SF: I wish I could take credit for thinking up Bylines, but all the credit goes to Linda Hagen Miller, a freelance travel writer in Washington. She published Bylines for two years, then became very successful at travel writing and didn't have time to continue publishing Bylines. She looked for someone who would continue her vision. I bought Bylines from her.
I started with the 2006 version, and have been publishing it since then. Bylines evolves each year, with new things being added. It contains substantially more now than it did in the beginning. For one thing, it is 24 pages longer. I've added a list of "literary holidays," pages for conference notes, a submission tracker form that can be copied, an expense tracker, mileage tracker, monthly office task lists for the full-time writer, goal-setting pages, and other things that hopefully help a writer keep organized. This year's Bylines has a list of Literary Festivals. Previous editions have had lists of Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning authors.
When I started, decided to put images of desks on the cover, as a creative setting for writers to imagine. With the 2008 Bylines, I started featuring actual desks of famous authors. I thought this might be helpful to writers to show them a variety of settings that inspired so much creativity. So far we've featured the writing desks of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Mark Twain and Will Rogers. I've got an idea for 2011, but writers are welcome send in suggestions if they know of a famous "writing desk" near them!
DV: As a writer, I find it so inspiring to see the the desks of famous writers on the front covers of each issue. I love that feature! Now that 2010 is here, you’ve already begun to plan next year’s calendar. What are you looking for in submissions for the 2011 issue of Bylines?
SF: Each essay reveals some aspect of writing. Some moment in a writer's life, or some realization about writing that might help other writers. I always enjoy humor, but I enjoy the serious ones, too. I like for the essays to have a positive message, rather than focusing on negative outcomes. It's hard to tell a story in 300 words or less, but writers have found many ways to do it.
Stories have included one on overcoming envy of another writer's success, how it is rewarding to be able to combine writing at home with taking care of one's children, how writing stretches the imagination, how writing has led a writer to have an amazing experience, and more. Writers have told about their divorces, death of children, overcoming disabilities and finding or changing careers, all in 300 word essays. Writers have compared writing to cooking, to rock climbing, to racing a car and to many other things. Humor is always good, but so is sincerity. We also take poems, if they're about writing.
DV: What would cause you to reject an essay? where can writers find complete guidelines?
DV: Showing examples is very helpful. When is the deadline for submissions?
SF: This time it's March 1.
DV: What can writers expect from you if their submission is accepted?
SF: Once their submission is accepted, I send them a final, edited version. Hopefully we'll eliminate any last mistakes this way. Then, I ask them if they want their email address published in Bylines on the writer's contact page. Sometimes readers of Bylines want to contact the writers and compliment them, and writers have even gotten assignments from being in Bylines! I also ask the writers if they want their website to be listed as a link on the Bylines website.
Later, I ask them to fill out a brief marketing form. Using the information from the marketing form, I try to send out press releases about the author to their local newspaper and library, in hopes of helping not only sell Bylines, but helping the writer with publicity for his/her own career.
DV: You do a great job encouraging writers to get the word out about the calendar. I won a copy of this year's calendar on another writer's blog. I’m excited about the extra incentive you will be giving for the top three submissions for the 2011 calendar. Please tell us a little bit about those incentives.
SF: This year, it's more like a writing contest that has no entry fee! I choose 53 submissions for Bylines, and each will receive $5 plus a copy of the book. Then I will choose the top 3 essays, and those will receive $100, $60, and $40, respectively. This may not seem like much, but the first three years Bylines was published, they didn't pay writers at all! As Bylines becomes more successful, I'm trying to increase the pay rate.
DV: That's very generous. I imagine you will get tons of submissions, and I bet it won't be easy to pick the top three essays. What’s the best way to find out more about Sylvia Forbes, Snowflake Press or Bylines Writer’s Desk Calendar?
SF: Visit http://www.bylinescalendar.com/ for more info about the Bylines Writer's Desk Calendar. Visit http://www.heartlandwriter.com/ for more info about my writing.
DV: Do you have any other words of advice or wisdom for my blog visitors?
SF: Keep writing!. It's easy to have self-doubt. When you get discouraged, immerse yourself in reading books on writing, read well-written books of any genre, network with writer friends and focus on the positive. Also, support your fellow writers by celebrating their successes, too.
DV: That's good advice, indeed. Thanks again, Sylvia, for being a guest blogger here today, for sharing information about yourself and for letting us know more about Snowflake Press and the Bylines Writer's Desk Calendar.
Don't forget, if you post a question or comment for Sylvia, you will be entered in the random drawing for a copy of the 2010 Bylines Writer's Desk Calendar. One winner will be announced on Monday. More importantly, don't forget to submit your essay to Sylvia by March 1.