Two New Works,Two Different Payment Methods

I’m deep in the ugly work of drafting a new novel, and yet, the hard work of submitting shorter pieces months ago is paying off, tiny gifts in time for Christmas!

As always, I’d love it if you checked out my new work (here and here), but I also want to open a window into what’s going on here from a writing perspective. It’s not a big window, not a giant floor-to-ceiling pane of glass. Think of it more like those tiny triangular wing windows from the cars and trucks of my early youth (aka: the magical and wacky 70’s).

First off, I have a humorous essay up on Sammiches and Psych Meds (a name that is a humorous essay in and of itself). I had high hopes for “This Essay is Worth a Thousand Dollars,” which is abundantly clear in the title. Instead of the clearly indicated thousand bucks, I’m trying something new to me: payment only if my essay reaches at least 2,000 views. That feels ab-so-lute-ly wackadoodle to me–where am I going to find two thousand people who want to read this? But I love taking risks, and I’m viewing this as an experiment. I’ll let you know how it goes! Meanwhile, if you love me or, even, if you have minimally functioning limbs, you can help me out by reading and shamelessly promoting this essay on all your social media sites.

Think of it as door-to-door fundraising for adults, except without actual doors.

My second piece went live just today, at Page and Spine. I’ve said before (and I’m just repeating someone else’s wisdom here) that the key is not to submit everywhere you can, but to find a limited number of publications that are a good fit. And I love Page and Spine–I enjoy the poems they publish and like working with their editors, who’ve always given feedback that improved my writing. As for the pay, I made about $.08/word for this poem. (You can do the math.) So if the winter weather has got you down, take a look at “On a Rainy Day, Mexican Hot Chocolate.”

If you want the recipe, you’ll have to read the poem.

Meanwhile, I’m going to muddle through first drafts, revisions, and edits…or not. Maybe I’ll make a mug of steaming cocoa instead.


Photo credits: AlejandroLinaresGarcia – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

All I Want for Christmas is You! (Agent of My Dreams)

Please, dial down your enthusiasm and remember: no one has agreed to anything. But I did have a second agent request the full manuscript of Things That Were Lost! Oh, look! All of Seattle is decorated in bright lights and glittery bows in celebration! (There’s nothing wrong with the world that a little self-delusion can’t correct.)

Remember, finding an agent is not the same as getting published, and it’s not even necessary if all you want is to hold your own book in your hands. Plenty of authors go the self-publishing route, and some of them even sell lots of books and become famous. (The Martian, anyone? Eragon?)

However, I really, really want an agent. I’m aware of three reasons; it’s possible some deep psychoanalysis would reveal more but let’s work with what we’ve got, shall we?

  1. A good agent will be able to help me refine my book to make it even more sparkly and addictive.
  2. A good agent will know the legal ins-and-outs so that I don’t sign a contract that leaves me without, say, my left arm or my first-born child if my book sales aren’t as high as expected.
  3. A good agent will operate as a smarter, market-savvy version of my super-ego that will tell me when a new book idea is on-track for winning the Newberry and when I should never repeat my idea to another soul, ever. Because it’s just that bad.

In a post a few months back, I described the standard process for querying agents. From my first round of querying six agents, I received one request for the full manuscript, three “I’ll pass” emails, and two non-responses (which I read as passes, but from agents that are too busy to send a form email–no comment).

So, a few weeks ago I dove in again. First, I looked at the first ten pages of my manuscript because that is often all an agent requests before making a decision (I know, right???), and even though I’m stoked I received one request for the full novel, one out of six is just not good enough. So, after axing my first three chapters, I pulled up my list of favorite books and authors in my genre, researched their agents, and wrote personalized query letters to six of them. And, again, I’ve already had one request for the full manuscript! That means two real-life agents have something lovely to read this holiday season, and my book has an opportunity to reel them in. This is getting very exciting, people!

It’s true that, with an agent, I will not get to keep 100% of the proceeds from my book. But guess what? I don’t want 100% of the proceeds! If I could pay you, my faithful reader, to buy all my groceries and clothes and thoughtfully selected Christmas gifts for my family and friends, I would. So if I can give an agent money that will never even hit my bank account in order to avoid things I find unpleasant, well, hooray!


I don’t want to be too optimistic here (actually, I’m not really sure I can help it; call it a personality defect if you must), but What do I do when an agent says they want to represent me? Do I immediately accept? Do I contact all the other agents who currently have my query? Do I run up the credit cards buying cigars for all my friends?

I have no idea. But I’m excited to find out!


photo credit: me. unless you believe it to be clearly amateur and juvenile, in which case my ten-year-old son did it.

Finding Paying Markets Part II

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about finding markets for our writing, and promised a second post the next week.

Then our presidential election results were announced, and like Americans all across the voting spectrum, I spent the next few weeks wondering what alternative universe I’d stumbled into.

I’ve just about got my bearings now, so it’s time to get back to that most fascinating of all topics: getting paid! (Which only differs by one letter from my husband’s favorite topic. Chance?)

Full disclosure: I don’t make very much writing. Yet. In fact, I love the photo that goes along with this post because it clearly illustrates just how fast I’m earning money over here at Casa Claflin. But I love all you other writers out there, and it’s frustrating as heck to trying to figure this out when everyone keeps everything a secret. In fact, I’m doing a career fair next week at the school I used to teach at, and apparently it’s bad form for students to ask, “How much money do you make?”

But, folks. That is important information! It’s like Starbucks putting calorie counts next to their drinks. It might not convince me to get the straight black drip, but I did discover that the White Chocolate Mocha my husband loves is worth almost two vanilla lattes.

So here is my 2016 breakdown.* All figures are rounded to the nearest number that sounded right.

  1. Editing someone’s self-published novel: $900
  2. Essay-writing tutoring for college students: $400
  3. Article getting published (1): $200
  4. Essays getting published (2): $85
  5. Poems getting published (2): $14

*not for tax purposes

Impressive, right? I’m finally able to have a conversation I only dreamed about before:

Student: Do you make a lot now?

Me: Nah, I got paid more at my last job.

Student: What was that?

Me: Public school teacher.

Student: (falls over dead from shock)

Clearly I have a loooooong way to go, and much more beans and rice to eat, before I can “make a living” at this.

Fun Facts about “Being A Writer”:

  1. Working on other people’s writing pays the most;
  2. Articles pay better than essays;
  3. Which pay better than poetry;
  4. Poets, according to Billy Collins in “Monday,” basically work for free.

Had any of my short stories been accepted, they would have fallen somewhere between two and four, depending on the genre and market.

The main takeaways here:

First, at some point, you’re going to need to decide where to put your efforts. Lots of writers only work on writing for other people, or only write articles, or focus solely on long-form essays. I’m still in the process of figuring this out for myself. My guess is that I will always have my fingers in many different projects, but my forward momentum in just one or two areas. (Psst! I hope it’s novels!)

Second, if you want to write to establish yourself, or heck! for the love of writing, there are lots of markets that will be happy to publish good writing for free. Once you are ready to get paid, hunker down for the famine. Unless you are made of magic or Stephen King, it takes awhile. (Not made of Stephen King. I mean if you actually are Stephen King. Unless this is maybe one of his creepier novels, of course.)

So! Hang in there, keep writing and etc, but don’t quit your day job unless:

  • God says, or
  • You are independently wealthy (which, why do you even have a day job? Hmm?), or
  • You have a Sugar Mama or (as I learned about in the Marine Corps) a “Debt Daddy” (as in he pays off your debts, not makes them), or
  • You are willing to be homeless and write from the library.

They do have free wi-fi.


Photo credit: RangerRick