Sunday, April 2, 2017

Is Plagiarism the Accepted Way?

I recently started a discussion about plagiarism on Fiverr's online forum. This discussion was very educational to me.

The back story is simply that I've received a number of recent requests via Fiverr to rewrite existing information to make it look like another person's original work. I have declined each request because it looks like plagiarism to me. I even had to modify my gig descriptions to state that I do not work with plagiarized information, nor do I rewrite or, as some call it, "spin" articles.

I started the discussion because I was shocked at the number of people requesting this and also shocked at their lack of shame at taking someone else's work and wanting to make it their own (or, rather, have me make it their own). Not one of them sent me work they said was their own; they all said it was work they'd taken off the internet and some even sent me links to the work instead of copying and pasting it into a document.

Merriam-Webster defines plagiarism as, ":  to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own :  use (another's production) without crediting the source" and ":  to commit literary theft :  present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source"

The comments on the discussion were varied. Some felt that taking someone else's work and modifying it was perfectly acceptable and others felt it wasn't. A couple people compared it to using a template to write with, like those used in writing romance or mystery novels, citing that every Angela Lansbury mystery starts out and ends up the same, just some details are changed.

I think using a writing template is far different than taking someone's original work and passing it off as your own.

One person commented that creating original content seems to be a dying art. I agree.

One person said, "Today, plagiarism is a common thing."

Many people had an entirely different definition of plagiarism, one person even telling me that I don't understand the meaning of the word.

Do we just accept that and not strive for better?

Where do you stand on plagiarism?

Write well.
Write often.
Just write.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Successful Query Letter

I recently sold an article to a new-to-me magazine, The Christian Standard. I had not written for them before, nor had I pitched to them before. This was my first pitch, my first query, and it paid off big time. Not only are they publishing this first article from me, they pay well and have invited me to write more for them.

All this from one simple query.

I am not an expert query letter writer. I have rarely written them over the years and never like this one - out of the blue, unsolicited.

There's a back story. I have been a regular writer for one publication house for nearly 30 years and they recently recruited me to write on a specific topic. I gladly complied, signed the contract and wrote the article. However, even though they liked the article, before it could go to print, they changed their minds and decided not to print it. They said their needs had changed. The editor who had recruited me was no longer employed there.

But, I really like the article and was going to put it in my blog, but I felt it should see more of an audience than my blog offers. So, I searched around on the internet and decided to send a query letter to another publication.

My query was simple:

Good day to you,
My name is Tricia Johnson. I have written an article titled Critical Thinking in the Church, which challenges the "herd" mentality of so many Christian churches, schools and organizations. I would like to submit this article to you for consideration.

I have been a regular contributing writer for Regular Baptist Press for nearly 30 years. I have raised and home schooled eight children.
I have been married to my husband, who was a pastor for 31 years, for 37 years.

I am a regular blogger at
I have created a Bible study system through which I teach others how to make observations in Scripture and interpret according to the given context. This can be found at

If you are interested in reading the article, please let me know and I will send it quickly.

Thank you so much.

The reply was equally simple:

Hi, Tricia . . .
No guarantees, but we’d be glad to read this article.
Thanks for your interest in Christian Standard.

I replied and attached my article. That was on a Friday. On Tuesday of the following week, I got this:

Hi, Tricia . . .
I like this!
Yes, we’ll use this. It will probably fill a spot in our family-issues edition (May). 
We’ll send you a contract promising payment and process that payment request as soon as we’ve received the signed contract back from you.

Thanks so much for your interest in Christian Standard. We’d be pleased to hear from you anytime.

Best wishes,

It's sometimes that simple. 

I did not follow a template or any sort of pattern, I simply believed in this article, thought it should have a wider audience and pursued it with that in mind. I gave a brief description of my life and writing experience.

And I'm smiling all the way to the bank.
And I'm writing more articles for them.
You, too, can write a successful query letter.
All you have to do is do it.

Write often.
Write well.
Just write.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

How My Crafting Helps My Writing

I am a wife. I am a mom. I am a writer. I am a crafter. My favorite craft is paper crafting. My second favorite is drawing. Even that involves paper. As does my writing.

When I craft, I think. 
When I think, I write. 
When I write, I get published. 
When I get published, I earn money. 

It nearly always starts with crafting for me. 

As I've taught my writing students, thinking is a huge part of writing. I've spent weeks thinking about things I've written before I finally sat down and wrote them. Funny thing is, when I spend so much time thinking about writing, before I even write, when it's time to write those thoughts down, they are usually written within 20 minutes and these are the ones most purchased by a publisher.

So, whenever I'm in my studio making pretty paper crafts, I'm actually working on a writing project.

Write often.
Write well.
Just write.