In crime fiction, location is as important as the plot to make the characters and setting more real for readers. It is rooted in a particular place and time. Most often, crime novels are set in cities; some cities inspire more crime writers than others because of their grit. Belt Publishing’s City Anthologies reveal the grit in each city subject.
The Cities in the Anthology Series
These anthologies cover cities that tend to be less written about and so are venues for creating a writer’s distinctive brand setting. So far, the City Anthologies’ subjects are Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Youngstown in Ohio; Detroit and Flint in Michigan; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Buffalo, New York.
The City Anthologies
The Akron Anthology
This anthology contains 22 contributed essays. Like every volume in this series, the contents include the individual viewpoints of the diverse people who have lived in the city.
The Cincinnati Anthology
This book contains the viewpoints of natives from the many walks of life in the Queen City. Like others in the series, this one helps residents and outsiders get to know the different aspects of the city from the personal viewpoints of local contributors.
Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Anthology
2nd edition ISBN: 978-0985944162
This is the book that started it all. Read to see why it inspired a growing collection of city anthologies.
Car Bombs to Cookie Tables: The Youngstown Anthology
Youngstown has one of the grittiest environments in a state full of gritty Rust Belt cities. Here, locals share the moments that define their city and their experiences with it.
A Detroit Anthology
This book was a Michigan Notable Book of 2015. According to an Ebony Magazine review, it contains an “ethnic array of voices that truly shows the facets of Detroit life.”
Happy Anyway: A Flint Anthology
Flint’s water crisis made national headlines. In this collection readers learn more about the city. Like all cities, Flint is imperfect but has devoted residents. The title of the collection reveals the general gist of what is reflected in the contents.
The Pittsburgh Anthology
This anthology has almost 40 contributing participants. The Pittsburgh collection’s diverse contributions reveal the contradictions in this picturesque city that has had many ups and downs.
Right Here, Right Now: The Buffalo Anthology
This anthology covers decades of history, events, and experiences with the contributions of 65 people. According to the Buffalo News review of its contents, it is an essential book about the city.
Writers looking for the right setting for their gripping crime fiction can begin with the cities covered in the City Anthologies. They will get a feel for any or all of the cities, through the eyes of those who know their cities intimately in their own way.
Crime fiction usually involves solving a mystery or why it occurred (such as “Crime and Punishment” by Dostoevsky and “Chanson Douce” by Leila Slimani). Crime fiction captivates readers by engaging their curiosity and desire to solve puzzles, and providing escapist entertainment that offers a break from their mundane lives or touches an inner fear they have harbored (for example, untrustworthy mates, killer nannies, and death by medicine).
From Poe to a Niche All its Own
Since the 1841 publication of Edgar Allan Poe’s, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” crime fiction has blossomed to become a genre with an ever-expanding community of writers. A US phenomenon before it crossed the Atlantic, crime fiction was a recognized genre by the 20th century.
The Sub-Genres of Crime Fiction
The genre has evolved over the years to include several sub-genres. The most popular sub-genres are:
The Cozy Mystery—In this sub-genre the detective is usually not a professional, the violence is not graphically described and usually not visible, and the story often has a small-town or rural setting. The sleuth is typically an intuitive and intelligent woman whose professional connections may aid her deductive skills. In this genre the focus is on character development and plot. Think Agatha Christie and her Miss Marple character.
General Suspense—This usually involves an ordinary person whose need to solve a problem sometimes involves finding a way to exonerate themselves. Think Gillian Flynn, Lee Child, and Dennis Lehane.
Private Detective Stories—In this sub-genre, the detective often works in a notable city, and there is explicit violence. Think Mike Hammer, the detective imagined by Mickey Spillane. Modern examples include Sue Grafton’s character Kinsey Milhone, Lawrence Block’s character Matt Scudder, and Janet Evanovich’s character Stephanie Plum.
Police Stories—Think James Patterson’s character Alex Cross, Ian Rankin’s character Rebus, and Michael Connelly’s character Harry Bosch. The protagonists’ stories include professional and personal issues, not just the actual crime that sets the stage.
Legal Thrillers—Think Scott Turow’s and John Grisham’s stories. The writers are often trained lawyers with a talent for creative writing. For example, Turow not only once taught creative writing at Stanford but is also a Harvard Law School graduate.
The Medical Thriller— These are usually set in a hospital, and the story involves medicine or its effect on an actual character. Think Michael Crichton, Robin Cooke, and Tess Gerritsen.
The Forensic Thriller—Such stories usually have a protagonist who is a pathologist or a scientist. Think Patricia Cornwell, Jeffery Deaver, and Kathy Reichs.
The Military Thriller—In this sub-genre the protagonist typically is in government service or a former serviceman. Think Tom Clancy.
Writers who want a career should try crime fiction. To write proper crime fiction, read crime fiction. Joining a writing group or an association, signing up for one or more workshops, and taking classes will also boost writing skills.
The Santa Fe-based Institute of American Indian Arts (“IAIA”) provides a Native American art and culture-centric curriculum. Since 2012, the IAIA has offered a MFA in creative writing. In 2014, IAIA established a bi-annual writers’ festival; and in 2017, it awarded its first Sherman Alexie Scholarship of $7,500 per semester.
A Unique Institution
IAIA is the only multi-tribal higher education institution in the country, originally established in 1962 as an art-focused high school. This unique institution is dedicated to the study, creative application, contemporary expression, and preservation of Native American culture and art. Indigenous students from the U.S, Canada and other countries benefit from what the Institute has to offer.
IAIA also offers Associate and Bachelor degrees in Indigenous liberal studies, creative writing, the cinematic arts and technology, studio arts, and museum studies. The MFA program in creative writing is a low-residency program (requiring five residencies) that also provides off-campus online education.
MFA in Creative Writing
The MFA in creative writing program allows writers to work on their craft and learn more about the process of getting published and associated issues. Sherman Alexie teaches for the program, and do two of its first graduates, Terese Marie Mailhot and Tommy Orange. Mailhot and Orange are also the authors of the critically acclaimed “Heart Berries,” a memoir, and novel “There There,” respectively.
First Sherman Alexie Scholarship Recipient
The Sherman Alexie Scholarship’s first recipient, Jamie Natonabah, a Diné, is an alumnus of the IAIA, whose favored medium is poetry. She already has a distinguished resume. She is a winner of the New Mexico Slam Poetry Competition. “Red Ink: An International Journal of Indigenous Literature, Arts & Humanities” has published her work. She has also contributed to “Bone Light” and “Fourth World Rising,” two of IAIA’s literary anthologies.
Chelsea Hicks Bryan, an Osage, and Grace Randolph, a Wampanoag, were selected as runner-up and third-place recipients of the award, respectively. The MFA program provided more than $200,000 in scholarship money in 2017, including the Alexie scholarship.
Applicants for the annually awarded scholarship must belong to a Native American tribe or First Nation and submit a work sample. The deadline for the 2018 award was February 15.
The IAIA provides terrific Associate, BA, and MFA programs for Indigenous writers to help them improve and refine their skills. Since the 1970s, Native American writers have increasingly published their work for an English-reading audience. The IAIA wants to build on that foundation and nurture more talent by offering dedicated educational programs. However, since its expertise is also open to non-American writers, Indigenous writers who may not have such educational opportunities in their home countries should take advantage of IAIA opportunities.
Khaled Hosseini’s fourth and newest book is inspired by Alan Kurdi, the young child whose lifeless body was found on a Turkish beach. “Sea Prayer” is a short, illustrated book for readers of all ages and follows a virtual reality show of the same title that was scripted by Hosseini.
Acclaimed Novelist and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador
Khaled Hosseini, a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador since 2006, will donate his earnings from this book to the UNHCR and his own charitable foundation, the Khaled Hosseini Foundation. “Sea Prayer” takes the form of a letter from a father to his sleeping son. Its press release quotes Hosseini’s statement that his book “is an attempt to pay tribute to the millions of families” that “have been splintered and forced from home by war and persecution.”
Hosseini himself is one of many who have fled their homes “in the midst of a displacement crisis of enormous proportions,” a crisis that is the source of inspiration for his latest creation.
From an Afghan Setting to Other Venues
When his debut novel, “The Kite Runner,” was published in 2003, Khaled Hosseini burst onto the literary scene as a distinctive voice bringing foreign characters to distant audiences. Hosseini writes powerful stories, and his new novel is at least as memorable as the others.
Hosseini followed “The Kite Runner” with “A Thousand Splendid Suns” and “And the Mountains Echoed.” Each of his first three novels had an Afghan character or storyline. This time the father of two writes from the perspective of a father and what Hosseini imagines he would feel in such circumstances.
Although he is a refugee, Hosseini was studying in Paris where his diplomat father was based when the Soviet invasion caused his father to seek asylum abroad. Consequently he had a more luxurious route than the harrowing journey Syrian refugees and other refugee victims of war experienced.
Nonetheless, just three years after the publication of “The Kite Runner,” its author became a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, revealing his commitment to the cause of refugees.
The “Sea Prayer” is a good book to read to your own children or to use to teach school children about the subject of refugees. For prospective children’s literature writers, it offers a fine example of addressing the subject for audiences of all ages. It is fortunate that a writer of this caliber is taking this message to a wide audience.
If you have never heard of Astrid Lindgren, you should correct that gap, especially if you aspire to be a children’s book author. To get started you may want to see “Becoming Astrid,” the recently made movie about the beloved children’s book author. If you visit Stockholm, include a trip to Junibacken, the children’s museum, which has a storybook train that takes visitors through some of her stories.
Lindgren’s Widespread Popularity
Astrid Lindgren’s books have been embraced by readers in more than 100 countries and have sold more than 144 million copies. Her books have been translated into 85 languages. She is best known for her Pippi Longstocking and Karlsson-on-the-Roof book series.
Pippi Longstocking, the Brothers Lionheart, Emil of Lönneberga, and Ronia the Robber’s Daughter are among Lindgren’s characters whose first rapt audience were her children and their friends. Her daughter imaginatively created “Pippi Longstocking” as a name and then asked her mother to tell her a story about this character.
The first book about Pippi was published in 1945. Pippi was a groundbreaking character because she was strong, smart, and more intelligent than adults.
An Unconventional Outlook Created Enduring Classics
As a 17-year-old in 1920, Lindgren applied for a trainee journalist position, an unusual career for a female at the time, confirming her reputation in her small town for being unconventional. She did not become an author until she was in her forties.
In the letter accompanying her original manuscript to the publisher, Astrid Lindgren described her first character, Pippi Longstocking, as “a small übermensch in the form of a child, living in a perfectly normal environment.” A Der Spiegel article about the author,
“Wartime Diaries Reveal the True Astrid Lindgren,” revealed this description.
Her personality, education, reading, children, and World War II all influenced Astrid Lindgren’s books for children. She was a prodigious reader. The Der Spiegel article mentions that Lindgren had said that “Hunger,” a novel by Knut Hamsun, was a source of her inspiration. Bertrand Russell, A.S. Neill, and Alfred Adler appear to have influenced her as well.
In her letter to the publisher she pointedly wrote:
“Bertrand Russell wrote that childhood is dominated by the desire to become an adult, or rather the will to power. According to Russell, a normal child dwells on fantasies that relate to the will to power. I don’t know if Bertrand Russell is right. Judging by the practically pathological popularity Pippi Longstocking has enjoyed over the course of two years among my own children and their friends of the same age, I am inclined to believe him.”
Before she started writing stories, she read many to her young children. Astrid Lindgren’s life and books reveal that becoming a children’s literature author can be inspired by many influences.
The term “rust belt” evokes an image of decay, but Belt Magazine and Belt Publishing want to show that there is much more to the region than the negative, oversimplified term used for the areas that have lost their former manufacturing strength or presence. The so-called Rust Belt includes successful areas like the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, as well as struggling cities in Ohio and in the Northeast.
Belt Magazine is an affiliate of Belt Publishing, which was founded in 2013 to provide a publication venue for writing about the Rust Belt and the Midwest for a regional and national audience. Both publications value quality and complex writing.
Belt Magazine aims to resuscitate long-form magazine journalism with essays and commentary articles by writers, poets, journalists and other professionals. Belt Publishing’s anthologies allow writers the opportunity to write about specific places that offer readers an opportunity to find stories, poetry, and perspectives that resonate with them.
As Belt Publishing states on its website about itself and its sister publication: “We believe in quality over quantity and community over analytics.” So far, most of the published material is about the Midwest.
About Belt Magazine and Belt Publishing
Anne Trubek, formerly Associate Professor of English at Oberlin College, is the founder of Belt Publishing and the weekly Belt Magazine, an online publication. Martha Bayne, the senior editor of Belt Publishing, is a Chicago-based freelance writer.
For more information about the book publisher and magazine read Chicago Tribune reporter Christopher Borrelli’s article, “’Rust Belt,” and City Lab’s article by Alastair Boone, “Stories from the Rust Belt, for the Rust Belt.”
No Shortage of Midwestern Talent
The Midwest boasts a wealth of talent, with some of the best Master of Fine Arts programs in the country at the University of Iowa, University of Michigan, and the University of Wisconsin These two publications welcome regional voices and provide the students and graduate of these programs with an opportunity to share their talent and specific Midwest experience with their readers.
Writers from the Rust Belt
Many of our well-known classic and current writers have Midwestern roots, and their prose used the Midwestern landscape as the background of their writings. Midwestern writers are as diverse as Sherwood Anderson, Charles Baxter, Saul Bellow, Willa Cather, Theodore Dreiser, Jack Driscoll, Stuart Dybek, Jaimy Gordon, Lisa Lenzo, Lorrie Moore, Joyce Carol Oates, Marilynne Robinson, George Saunders, and Richard Wright.
Writers from the Midwest should take advantage of Belt Magazine and Belt Publishing to showcase their craft and reveal their presence to a regional and national audience. Writers published by either or both outlets will reach beyond the niche of literary magazines, because these two publication sources have a more diverse audience than literary magazines.
Children’s literature has been a distinctive genre for more than two centuries. However, it has arguably never been as popular as it is today. For trade-specific knowledge needed to succeed in writing for this genre, you need a reputable source of guidance.
About The Institute of Children’s Literature
The Institute of Children’s Literature (“ICL”) provides stellar education for writers who want to write for a young audience. ICL provides guidance that covers all the subgenres and angles of writing for children and young adults.
The ICL has helped writers become better at writing for young readers since January 1969. In addition, ICL provides expert guidance about optimizing marketing. An average of 300 ICL students per year have their writing published.
ICL offers rare one-on-one instruction and guidance by a writer or editor experienced in the craft of children’s literature. Instructors develop their teaching plans based on students’ skill levels.
ICL Course Offerings
The coursework is designed for anyone who is interested in writing for a young reader, including parents, working professionals, and individuals who require flexibility.
Current courses are Writing for Children and Teens; Breaking into Print; Shape, Write and Sell Your Novel; and advanced courses: Beyond The Basics: Creating And Selling Short Stories and Articles and Writing And Selling Children’s Books;.
Learn from Experienced Professionals
All ICL instructors are published writers or editors. They have written a combined total of more than 900 books as well as more than 20,000 articles and stories that have been published by newspapers, national magazines and online. ICL matches its students with instructors according to student interests and needs. Placement depends on whether the student intends to write fiction or nonfiction, books, short stories, articles, or a combination thereof.
ICL’s Satisfied Students
On its website, ICL reveals that 89.7 percent of its graduate students were “very satisfied;” 98 percent would repeat the course; and 97.7 percent would recommend ICL to a friend.
Author Submissions for Feedback
The ICL is located in a beautiful Connecticut mansion. Writers can also submit writing for critiques through its website. People who cannot come to the physical location but would like feedback and marketing guidance can use the online resource.
A Weekly Informative Podcast
ICL’s director hosts the Writing for Children podcast. The podcast discusses the craft of children’s literature, including how to write a book, how to write for magazines, how to earn income, and how to get published. ICL experts answer listener questions. In addition, the show notes provide hard-to-access resources and useful links.
If you have stories you want to write for young readers and wish to excel in the genre, you will benefit from ICL’s expert guidance. Visit ICL’s website to learn more about the Institute and what it offers for writers in the Children’s and Young Adult Literature genres.
Business writing, like other forms of writing, is a skill that improves with practice and effort. It seems simple; but it isn’t. Since business professionals are hard-pressed for time, and have a limited attention span because of it, how specific information is conveyed is very important.
Stick to the Accepted Format
Different types of business writing have specific formats. Follow the standard for each type. Adhering to the protocol is less confusing for readers. Following the accepted form matters more in business writing than in other writing forms.
For instance, business correspondence that is not well written, properly formatted, and/or badly presented gets in the way and may irritate the reader.
Some Pointers about Effective Business Communication/Writing
Your writing must be professional. Professionalism requires etiquette. Being informal is not acceptable in professional communication.
Do an outline of what you want to convey. Use the appropriate tone. Make sure to go through your writing as if you are the reader yourself.
All forms of business writing require the same style of conveying the information. Be straightforward. The style should be clear and succinct. Keeping sentences and paragraphs as concise as possible is a common characteristic of business writing. Do not dally while getting to the purpose of your business writing. What you convey should be easy to follow.
Don’t use jargon or indirect/needless words. Make each sentence convey a single message. Clarity is key. Using precise words in compact content holds the readers’ attention.
Read business publications, reports and presentations to see how business communications are crafted. Some business writers are more effective communicators. Emulate the ones whose style resonates with you, as you need to be yourself in your writing.
Know Your Audience/Reader.
Make sure your writing considers the readers’ standpoints. Think about what readers expect. Depending on what you are writing, do not assume your readers understand the content of your message. In some cases, readers may lack the assumed knowledge.
Show Consideration and Courtesy in Correspondence
Get to the point early. Don’t make the reader wait to figure out what your writing is about.
Short and concise correspondence demonstrates consideration of the time limitations of the reader and shows respect for the reader. It is also the most professional and effective way to share or discuss information.
Carefully Proofread Your Writing/Communication
Read your content before you send/ present it and use spell check.
Business writing is simpler and less demanding than creative writing. But, it still requires practice and constant efforts to improve its quality.
What 2018 Means for SEO and Content Writing
Writing for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has a history as long as search engines themselves. Like everything, the defining points of SEO have changed as the internet and business needs have grown. It now has different criteria that allow some websites to be set apart more than others by ranking higher in search engine hits.
History vs Today
In the late 90s and early 2000s, keyword stuffing was an effective way to boost a website to the top. Today, the same is considered keyword spamming and will actually get a site ranked lower, if not removed from search results. When search engines were newer, they also weren’t great at sorting out the differences between keyword phrases like “beach rentals,” “rent beaches,” and “beach renting.” In other words, similar keywords that mean the same thing. Smarter search engines now ignore such duplication.
Along the lines of keyword spamming, this also happened within everything from tags, domain names, and subdomain names. (Think: “beachy-beach-rentals.com/beachrentals.”) Ridiculous looking, but it worked. Cloaking was another previously successful concept that meant showing one set of content to searchers and another set to search engines. Today, thankfully, names like these have mostly died out.
New SEO Standards Emerge for 2018
In 2018, the idea of “queries over quantity” takes center stage. The major search engines, including Google and Bing, grew infinitely smarter over the past 10 years. Their focus is now on actually resolving the user’s query rather than simply matching and displaying keyword-based results. SEO writers need to come up with ways to address this. It means eliminating keyword spam and placing the most powerful keywords for the topic in the first paragraph of the page and in H1 and H2 headers.
Another vital ingredient SEO writers should pay attention to is user engagement. Google specifically can track not only the search results people click on but also how long they stay on the page without hitting the back button and going into another result. Users who click on one result and interact further with that page indicate their query was solved. Google wants these pages to be first at bat because longer engagements mean more revenue for everyone involved.
Remember, while websites are created for users, the mechanics of writing and designing for search rankings often take away from the user’s experience. Focus on topics and let Google do the work for the website, but make the content relevant. Searching sites like Quora and Reddit, or paying attention to Google auto-suggest and “related searches” will keep content writers up to date on what users are looking for and help tailor the website to the searches.
Jeanette Winter Writes True Stories about Foreign Countries and Difficult Subjects to Educate Young Readers
Many stories by award-winning author and illustrator, Jeanette Winter are about real-life people and events. She excels in writing about domestic and foreign subjects. Some stories like “Josefina” about Josefina Aguilar, the Mexican folk artist, introduce children to achievers in different cultures. Other books, like her biography of architect Zaha Hadid, “The World Is Not a Rectangle,” inspire children with the life story of an inspiring person.
Jeanette Winter’s stories about historic people and historic events provide young readers with information that helps them learn about history (national and foreign), become better in person, and more understanding of motivations of others. This is why she also tackles tough subjects. Parents can use her children’s books to discuss difficult subjects with their children.
Follow the Drinking Gourd—Book about Slavery
Follow the Drinking Gourd, introduces children to slavery with a story about how a folk song gave directions to slaves seeking freedom. The drinking gourd was a hollowed out gourd used as a water dipping tool.
The folksong, published in 1928 was used according to popular lore by an Underground Railroad operative who added coded instructions within it. These directions enabled fleeing slaves to head north by following the Pole Star, Polaris. The story introduces children to the importance of the Drinking Gourd song which later played a role in the Civil Rights, folk revival movements, and elementary school education.
The Librarian of Basra and Biblioburro – Books about Volunteer Public Service
“The Librarian of Basra” is the story of a woman who saved books during the Iraq War. She and her friends saved the book collection, some of which contained books that were centuries old.
“Biblioburro A True Story from Colombia,” tells the real life story of Luis Soriano who encourages reading by children in rural Colombia, with his for legged bookmobile.
A New Home and Affection for a Motherless Baby Hippo
“Mama: A True Story in Which a Baby Hippo Loses His Mama during a Tsunami, but Finds a New Home and a New Mama” shows children that losing a mother does not mean the end of having a loving mother. It also lets them know that a disaster, in this case a tsunami, can sweep victims away and cause devastating personal loss.
Jeanette Winters, opens the world for her readers, by showcasing contemporary people and activities, or by taking them back in time in un such books as “Klara’s New World,” about 19th century Swedish settlers in America, “Elsina’s Clouds” about a young South African girl who paints clouds, “Angelina’s Island” about a Jamaican immigrant in Manhattan. Short biographies about notable people reflect the general intent of the author to educate young readers.