A Christmas Classic That Almost Wasn’t

“All over the world, it’s become a tradition to read a special poem on Christmas Eve. You can probably recite a good bit of it by heart:

’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse …

“But as famous as this poem is to us now … it almost wasn’t published at all. And when it was, the author wasn’t happy.”

Get the surprising behind-the-scenes story about one of the most well-known poems here: The Christmas Hit That Almost Wasn’t

Merry Christmas and have a writing filled 2014!


Ken, the protagonist of Ken’s War, has a crummy Christmas when he visits his mother, her new husband and their silly kids.

Ken’s War is slated for publication in the summer of ’14 by www.melange-books.com.


Tips for Writing YA Novels

Once I realized that the manuscript I’d been tinkering with and sending out to publishers for years was a YA novel, my tactics changed.

Knowing who my target audience was made improving and editing the manuscript easier, actually. I used many of the tips found at

Eight Habits of Highly Successful YA Writers

After I’d polished the manuscript, I then started querying YA publishers.

Melange Books LLC (www.melange-books.com) will publish Ken’s War in the summer.


beth-2013.jpg Beth Fowler

Cross-Cultural Blunders Have Consequences for Authors (Part 2)

Armed with cultural sensitivity and a global perspective, freelancers who produce informative and interesting articles will make sales in the international marketplace. Here are some tips that have helped me gain credibility with editors across the globe and make international sales.

            Gesture Judiciously – Writers are encouraged to describe gestures in personality profiles and fictional characterizations, but gestures don’t necessarily convey universal meanings. Thrusting the index and middle fingers upward in a V shape signifies an insult, victory, two or peace—the meaning depends on where thrusting occurs! Similarly, in some Asian countries a western-style goodbye wave means, please, come here. My buddies raise one hand and flap it side to side signifying something is so-so. The same wiggle in the East can mean no, no.

When gestures are important to a story, international freelancers include explanations that flow naturally. Illuminate body language using descriptions along the lines of “Making a circle with finger and thumb, the captain indicated that the trip was successful,” and “The driver crossed his forearms to form an X. The gesture meant the bus was broken.”

            Hold the Humor – Comedy, especially puns, double entendres, satire and allusions, can be risky. A Singaporean businessman reading an Australian writer’s editorial remained stone-faced when he came to the journalist’s supposedly humorous reference to Kerry Packer’s weight. Who’s Kerry Packer? What’s his weight got to do with anything? Trans-cultural humor requires intimate knowledge of psychology, zeitgeist, politics, history and language.

Getting laughs in the comedy-writing field is tricky even within one’s own culture. If a joke or amusing anecdote is integral to the manuscript’s purpose, recruit a local from the country whose ribs you hope to tickle (to use a cliché) to review the piece first. Rewrite accordingly.

Cite Specifics – In anticipation of a two-week holiday in England, a Bombay reader scanned a travel article written by a Brit. The reader’s wife, wanting to know what clothes to pack, asked, “How’s the weather this time of year?” Her husband replied, “This writer says England is ‘red hot.'” The woman packed lightweight clothing for the family. They shivered for a fortnight because London temperatures never rose above 20º C.

Like chameleons, adjectives change in relation to the environment. “Cold” to me is balmy to Koreans. “Spicy” to me is bland to Malaysians. “Conservative” for me is offensive to some Saudis.  Internationally published writers avoid relative words (hot, heavy, tiny, expensive, near) in favor of specific words (32º C, five tons, one centimeter, HKD$200,000, 150 meters).

            Learn the Lingo – Do Thais drive trucks or lorries? Do Vietnamese rent flats or apartments? Do Japanese assume a thong is a slipper, an undergarment or something else? Do Chinese diners ask for tomato sauce, catsup or ketchup when eating…um…chips, wedges or French fries? Find out.

In Ken’s War, a YA novel by B.K. Fowler, Ken finds his world is turned upside down when he is whisked off to Japan. Culture shock and teen hormones collide. The novel is slated for publication in 2014 by Melange Books LLC www.melangebooks.com.

article by Beth Fowler

article by Beth Fowler

Cross-Cultural Blunders Have Consequences for Authors (Part 1)

by Beth Fowler ©

by Beth Fowler ©

Communications can go haywire when writing for an audience whose homeland is far from the author’s. Ask former U.S. president Clinton.When the president promised to send a mutual rival to “kingdom come,” an Asian dignitary got upset, not elated. Later Clinton’s and the dignitary’s staffs conferred and discovered the dignitary thought Clinton intended to give the rival a kingdom.

Unfortunately, most writers don’t have staff to clean up cross-cultural gaffes. Fortunately, international freelancers can sidestep blunders by following these practical tips. Later I’ll share a link of cross-cultural gaffes.

Manage Metaphors – Metaphorical language adds color if meanings are the same to readers as to writers. Metaphors are gobbledygook when symbols have unintended connotations. A North American author attempted to compliment readers by referring to them as “mother hens,” implying that they were exemplary parents. Some women readers wrote letters of protest to the editor. Why? In certain circles, mother hen is a Southeast Asian euphemism for head of a brothel. In another incident, United Nations members produced a document depicting an owl to symbolize wisdom. (Who hasn’t heard the saying, “Wise as an owl”? Numerous people apparently.) The message failed. Owls in Asian nations connote stupidity.

Writers selling to international publications and on the internet can take precautions to avoid insulting or confusing readers. First, minimize use of idioms, clichés, slang and jargon. Simply state the facts. Second, find guides listing do’s and don’ts for foreigners. These “culture shock” guides often list language taboos. Third, read material published in the country you hope to sell to. Note if and how figurative language is incorporated. Fourth, when quoting a speaker’s figurative language, include a translation to ensure the literal meaning is apparent. Finally, ask a national to review a draft of the article for clarity and appropriateness of language.

            Covert to Communicate – Numbers are language, too. For instance, because Indonesians are more familiar with badminton courts than with rugby fields and basketball courts, a journalist writing for an Indonesian newspaper described a building as ” . . . five times the length of a badminton court.”

The same consideration should be taken when writing about money. Global writers specify which country’s dollars are quoted by inserting the country’s name as in “…$5 million Hong Kong,” or “HKD$5 million,” or including a statement: “All prices in Hong Kong dollars.” Use official, up-to-date exchange rates to switch from Euros to yen or whatever. Check the financial section in newspapers, the Internet, banks or financial reports on CNN and the like for accurate exchange rates.

Internet searches turn up automatic measurement and currency converters allowing writers to use standards the targeted audience knows. Also consult reliable references to find out if temps are Fahrenheit or Celsius, distances are miles or kilometers, petrol stations charge by the gallon or liter. Triple check numbers before hitting “send” or posting manuscripts to editors. Miscalculations can damage authors’ credibility and future sales.

            Fit in Foreign Phrases – Readers are delighted when international freelancers insert foreign (foreign to the author, not readers) phrases into their writings. Used correctly, well-placed foreign phrases build bridges between authors and readers. Consult someone articulate in your intended audience’s language to verify suitability of foreign phrases.

Cross cultural gaffes

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Ken’s War, a YA novel by B.K. Fowler, is slated for publication in 2014 by Melange Books LLC www.melangebooks.com.