Resources for Christians

If you’re a communicator for Christ, as I am, you can find Writing Resources with Christian poets, writers, and pastors in mind on my website.

In addition, I hope you’ll follow these blogs, which I maintain as often as family, church, and book-writing commitments allow:

Bible Prayers
Bible Reviewer
Mary Sayler (in lieu of this site)
Poetry Editor & Poetry
Praise Poems (many of which have been compiled in the book PRAISE! and the forthcoming chapbook, WE: the people under God.)
What the Bible Says About Love

May God bless you and your good work in Christ.

Mary Harwell Sayler, (c) 2017



Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching

If you would love to be in a crowd of poets where each literary artist gives you a woman’s perspective on writing, revising, publishing, and teaching poetry, this is it!

This is the book I wish I’d had when I began sending my poems to potential publishers – the book I wish I’d had before leading my first writing workshop or teaching poetic forms to a class of third graders or doing poetry readings. This book might have eased my search for role models and lessened my remorse over having to learn to market myself. This is the book that might have given me a realistic view of publishing to offset the assumptions made when I earned $35 for a single poem the first time a publisher accepted my work for publication over 30 years ago! Since then I’ve received many writer’s copies but almost no cash, eventually learning the hard way many of the helpful experiences and information you’ll find in this book.

Published by McFarland, who kindly gave me a copy to review, Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching presents 59 essays from an eclectic group of poets offering diverse approaches to poetry related to one of these general categories:

Part I
Our Writing Life – A Collective Voice

Part II
We Who Pass It On – Tips on Teaching

Part III
The Next Step – Publishing Our Poetry

Part IV
Just for Us – Essential Wisdom

To begin at the beginning, renowned poet Molly Peacock gives a word of advice in the Foreword that took me years of looking back to see! She said: “Noticing – the act of simple observation – lies at the foundation of lyric poetry. It is the precision of noticing that leads to the leaps of metaphor that thrill the readers of the art.”

Or, to say it another way: Neither a heightened imagination nor a high I.Q. mark a poet who writes with precision and freshness. However, the work of a poet who simply notices everything is apt to be brilliant!

For centuries though, the shine of a poet has typically spotlighted men who write, and so, as Editors Carol Smallwood, Collen S. Harris and Cynthia Brackett-Vincent explain in the Introduction, “It follows, then, that women poets may have a more difficult time thinking of themselves as ‘serious poets’ and have a more difficult time feeling comfortable promoting themselves as poets.”

That’s certainly been true for me. And yet, with the exception of my first-store-bought-book of poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay, the work of women poets often discouraged me in my early years of writing more than poetry by men! With too few female artists being anthologized or discussed in literature classes, I saw women poet-peers as wordy workers of words apt to go on and on in confessionals, suicidal thoughts, or exploration of their own body parts. Since none of that interested me, I filled my bookshelves with poetry from Auden to Yates with a little Zen thrown in until I gleefully discovered Mary Oliver, Jane Kenyon, Pattianne Rogers, Jorie Graham, Anna Akhmatova, and Denise Levertov as other-centered poets with whom I enjoyed keeping company and learning about the world at large.

I pray our peer base of female poets addressing universal subjects will widen as we read this highly recommended book and consider such topics as “The Fine Art of Revision,” “In Praise of the Chapbook,” “Writing Prompts,” and “Give ‘Em the Beat: Tips on Teaching Meter,” which also shows you how to revise a rhythmic poem to fit a metered form.

Also in the first two sections, one of my favorite chapters, “Fishing Lines, Dream Hieroglyphics: How to Begin a Poem,” provides “Twelve Ways to Jump Start a Poem,” with suggestions ranging from browsing a dictionary (which Billy Collins has reportedly done) to listening to music (which T.S. Eliot was known to do.) For me, observing nature (which Mary Oliver does) jumpstarted at least two book of poems and intense Bible study another.

To keep learning and improving our poetry, the works of other poets can continue to inform and inspire us, hopefully, throughout our long poetic lives. I also want to support poetry in the arts, but after buying hundreds of poetry books, chapbooks, and anthologies, I decided to support my habit by requesting review copies from traditional publishers whose work I already know I like. Studying those books and seeing what works and what does not cannot help but help my own poetry, and I like the idea of helping other poets as you’ll be encouraged to do in the essay on “How – and Why – to Write Book Reviews.”

I’ve merely highlighted a few of my Favs here, but in Women on Poetry, you can expect to find a wealth of preferences and practices by over 40 poets whose ideas on writing, revising, publishing, and teaching will guide you and your poetic writing life.

© 2014, Mary Sayler is poet-author of Outside Eden, Beach Songs & Wood Chimes, and Living in the Nature Poem in print and in an e-book on Kindle. Mary also works with other poets through the Contact & Critiques page on her website.

Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching, paperback


Or call the order line for McFarland – 800-253-2187.

Interview with Dana Cassell, the founder of Writers-Editors Network

Dana Cassell, the founder of Writers-Editors Network, has been a full-time freelancer for 35 years. In addition to writing and editing manuscripts for numerous business clients, she has traditionally published more than 2,000 articles and ghosted or authored nearly a dozen books for educational publishers and other secular markets.

Dana, what do you most want to say to writers in all genres who plan to make writing a career?

Recognize that it is a business, and treat it as such. Magazine editors need articles that will keep their readers renewing or buying newsstand issues, so the publisher can sell ads that keep the magazines in business. This means researching magazines’ targeted audiences and coming up with ideas the editors need to reach those audiences.

It also means seeking out editorial calendars to see what topics they repeat every year and will be covering during the upcoming year. Said another way, writing (and suggesting) what the readers and editors want, not what the writer wants to write. (When the writer has a favorite topic and can find a paying magazine receptive to that topic and the writer’s slant on it, that’s a bonus. It happens once in a while but is usually not enough to build a career.)

This is ditto for websites that will pay for articles. Instead of subscriptions, they may be looking at visitors and “hits,” but the premise is about the same. Also, the successful writer will learn how to reuse their research in multiple articles, books, and columns to make that research investment pay off.

Writers who want to write for the corporate market on a freelance basis would do well to become adept at and known for some editorial service that can directly affect a client’s bottom line — such as ad copy, direct mail packages, white papers, marketing e-letters.

Recognizing that writing is a business means regularly scheduling time for marketing, admin tasks, and study along with time for production.

What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in publishing over the last few years?

The obvious would be the Internet, which has changed the way writers can research and also adds the electronic publishing element. Magazines have always stopped publishing because of over-saturated markets or poor management, but now publishers have to figure out whether to be print or electronic or both — and how to make that work, so the publishing business is even riskier. People are still trying to figure it all out. For writers, there are tons more potential places to get published, and they are easier to research because of Web information, but drilling down to those that pay a decent rate is more of a challenge.

Novels have changed because of the shorter attention span of readers who have grown up watching TV and reading Internet screens. Compare a novel published today with one a generation ago — paragraphs are shorter; chapters are shorter. And that’s what mainstream editors/publishers want — because that’s what sells.

In what ways can conferences and workshops help writers?

They mainly help through inspiration and motivation. Being around and talking to other poets and writers can help us realize that what we’re up against (finding the time, dealing with writer’s block, getting published, finding better paying markets) is not our challenge alone. Everyone faces the same problems at one time or another. It can help us to keep rowing when we know others are in the same boat with us. And talking to other attendees who do not appear to be any smarter or more creative than we are, but who are more successful, can send us home thinking, “I can do that, too!”

The information we absorb from the speakers can certainly be helpful, but we can get that from the hundreds of books and articles on writing for publication. I think that touching elbows with other writers and with the speakers has a more motivational aspect.

Thanks, Dana, for giving Christian writers a clearer picture of writing for markets in general. Thank you, too, for the level of professionalism you encourage and show as you address the needs of writers and editors on


(c) 2011, Mary Harwell Sayler

Basic Steps For Writing & Marketing

Study the classics and contemporary works in your genre.

Consider what draws readers to a particular poem, story, article, or book.

Study publications you like to read. Get familiar with magazines, e-zines, journals, and book catalogues of publishers whose work you like.

Consider any potential gaps that your story, poem, article or book might fill.

Plan your work before you begin. Decide on a theme, purpose, and reading audience.

Research each topic thoroughly.

Outline each article or nonfiction book. Write a synopsis of your novel in present tense.

Let your writing flow without criticizing yourself. Let your work rest. Later read those pages as if someone else had written them.

Identify each problem. When you see a problem, you may see a solution too.

Revise to make the manuscript your best work before you try to place it with one editor at a time.

Follow writers’ guidelines carefully as you submit your manuscript. When using the postal service for a submission, enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) to cover its potential return.

Keep track of where, when, and to whom you mailed your work.

While you’re waiting to hear from the editor, query other editors about your next idea.

Start researching and planning another project.


(c) 2010, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved.


Self-Publishing Versus Traditional

Self-publishing has some obvious perks:

Freedom to publish whatever you want whenever you want

Artistic control over the length, layout, and cover of your book

Immediate income for each book you sell

Some flexibility in the book pricing

Not so obvious are the draw-backs. As the sole producer of your book, you have more freedom and control but also more responsibilities such as:

Researching book-buying markets to see if your book fills a need

Writing and revising your manuscript without editorial feedback or assistance

Correcting mistakes in grammar, spelling, and syntax

Typesetting your manuscript to provide the printer with camera-ready copy

Applying for an ISBN Number and paying fees required to copyright the book

Locating artwork to illustrate the book’s content and cover

Paying for the artwork

Deciding on quality of paper, font style/size, type of cover

Deciding on the press run and paying the printing costs

Marketing the book

Promoting the book

Requesting book reviews

Trying to interest newspapers, magazines, and talk shows in interviewing you

Promoting the book

Promoting the book….

If you have a super-hot topic that has not been addressed, your book might generate interest fairly quickly. Since this seldom happens, you might be stuck with boxes of books that you paid to have printed.

By contrast a traditional publisher handles all of the above responsibilities with the exception of researching and writing the book. If the book does not do well, the publisher bears those costs, not you. If you receive an advance, you do not have to pay that back unless you fail to complete the book as promised.

A traditional publisher takes on the time and expense of editing, proofing, printing, and marketing your book. Therefore, you can be sure the company will put forth professional efforts to be sure you have a lively, interesting, well-written manuscript that readers will be eager to buy.

If, however, you have a ready market waiting for your work or you decide to go ahead and self-publish, please get a professional critique before you typeset your material. I’ve been critiquing poems and manuscripts for 30 years and will be glad to work with you – for a reasonable fee, of course:)

(c) 2009, Mary Harwell Sayler

What Poetry Editors Hope To See In Poetry

In the book Spreading the Word compiled by Stephen Corey and Warren Slesinger and published in 2001 by The Bench Press, twenty editors of poetry journals discuss the qualities they look for in the many hundreds of poems that cross their desks every month. Since most of these literary magazines only have print space for a couple dozen poems per issue, competition remains high. Each editor has personal preferences, of course, yet they looked for similar characteristics in poems they accept. To find out more, I highly recommend the entire book, but for a mini-view here’s a recap of the notable qualities or fresh traits commonly sought by editors – and, yes, readers too:

• Compelling subject that engages readers, making them want to re-read

• Fresh perspective or unusual treatment of the theme or topic

• Credibility and an honest voice

• Accuracy in fact, sensory detail, observation, research

• Genuine exploration of something that might interest most people

• Risk or emotional investment in the poem

• Conflict, counterpoint, juxtaposition – something to provide a push-pull tension between knowing and not knowing or a balance between order and disorder, poising the poem so it does not become a locked box that clicks shut at the end

• Word choices with interesting connotations, denotations, and sounds

• Rhythmic emphasis on syllables or rhymes that benefit from the stress

• Distinctive language and ideas by an interesting speaker or persona

• Tone in keeping with subject, for instance, lively lines in a humor poem

• Humor rather than cleverness, irony over mere wit

• Effective form for traditional verse, effective line-breaks for free verse

• Musicality that becomes even more obvious in reading the poem aloud


(c) 2009, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved.


How To Get Published

Whether you feel drawn to writing poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or children’s books, you eventually may want your work to be published, but how do you go about this? Here are some tips:

  • Notice the publishers of books or magazines that you enjoy reading.
  • Do these publishers have a website? If so, study the titles in their book lines and the poems or magazine articles in their archives.
  • Make a list of the publishers whose work seems most in line with yours.
  • Study and carefully follow the writers’ guidelines on each company’s website.
  • Submit your complete manuscript or a batch of 3-5 poems to one editor at a time.
  • Keep track of where and when you sent your work. If you do not have a response in 2 to 3 months, follow-up.
  • While you wait to hear about one manuscript, start another.
  • If the editor returns your work, read it aloud. Listen for rough spots. Revise as needed, then submit your poems or manuscript to the next publisher on your list.

(c) 2009, Mary Harwell Sayler

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