Cod Times



WEEI (850 AM, 20 Guest Street, Third Floor, Brighton, MA 02135-2040, Main Office Number: (617) 779-3500)


The Sports Hub (98.5 CBS Boston, WBZ, 83 Leo Birmingham Parkway, Boston, MA 02135 (617) 779-0985)


WBUR, Boston Public Radio, (617) 353-0909,




Dan Roche’s Sports Blog (

Andy Kaufman (

Cod Ball, by Greg Shaw, (

Over the Monster, by Marc Normandin (

Extra Bases, by Peter Abraham, (

Boston Dirt Dogs (

The Joy of Sox, by Allan Wood, (

I plan on making a page like this for every major city. Maybe I’ll physically visit them, or just do so virtually. If I have a friend in a city, I’ll use his couch … or floor.

The goal is to launch a full-on Blitzkrieg on relevant markets and audiences. It’s a lot of work, but it’s necessary work if I want the book to sell. And if all goes according to plan (and, let’s face it, it won’t) the book will hit shelves in what? Two years? This marketing strategy may very well help the case for publication since I’ll have a ready-made plan to capitalize on the momentum at launch time.

And my marketing plan starts yesterday. So should yours.

What have you learned about marketing? What do you feel you need to get better at?