Who Am I?

Somebody once asked me “When did you decide to become a writer?” and I didn’t have an answer.  Because, honestly, I have no idea.  It might have been in fourth grade, because that’s the year my teacher assigned us a story to write every day.  After that, I kept on writing them, though not regularly.  Or maybe it was when I was in junior high and I fell in love with The Lord of the Rings and developed an itch to write a novel of my own.

However, I can tell you when I decided it was time to become a professional writer.  It was my senior year in college, and I figured if other people got paid to write, then there was no reason I shouldn’t be paid for it, too.  After all, I’d been writing stories in my spare time for years.  Of course, my stories were completely awful.  But, like most beginners, I didn’t know it at the time.

That was 1987.

By 1990, I had graduated with an M.A. from Kent State University in Anthropology, had returned home to St. Louis to try to figure out what to do with my non-writing life, and I was still writing crap.  Still didn’t know it.  However, I had some luck.  I submitted a story to Mark Sumner, who, at the time, was editing a magazine called Fresh Ink.  He didn’t buy the story, but he did buy a poem and he thought the story showed enough promise to invite me to try out to be in the Alternate Historians.  I had heard vague stories about them — local writers who kept their group’s membership small and who were very serious about their writing.  I was intimidated, but, hey, what the heck, right?  I met Mark in a local WaldenBooks so I could hand off my stories — no email in those days! — and we talked for an hour and a half about all kinds of things.  A few weeks later I got the news.  The group had read my stories and had decided to let me in.  I was now an Alternate Historian.

That’s when I started getting an idea of the amount of work it was going to take to write salable prose.  Oof!  I kept submitting stories and kept getting tons of comments on them.  So I buckled down and started writing new stories, revising old ones, and submitting to magazines.  Within eight months I had my first sale.  Two years later, I sold two more stories, and the year after that, I got an agent and she sold Sky Knife and Serpent and Storm to Tor.

That was 1994, and the end of my luck.  Since then, I’ve parted ways with my agent.  I’ve found work in non-fiction, but though the ideas keep coming, the fiction arena is still completely dead. So far it hasn’t been a stellar writing career, but there have at least been a few successes, a lot of interesting times, and plenty of fellowship with the other lunatics in the asylum called the Alternate Historians.  Believe me, we have a blast whenever we get together.

I have three guides available at Selfhelpguides.com under the name Marella Sands. They should be useful to anyone wanting to tackle a writing project or for anyone wishing to form a writers group. The guides are set up with text on the left and exercises to be completed on the right side of the page.  The guides cost $4.99 each.

Beginning Manuscript Writing: This guide contains some advice on how to budget your time, how to get started, and how to organize the project. The guide examines some common pitfalls, some of the “rules” of writing, and separates story creation into separate, more easily-managed steps. With the aid this guide provides, you should have the information you need to write a short story.

Writing Your First Novel: If you’ve got the desire to write a novel, or if you’ve tried in the past and failed because it just seemed too big a project, then this guide can help you figure out how to go about the process of organizing the project. Although no one can write your book for you, you can learn more about the steps involved in getting a large project out of the planning stages and onto the page.

Writing Groups: Writing is usually a solitary activity and it is easy for writers, no matter the stage in their career, to feel isolated. A writers group can help writers find support from others who know the ups and downs of writing, and who can help give advice and critique on one’s writing. A bad writers group can do a lot of harm, but a good one is priceless. This guide gives some advice on how to make sure your group turns out to be one of the good ones. Although some of this guide originally appeared on this site, the information is expanded and exercises presented to help you in your quest to form a writers group.

Here is a list of my professional credits:

NON-FICTION by Martha Kneib
Kareem Abdul Jabbar (Basketball Hall of Famers), January 2002, Rosen Publishing
Christopher Columbus: Master Italian Navigator in the Court of Spain, August 2002, Rosen Publishing
Turkey: A Primary Source Cultural Guide, January 2003, Rosen Publishing
Women Soldiers, Spies, and Patriots in the American Revolution, January 2004, Rosen Publishing
A Historical Atlas of the American Revolution, May 2004, Rosen Publishing
Epidemics: Meningitis, January 2005, Rosen Publishing
Cultures of the World: Benin, Marshall Cavendish, January 2007
Cultures of the World: Chad, Marshall Cavendish, January 2007
Celebrate the States: Maryland (2nd Edition), Marshall Cavendish, September 2008

Sky Knife, Tor/Forge (Marella Sands)
Serpent and Storm, Tor/Forge (Marella Sands)
Kingdom of Sorrow (co-authored), Boulevard Books (Kenyon Morr)
See No Weevil (co-authored), Boulevard Books (Kenyon Morr)

FICTION – short by Marella Sands
“Tortoise Weeps” in Sword & Sorceress XIII, edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley
“Star Bright, Star Byte,” in Cthulhu’s Heirs, edited by Thomas M.K. Stratmann
“Frog Prince,” in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, vol. 14

OTHER NON-FICTION by Marella Sands
“Bon Rapports,” in Ardeur, edited by Laurell K. Hamilton,  BenBella Books, April 2010.
“Beginning Writing,” available at www.selfhelpguides.com
“Writing Your First Novel,” available at www.selfhelpguides.com
“Writing Groups,” available at www.selfhelpguides.com
Suite101.com, Topic Editor of “Writing Groups,” contributed monthly column
“Vampires” and “Werewolves” articles for the Encyclopedia of Storytelling, editor: Josepha Sherman


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