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Manuscript Club Makes Good

A. & Jd:

“A bunch of women who think they can write.”

You've probably heard writers’ clubs referred to in that way. Ours was 14 years ago when 15 would-be writers—most of us housewives—banded together as students and started learning the game.

During those first years we made a sale only occasionally. Then we were really ‘writing to learn,” our reward the mental activity and joy that is derived from creative work. Doubtless many of us could not have developed our talents without the advantages of the club. On the other hand, a few might as readily have sold their first story without this contact. The club was frankly an experiment, and not every beginner felt we had something to offer.

But the club continued. We knew that only as an organization could we receive the _ benefits needed. As a club we could afford guest speakers

-local writers or visiting celebrities—as well as professional critics now and then. As a club we could conduct contests with prize offers, and we could subscribe to magazines, writers’ journals and purchase the latest books on the art of writ- ing.

We knew, too, that we could learn from each other. There were those who had had advanced schooling, and those who had taken courses in creative writing. There were a few who had at one time or another attended one of the writers’ conferences. And there were those who had trav- eled extensively and those whose lives had been touched by rare experience. All of us were fa- miliar with good literature, and, perhaps most important of all, we were students of life. We soon learned that technique alone is not so all im- portant. Experience knowledge ideas phi- losophy—all these go into the making of a good poem or story.

Our programs always consist of selected read- ing, noting of new markets, and lively discussion, but most of the evening is given over to the read- ing and criticizing of manuscripts. They are read anonymously or by the writer, herself, after which the fun begins. Occasionally we all disagree; oc- casionally we are all wrong, but in most cases, our combined judgment is correct. One of us may be good at helping a writer build up plot. Another may have suggestions on how and where to cut the narrative. Someone wants to feel more atmos- phere. And still another feels that the character- izations are weak. We all do our part in detecting trite phrases and selecting clever titles.

This past year we feel our club has really “arrived.” One of our most loyal members, and a most persistent worker, sold her first novel to

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Doubleday Doran. Another member was offered position as teacher of creative writing for t} adult evening classes here in Des Moines, and sti another, now an ex-member, brought out her ow: book of verse.

One of our older women sells juvenile materi: for text books, and writes religious articles. Tw members are slanting their stories for the pu market. A drama student has had a small success with radio and one act plays. In fact, every on of us has sold something or other at some tin or another—poetry, articles, shorts for the synd cates, and newspaper stories. Even the so-calle “little” magazines have not been overlooked. A together, six of our stories have received recogni- tion either from the O. Henry or the O’Brien co! lection.

Yes, our club has been worth while. We hay: learned much and had some grand times togethe: We love to write and we earnestly desire to su ceed. And we have proved that the bunch of women who thought they could write, really and truly can.

FLORENCE BAKALYAR. 206 51st St., Des Moines, Iowa.

P Self-help groups of writers have had inspiring careers in many communities. It isn’t hard to start a club. Advises Florence Bakalyar, “Talk the matter over with the book editor of your local paper, or place a classified advertisement something like this WANTED—Beginning writers interested in forming a study group.’ ”’

Tribute to Secrets

A. & J.?

Speaking of editorial reports Secrets (always fast) hit a new record the other day. I mailed a story air mail on Saturday, and the following Wednesday had my check, also sent air mail.

KATHLEEN MOW. 1070 N. Highland Ave., Tucson, Ariz.

P Take a bow, Rose Wyn. Miss Mow’s note calls attention to the possibilities in air mail for writers

not only speeding up delivery of manuscripts, but, in most editorial offices, assuring earlier attention. In special situations, additional cost may easily be justi-

fied. e

Army Material

A. & J.:

We are frequently asked to furnish material for manuscripts in preparation, and to correct data which has been made inaccurate by recent changes within the Army. In many cases such conferences or correspondence have opened up new lines of interest for authors. Although the majority of our contacts are naturally with writers of non-fiction we are often able to provide fiction writers with background material.

It is the policy of the War Department to facili- tate publication of information concerning our Army. This bureau exists for that specific pur- pose. We shall be glad of every opportunity to serve you and any authors you may refer to us. .


War Department. Washington, D. C.

P Major FitzGerald is Chief of the Special Assign ments Branch, Bureau of Public Relations.


Every year a tremendous amount of Christmas material, fiction and fact, is pub- lished. It's time now to start working and selling Christmas manuscripts. One of the reasons holiday manuscripts sell so well, rela- tively, WHEN OFFERED AT THE RIGHT TIME, is the fact so many writers do not offer until editors have already filled their needs.

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THE BIG EDITOR was rushing plans for the next issue. He called the staff and free lance photographers in, and told them just what type of shots dealing with the war and the Defense Program he could use. He had a conference with the feature writers, and sketched out three or four snappy articles on the war, to be delivered in a hurry. He told the Fiction Editor just what sort of war short stories he wanted; and especially how he wanted the two currently running serials to be slanted more vigorously against the Axis. Then he interviewed the poets, and told them just what sort of sonnets, ballads, lyrics, and free and light verse on the war he wanted, and in a hurry, too....

—What’s wrong with that picture? The last sentence, of course. The rest of it is hap- pening every day. Editors demand pictures, articles, and fiction, from short short to book length, on the war. Do they want poetry on the war? They're bound to. They want it most of all, since poetry is the most emotional way in which words can be used. But they don’t want the poems most poets are writing. And they are profoundly sound in this attitude!

From the photographers, they get sharp actual pictures of this and that detail of the war. Even an isolated detail—a dead girl’s violated body left in the road as the troops roared on, the charred shell of a cathedral or hospital, a single bleeding hand blown off by an aerial bomb—these rouse our emotions like a slap in the face. The articles, the fiction,

are specific and full of facts; they rouse us, or inform us. The average poem about the war does neither. Generalized abstractions about democracy, Hunnish tyranny, and so on and on—a poor rewrite of material already stale from a myriad repetitions in editorials and patriotic orations. What the editors want 1s—

But let’s take a specific case, and give the facts: Gordon Philpotts, of St. John’s, New Brunswick, Canada, had shown himself a splendid poet on themes outside of the war, with sharp concrete poetry in a living vocabu- lary, and with subtle variations in rhythm as natural as the most beautiful speech. No won- der he was a favorite with editors—on themes outside of the war.

But, after all, he is a Canadian, and as a loyal Britisher he set out to do his bit to swat the Hun in verse. He started off with “On Guard”’:

On guard for Canada! Stand to from shore to shore.

On guard for Canada! Gold hearts to the fore!

. Sons of the freedom of justice,

Sons of fond liberty,

Strengthen your hopes with valour!

Serve with the zeal to win!

Stand for our God and the Empire!

Strong, with clear faith within. An editor saw it and shot it back. The author sent it to me: what was wrong with it? Of course, it made me writhe: “gold hearts,” “sons of fond liberty,” all the rest of it—this wouldn’t even ornament a hymn; and, as war poetry, it was atrocious. I tried gently to


Satan ey ne i eae ne


break it to him: be more specific. And I re-

ceived ‘Empire’s Reply”: We hurled no curse, no threatening woes

To cause the angry, insane throes Of filthy lies.

It went on with talk of “tardy fate,” “rampant might,” “theirs is the blame,” and

So we must sweep

The raging flood of lust away

And by our righteous strength repay The souls who sleep.

I wrote him more directly, this time, that he was on entireiy the wrong track. Please get as specific as the photograph of the severed But once more he came back in his old lines as

hand! mood, “End of the Gods.” It had bad as:

Of their hypocrisy, greed and aggression . The swelling cry That rises from the brave and strong And drowns the unwilling sigh Of sacrifices freely made.

But they will know The forces of democratic right, And their hate will be turned to fear And their altars smashed in the fight; Crushed at the feet of freedom.

I did not give up, even at this. I came

WOOD AND FAVORITE CAT Clement Wood contributed ‘‘Poetry As A Best-Seller’ to the July, 1940, A. & J. He is the author of Poets Hand- book, The Unabridged Rhyming Dictionary and Form Book for Poets, and many other books.

The Author & Journalist

back slowly and precisely: what moves us emo- tionally is actual facts—things you can touch, see, smell, taste, sense with some of the senses. This is the gateway to the heart; and the heart, to the mind.

And, to my amazed delight, he came back with


Where is the soul of England?

A small boy peering at the noisy sky,

Hearing the roar of strafing death, and yet

Running to a smoking pile nearby

Because he hears the wail of some torn pet. Where is the soul of England?

A mother lifting up her mangled child

From a battered heap of once-familiar stone, Where home and joys are wreckage, crudely piled: She stands unconquered, though in tears, and alone. Where is the soul of England?

Not pride of what has lived within her walls,

Or sleeps in tombs to which all histories lead, Nor the wise laws of solemn council-halls ;

It is the undying courage of the breed.

This is the soul of England!

The story alters, now. The first editor to whom this was submitted accepted it en- thusiastically, and it may be already known to you. I have heard it read before sophisticated audiences, and have seen the tears steal down their eyes trom the start. For this is what we of kindred blood may well pledge our own liberty and land and homes and actual bodies for: and, to us, what is definitely moving, is the frightened little boy running to comfort his dying pet; the mother holding het murdered baby in her arms, homeless, husbandless, yet still filled with fierce undying fire . . . the undying courage of the breed. I cannot read it without tears in my eyes. The poet has come to his own, at last.

Abstract generalizations like liberty, democ- racy, freedom, peace, are well enough to pon- der over and debate; but not while the mad- men froth at the mouth, and aim actual death at all the precious little things we hold so dear. Let your poetry, then—borrowing here the technique of the best Oriental art, with its glorious emphasis on simple uncluttered things

put into undying language the simple, little things: the facts. So will the heart leap, and the brain plan, and the arm strike back.

This applies quite as much to our country’s part in the struggle.

Thus, whether our poems deal with a rally- ing call to America to rise and defend America

July, 1941

and all it stands for, or a pride in the emer- gency activity of the home conscription army, or a humorous bit of fun-making at the raw recruit, or a direct drive at the human lice who seek to fatten, as fifth columnists, as parasites on America, the same motive must inspire: not the generalization, but the specific hard- hitting tact, which alone can set the heart on

“WRITING CONFESSION stories _ is simple,”” said a friend of mine (who, by the way, has never tried it). ‘All you have to do is to keep them dramatic and emotional.”

Maybe you've said that, too. Maybe a part of it is true—the remark about keeping them dramatic and emotional. The first part is simple enough for Life itself supplies the drama for confession stories—but the emo- tional part is entirely up to the writer.

Just how does one go about creating and maintaining an emotional balance for these stories ?

Primarily, let’s consider what we are trying to do. Aren’t we, first of all, trying to make our readers feel some particular emotion? Though it isn’t necessary for the writer to have experienced personally every emotional furor into which he casts his characters, he must have within himself capacity for that feeling if he wants to portray it faithfully for his readers. In other words, the fundamental requirement for the emotional writer is an understanding of the human emotions.

As you've been told many times before, you can’t merely fe// your readers that Mary suf- fered: you've got to let them see her doing it

-and make them suffer right along with her.

But how?

First, get them interested in the girl, paint some kind of word picture that will make her stick in their minds. The one about how pretty Mary looks in spite of the tired lines under her lovely, expressive blue eyes and around her sensitive, hurt-looking mouth is always good for it makes them see immediately that Mary is both attractive and abused.




fire. And not intricate borrowed meters and poem patterns, but the homely natural free or accent verse, or metric verse with such varia- tions as the language itself dictates.

When our poets as a whole do what Gordon Philpotts did, then we may expect the Big Editor to consult them—and not last, but first,

in making up the next magazine!


Ellen Hale is the pen-name of a suc- cessful writer of confession and love stories

Don’t underestimate the necessity for keep- ing your heroines attractive and intelligent. Many new writers feel that because a story is true Mary should be pictured as a nondescript, blank-faced, colorless little idiot. Stop and think! Haven't you noticed that nothing ever happens to that type of girl—or if it does she doesn’t know what to do about it?

Your heroine must be lovely enough to attract both trouble and sympathy, smart enough eventually to figure her way out of the bewildering tangle of difficulties into which she has been cast. Practically every reader believes she has within herself the appeal of Hedy La Marr and the brain of Mrs. Roose- velt, so it’s an insult to ask her to identify herself with anyone less gifted.


Thus, even though Mary is living a hum- drum, average life, she’s a bit of a superior person—just as you and I are superior to our neighbors, even though our lives are identical with theirs.

Now, about poor Mary’s suffering. Here’s the way some writers have put it over. These

from Secrets:

Maybe I was too pretty. Women didn’t want a good looking girl around, even when I was willing to work for almost nothing. . . . You can’t sleep on park benches and eat snowballs. I tried it.

I learned that—and I was disillusioned. I didn’t want to spend my life blistering my hands in hot water, sweltering over meals for farmhands, scald- ing chicken feed, sometimes even dragging heavy buckets of mash for the hogs up through the heavy, odorous mud of the barnyard. I hated it.

From Modern Romances:

They were a complete picture. . . . I was the outsider in my own home that I thought would

hold me and mine so securely. Silently I watched, cold with fear.

I lay still, living and reliving the past few days of Jim’s sudden illness. . . Gone, somewhere, leav- ing me alone in the dimly lit room in which the sudden stillness was more terrible because it had been so filled with the noise of that losing battle to live. He was gone, leaving me alone, a widow at twenty-six, with his unborn child stirring within me, and five-year-old Teddy True Story:

When I was seventeen I entered high school. As long as I live I shall never be able to think of my first day there without a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had always been sensitive about our poverty. . . . Their (the other girls’) amused eyes looked me over from head to foot. They gig- gled and poked each other in the ribs. . . . My face was burning, and I fought desperately to keep from crying.

Oh, there was a lot, just like that, but when I came to the end, I thought I was going to die. I went weak in the kntes, sick at my stomach, so blind I couldn’t see—

I knew my second marriage was a mistake on my wedding night. . . . Long after Tom was asleep, I lay taut beside him, staring at the ceiling. I loathed him. His caresses nauseated me; I could not endure the touch of his hands. With every throb of my heart, I hated this man who was my


ALL of these examples appear somewhere in the first part of their respective stories, early bids for the readers’ sympathy. After them comes the heroine’s desperate attempt to better her circumstances, by which she plunges




“Then it’s all settled—McClurg will have charge of the pocket-size classics, Arnold will handle the standard editions, and you, O’Hara, can take charge of the jumbo items.”

The Author & Journalist

herself more deeply into bitter, bewildering, apparently inextricable troubles. Whereupon the writer pours out more emotion.

Secrets: Giant fingers seemed to close on 1


Modern Romances: Then I remembered. Dea: God in Heaven! I remembered. . .

True Story: My eyes felt as if they were bulging from their sockets, the blood was pounding i my ears. . . . Oh, if I could forget the horror of that moment.

Pictures, definite pictures in every one of those examples I’ve quoted, pictures which should show you far better than any words of mine could ever explain, how to make your readers see and feel what Mary is going through.

And now, just one more example. In every confession story the wrongdoer must recognize his mistakes and regret them. A Secrets story handles that matter very well, I think:

Feeling lost, panic-stricken, I took one step fo: ward, uncertain where I was going or what I was going to do. It’s terrible—the longing to undo in a moment, a wrong that has been months in build- ing up.

In all these stories I’ve purposely skipped the emotional heights and concentrated upon the despairing depths because I know you'll notice the white-hot points of ecstacy, the glowing triumphs and the glorious, soul- stirring joys without any help from me. I've tried to make you conscious of the emotion- packed paragraphs in confession stories that have sold.

For exercise, pick out and underscore the emotional high-lights from a half-dozen cur- rent confession magazines. Type them on a separate sheet and go over them carefully. Notice that often the simplest expressions are the most eftective. Study the way the writer has handled the matter; then try variations of your own. Close your eyes; try for the moment to be Mary, to feel exactly as she must have felt; then set down her story just as it must have been wrenched from her tortured heart.

After you've studied and experimented with somebody else’s writing for a while, put a fresh sheet of paper in your typewriter and go to work on that incredible story you heard last week.

One word more. Don’t be fooled by that remark about drama and emotionalism being all a contession story requires. A confession story must contain everything every other story needs; good writing, sound plotwork, con- tinuity, etc. Truth may be stranger than fiction, but your confession story better be convincing!

July, 1941



THERE’S PAY-DIRT in historical records for feature writers who are willing to dig in and do a little research, for every town, no matter where located, had an interesting early history, and plenty of things happened that are not in the history books.

First step is to get hold of early records. Perhaps they have been published in volume form and are in your public library. Maybe they've been lost. If they have, that’s a story. How did they get lost? Quite often early records were destroyed by descendants of orig- inal settlers whose ancestors were made examples of discipline.

Town and proprietor’s records will be found in the town hall in the town vault. The town clerk will know exactly where they are. City

records, in most cases, have been published and are at the public library.

In the early days every little thing was written into the record. For instance, a boy of five had his ear chewed in half by a horse. His parents immediately had the accident writ- ten into the town records and sworn to, so that in the future no person could say that he was a devil or bewitched by the devil.

Many of the best stories will be found in early church records. Those first settlers took their religion seriously and church secessions were bitter battles sometimes resulting in destruction of church buildings and stoning of members.

Quakers and Shakers and New Lights and many other religious sects caused furors. There were many eccentric preachers, and the more eccentric they were, the better copy they make.

Some churches have record rooms, but few have taken good care of the historically valu- able old books, manuscripts and letters. Church secretaries and pastors will gladly permit exam- ination of these records—especially if you offer to arrange or list the records for the church.

Once you have your historical material, what kind of a feature will you write? Well, in a 200-year-old New England church I found a tattered record book of a Tabernacle Church,

Massachusetts, where Guy Livingston lives and writes, has a longer past than most states, but everywhere in America old records are an inexhaustible source of feature material.

which was in existence for five years in the eighteen-seventies. It was founded, I learned, by a 30-year-old English preacher, who broke with the established church because the elders said he took opium.

When I found that this preacher wore white kid gloves and a full beard and had a habit of sticking his leg over the pulpit while preach- ing, I knew I had a story. A book of yellowed newspaper clippings and a picture found in a pile of old letters completed it.

The subject of my story had died at 35 and the church he founded disbanded on his death. The records had lain undisturbed for more than 60 years.

I began my story: “Locked in the record room of Old South Church lies a tattered book of newspaper clippings—all that remains to mark the brief but colorful career of an English preacher whose sensational sermons packed churches to capacity, brought nation- wide publicity to the city and caused one of the strangest church secessions in local ecclesi- astical history.”

It ran 1,000 words and the Sunday editor of our local paper paid me $15 for it.


About the time you have sold several of these historical features and are acquiring a reputation as an historian, try to interest your editor in a weekly historical oddity, local of course. Some good titles for it are: “Long Ago in Our Town,” “Down the Years,” or “The Old Days.” If the editor likes the idea ask him to have a cartoonist illustrate your material. This feature will bring money, prestige and can even be syndicated.

I sold the idea on a once-a-week—Friday— basis. A cartoonist illustrated the material which ran about 125 words—two columns wide with the cartoon flush over the top. Here's a sample:

In 1781, the General Court having established an excise on wine, rum and on wheel carriages, a special town meeting was held in this city on the 25th of January, 1872, to protest against it. Some of the grounds of their dissent are here copied from the records.

“Liquers being absolutely necessary for our See- fearing Brethren coasting along our shores in Boats and lighters at all seasons of the year to supply the market with wood, Lumber & Fish—also for the Farmer whose Fatigue is almost unsupportable in hay Time and harvest and other seasons of the year—and for the New beginners in bringing for- ward new Townships where they have nothing to drink but water.”

The cartoon showed a farmer with a pitch- fork and a bottle gazing out over a small pond on which was a row boat with two

A RELATIVELY UNTAPPED market for free lances is the Anglo-Jewish press—publi- cations printed in English though devoted to Jewish topics. Many Jews read them in addi- tion to their daily newspapers.

Most are weeklies or monthlies and there are about 100 of them in the United States. Generally, they are neither as “‘religious’ as the Catholic press nor as ‘‘racial” as the Negro press. Nearly every Jewish community has a local Anglo-Jewish paper which chronicles births, deaths, weddings, anniversaries, but the writer's best bet is to sell the syndicates which service them or national Anglo-Jewish publica- tions directly.

Anglo-Jewish Markets (paying for material)

Menorah Journal, 63 Fifth Ave., New York. Henry Hurwitz, editor. One of the oldest Anglo-Jewish pub- lications encouraging creative prose and poetry. A quarterly like the Yale Review. “We publish first rate articles of a literary, historical nature covering any aspect of Jewish life or thought, past or present.” No length limitation. Reports within two weeks. Pay- ment dependent upon writer and material.

Jewish Frontier, 275 Seventh Ave., New York. A critical monthly Journal of Opinion similar to the Nation. Publishes articles up to 3000 words on con- temporary political and economic subjects written maturely and authoritatively. Material of a Labor- Zionist nature especially welcome. “We also occa- sionally use exceptionally good stories with a Jewish background. We report within 2 weeks and pay 1 cent a word upon publication,’ advises S. Katz, man- aging editor.

Contemporary Jewish Record, 386 Fourth Ave., New York. A Duker, managing editor. An extreme- ly well-documented bi-monthly intended for libraries, serious readers publishing authentic articles by ex- perts in political, economic and social developments affecting Jews: Viz: phases of anti-semitism, defense of Jewish rights. Rates are excellent depending upon author and material. Query before submitting.

Opinion, 122 East 42nd, New York. Edited by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise. Uses stories and articles up

The Author & Journalist

occupants both tilting bottles to their mouths.

Material for this kind of feature is endless. The more you seek old records the more old records you seem to find; the more you write up historical facts, the more facts you'll find to write. Why, I’ve even got stories out of old advertisements !

(It isn’t practical for A. & J. to append to Mr. Liv- ingston’s article a list of markets—because, with ever)

state, pertinent data would vary. Writers should con- tact local and nearby large-city newspapers.)


oat Compiled by J. H. POLLACK

to 3000 words with a Jewish subject or background. Articles of a Protestant-Catholic-Jewish slant. Senti- mental and Zionist articles used. Report within 10 days. 1 cent a word upon publication.

National Jewish Monthly, 1003 K. Street, N. W., Washington, D. C. Acquires 50% of its material from free lances. Published by B'nai B'rith, largest Jewish fraternal order in U. S. (similar to Elks). Mr. Edward E. Grusd, a sympathetic editor, advises: “We prefer articles with an American-Jewish interest between 1000 and 2000 words accompanied by clear action photographs or the possibility of getting them. The style we demand is a sort of happy medium be-