Dina Friedman's Monthly Writing Advice

Vol. 1 # 4, October 2001 - The "Dear Dina" Column

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In order to better accommodate your needs, I've decided to change the monthly tip sheet to a question-and-answer format. Send your writing questions to dina@frugalfun.com , and I'll answer them in a "Dear Dina" format. (You may use either a real or fake name.)

For example:

Dear Dina,
I never get the difference between it's and its. Who needs apostrophes anyway? Could you straighten me out once and for all.
I Should Know the Answer to This, But I Don't

Dear Should,
If you can say "it is, then the apostrophe stays. In this case, "it's" is always the contraction. "Its" is a possessive pronoun (like hers and his). True, if you substituted a name you would say Jane's or John's. But even in our groovy New Age society, I've yet to come across the name "It." I guess we aren't as alienated as we think.

Dear Dina,
I just got a letter from an agent who says he wants to read my novel, but he charges a $500 reading fee. He sent me a long list of books he's sold, and his interests seem to be a perfect fit for my subject, but if I pay the $500, I won't be able to pay my electric bill and then I won't be able to use my computer or have light to see by. But am I throwing away the chance of a lifetime? What should I do?
A Star to be Born

Dear Star,
Keep the computer and the lights on--and find another agent! Agents who charge steep reading fees live by the fees they collect, rather than from the income of the books they sell. Reputable agents will read a sample, then request the whole ms. if they're interested. If they sell your book, their commission is usually about 15%. If you get that far in the process--and I hope you do--make sure to have someone in the know go over your contract. That's when it's time to join the National Writer's Union or a similar advocacy organization so you don't get taken over the coals.


Dina Friedman, mailto:dina@frugalfun.com ,
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Dina Friedman, M.S.W., has worked with individuals and groups on issues for thirteen years. A published fiction writer, poet, playwright, and journalist and winner of several awards and honors, she coordinates academic writing workshops for Mount Holyoke College. She has taught rhetoric, English Comp, and creative writing at the University of Massachusetts, Holyoke Community College, and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

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