Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Write Right from the Heart!

This piece was created for a student blog (Young Authors 8-16) but I think it is something that we all need to remember.

“I can write a story, so I know I can write a book.”
“My story should be published because my mom and teacher both told me it was good.”
These are some of the comments I hear on a regular basis from young writers and Young Authors.  As a student of writing you need to understand that because you have a talent of writing, doesn’t necessarily mean you have the skill of writing.
There is a difference between the two.  A talent is a gift you were born with.  Something that makes writing “seem” easy to you.  A talent also comes with a hidden secret, that of responsibility.  If you are given a gift (talent) you also have a responsibility to give it back to others, in the form of your work.  So, you might say, a talent isn’t a gift to you, it is a gift to the world.
Now, the writing skill is totally different.  This is something you need to learn, you learn writing skills by reading good books and analyzing them, thinking about their research, setting, character development, and plot.  You learn writing skills by keeping a journal of writing ideas and writing in it daily.  You learn writing skills by taking writing workshops, writing short stories, experimenting with writing styles, and reading about writers.
No one, even if they are born with the talent of writing can “just” sit down and get the story correct the first time.  Even if you write a story you are very happy with it and your teacher and parents compliment you on it.  You must edit it and change it to make it even better.
Remember: There are lots of very talented writers out there that will never acquire the skill it takes to become successful writers because they aren’t willing to work to acquire the skill.
Don’t let your ego ruin your talent by making yourself “think” you already know everything there is to know about writing.
I have been writing professionally for over 33 years, I have had over 1,000 newspaper and magazine articles published and am working on my 16th book, and I still go to workshops, read books on writing, do tons of research, edit, and work at building on my knowledge (skill) of writing.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Back to the Grindstone!

It has been quite some time since I have posted on blogger, but it is now time to start over with new information and new workshop writing lessons.  I hope you follow along and drop me a note to let me know if this information is useful to you or if you have questions I haven't covered yet.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Citing Sources

Citing Sources

When and How to Cite Research Sources by Janie Lynn Panagopoulos

This is our last article on research sources. I am sure there are a few of you that are very glad about that. Now, down to business, the work of properly citing research sources for your writing varies, depending upon the source and how it is used.

First and foremost -- remember -- Citing a source gives credit where credit is due, not citing a source could lead you in the direction of plagiarism.

When should you cite your source? If you have quoted an author (including Internet authors) or have used any words or arranged words in a sentence that is not originally yours. Yes, I know, no words are originally our own, but if these words or sentences have been arranged to fashion someone else’s writing or if it “hints” at giving you credit when you have not preformed the original research, you are doing something illegal.

Cite a source if:

you restate an idea or thought stated by another author.
you are not the original person involved in the original source research.
you are using facts that are not common knowledge.

Types of citing:

Parenthetical (citing within a text)

Endnotes (explanatory or information at the end of your writing)

Footnotes (older form of citing placed at the bottom of page)

Information you need to collect (depending upon source):

Periodical: title of original publication, author of the article, title of article, date of publication, volume and or issue number, page number.

Book: title of book, editor, series title, publisher, publication date, volume number, article and chapter title (if needed) and authors name.

Internet: name of author, URL, name of Internet site.

Email: name of person interviewed, subject line in quotation marks, description of message that includes the recipient and date of message.

Panagopoulos, Janie L. “Re: IP Videoconferencing”. Email to You the Reader, 17 December, 2008.

Images: (any media) name of artist, name of individual image, when it was created, where it is currently housed or from what collection, URL (if on Internet), and date of posting.

(if on Internet)

Maps: name of location, where it was found, what year issued, and URL.

Formatting Sources:
List of citation usually appears at end of work on new page
Center title “Works Cited”
Double-space between title and first entry.
Begin entry at left-hand margin – second line – five spaces in
Alphabetical order of entries by author’s last name (if known) or first important word in the title, excluded “a”, “an”, and “the”.
Author with more than one work cited, do not repeat name, use three hyphens and a period in place of author’s name and cite work as above.
Double-space entire list and use a period at end of entries.
Underline titles of books, plays, poems, pamphlets, periodicals, and films.
These sites may be of help while creating your form

Easy bib:


Landmark’s Citation Machine:

Last comment, you might wonder, if you are writing a fiction piece, why is citing important? I write historical fiction that is categorized as “documentary” historical fiction, using factual people or events from history to build a story. I write for the 3rd-8th grade educational market and my books are used in schools to help teach Social Studies. For me, it is essential to have material available for teachers and readers to use as reference materials while using my novels in the classroom and it is also essential to provide documentation for editors when they ask for sources. So, getting in a regular habit of collecting and citing sources is a very important part of my work and it might also play an important role in yours.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Plagiarism – What it is and how to avoid it
Janie Lynn Panagopoulos

After gathering research information, purchasing reference books and reading through everything you have gathered, please be aware of “how not” to use the information you have found. Please know the words you write must be your own, if they are not your words and ideas, you must cite the sources or ask permission to use them.

Plagiarism is becoming a big issue today because of so many sources that are available to us to use on the Internet. Sometimes students don’t even realize they are plagiarizing; they are just putting down what they found. But if you, by chance, use the same words as the author without citing your sources, you are plagiarizing and it is illegal.

If you are a student reading this you might think, this is silly, words are words and there they are right in the open for everyone to use. Well, just because books and the Internet make information and documents readily available, it doesn’t mean you have permission (without proper citation) to use that information – word for word -- and turn it in as your own. That is cheating and considered fraud by the law. The term plagiarism refers to the unaccredited (uncited) use of someone else’s words.

But what if you accidently used someone else’s words? Well, that is illegal too.

As a historical fiction writer, one way that helps me not to use someone else’s words by accident is that I avoid reading fiction. I read only reference material or primary sources to educate myself and try to find the most unique way to present that information in a storyline.

Here are some tips to help you avoid plagiarism in your writing.
1. If you are not the original researcher on a subject, cite the source.
2. If the information is not common knowledge, such as information from a phone book, cite source.
3. Use quotation marks if you are copying the words of another author and cite the source.
4. If you copy information off the Internet, cite the source.
5. Do not use anything from the Internet, without permission of the author, especially if you see a copyright symbol on their work.
6. If you are using a book for research and you need to copy small portions of the information, word for word, cite the source.

Please, plagiarism is easy to do; be careful, aware and responsible when you are writing. Make your work original. Write it in your own words, work hard to make your work your own. There is so much more satisfaction and pleasure making your work your own. That is how you become a real writer.

And, after all, if you are copying someone else’s work, you will always only be a second best writer to that person you are copying.

Next article will cover citing sources.

J. L. Panagopoulos, 06/02/2008 ©

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Paper Trail, Part II

Research: Following the Paper Trail, Part II

When visiting research facilities, make sure you have made a list of information, dates, names (proper spellings of course), and locations that are important to your project or reflect the information you are looking for. Don’t wait until you get to a research facility to “think” what it is you are looking for. It can be very embarrassing to go to a research facility, address a reference librarian with the fact you are doing academic research on a subject for a possible book project and have the librarian ask you a question on “YOUR” subject and you don’t have the information available to give.

Study and explore card catalogs, computer databanks, collection lists and ask the reference librarian for suggestions about where else you might find information. It is amazing how “on top” of a facility most reference librarians are. Most really know their books and their collections and love to search out information that is difficult to find.

Skim and scan over information you find. Can you photocopy this information? If you can photocopy the needed information, wonderful, you are in luck. If not, start recording by hand. Make sure you have a notebook with you ‘just” for this information. Record collection and acquisition numbers, box numbers, book title page, copyright, publisher, page numbers, and the information needed.

If you are photocopying information from a book make sure you ask the librarian about the “fair use” law that they follow. YOU CAN NOT PHOTOCOPY ENTIRE BOOKS – It is illegal.

When photocopying, first, copy the front insert page that will give you the title of book, the author, the publishing house and the copyright information. Make sure when putting your material in separate folders that this title page goes in the front of the folder for later citation. Also, on the outside of the folder, write down the name of the facility, the date you visited, and the cost of photocopying (for tax write-offs if your book gets published and make sure you receive or ask for a receipt for copying).If you have not brought along separate folder files to keep your copies neat and together, make sure you tab the ends of the sheets together or better yet, paperclip them.

If, at a library, you want or need the information in the whole book, just photocopy the title page and purchase the book to help build your own reference library. The best place I have found to purchase books will take us back to our computers, where you can purchase used books for a fraction of the cost of new ones. Also, when you purchase a used book, you don’t feel so bad if you find it necessary to highlight a passage or underline something you will need to investigate as you are reading and learning more about your research subject.

If you are in a rare book collection or archival collection and you find “just” the perfect piece of information, keep in mind, you can not photocopy these things. You must hand copy the information (don’t forget to copy the cover page for citation).

In some rare cases a book or file, even if it is a reference piece, “might” be available to photocopy a certain portion. This again is where it is important to get to know the reference librarian, archivist or curator, because if they believe in your project and can make it happen for you to get the information in photocopy format, they will give you their best. If they say “no”, however, the answer is “no”. Be respectful, thank them and start copying by hand. Keep in mind; you never know when you might need their help again.

In archival collections, if photocopying is permissible, the archivist or the assistant archivist, most often, would rather handle the ancient or fragile documents themselves and not risk having the paper the documents are written on be jeopardized by careless handling or soiling. In this case, you will select the documents and records you want copied and record what collection, box, file, number of pages, and page numbers you want, write this down for you records, also record on your copy the facility name, location, person helping you, date and time. Give a copy of your information sheet to the archivist. They will figure out the number of pages, and tell you the cost for their work and copies; you “generally” have to pay up-front for these documents, and so make sure you get only what you need, but everything in the file or box.

The archivist will ask for your address and tell you to expect it to take up to six weeks before you get the information. I know it can be time consuming but worth every minute of it as you now have original (copies) of documents in the original hand of the people or person you are doing research on. It is an incredible thrill when you finally get your copied originals in the mail and you sit down to “try” and decipher writings from a bygone era.

If you are at a visual research location such as a museum, check with the curator and ask if they have a museum library or a research book list on the artifacts you are looking at. This will help you create a reference list for you to look at and purchase reference books that will help you have a better understand of the things you are doing research on.

This type of research is an incredible education for a writer; everyone should do it, at least, once to really see what it is all about. It makes you feel like Indiana Jones of the book set.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Research: The Paper Trail, Part I

Research – Following the Paper Trail, Part I

We have covered some “basics” of Internet research, but remember there is a world of information beyond your computer in research facilities around the world. And if you travel to another country to do research, be prepared for language barriers, unless you are fluent in the native tongue. I had this happen in Italy and was totally shocked that I hadn’t taken this into consideration when I made my research plans. This was my first European research trips and the last one I made this mistake with. Researchers must be prepared for many different circumstances and all facilities are different.

Now, this type of research is back in my realm of working and it might be a bit more demanding but you might also find some ”little known” treasures that no one else in the writing field is aware of.

Resources for research include:

· Library catalogs/Libraries

· Books

· Periodicals

· Archival Collections

· Museums

· Rare Book Collections

· Internet databanks at research centers

Keep in mind, most serious research centers request the researcher to be at least 18 years of age and have a photo I.D. for them to hold while you are in their facility or to present to the security guard or person controlling the door. If you are under 18 and still need to do research, see if you can find an adult (over 18) to go with you but make sure you contact the facility first to seek permission. Some locations, if you check first and arrive with an adult, will allow you to do work there as long as you are supervised. Some locations will still refuse entry until you are 18 years of age.

Visiting a research facility is a unique experience for most writers. I have been at facilities where researchers have been turned away at the door because they were not prepared for doing their research, at some locations the guards are trained to interview you to make sure you are there for the right reasons. I have been in facilities where security guards have kindly escorted researchers to the door telling them to return when their research needs were more thought out. I have been at facilities where a security guard arrived at a study table with the curator and asked the researcher to leave because he was not using proper etiquette, during this incident the security guard also handed the researcher a city map with the local public library circled. Researching at a facility is for the serious researcher, not for someone who is “just” curious about a subject and doesn’t know what they are doing or how to act.

And remember, if you are going to a research facility, pack a bag – seriously -- you will need to bring things with you that are approved by the facility for research and will show the directors of the facility you are serious about your work and worthy to be there working beside other professionals.

Make sure you have a small briefcase, a soft-sided one works best because if you are doing research in an archival collect, museum library, or even some rare book collections you will most likely be asked to leave all personal belongings in a locker outside the doors you are about to enter. A soft-sided case will hold all your needs but can be bent to fit a small locker, too. And ladies, your purses are not welcome, along with backpacks or book bags of any sort. The lockers do have locks to protect your belongings while working. The average locker will cost you .25cents which is “generally” returned to you at the end of the day.

Bring along a notebook, plenty of pencils with erasers, pens are not allowed, tissues (no gum), a magnifying glass and possibly a pair of white cotton gloves, if you are going to be handling artifacts or very old documents. Another thing to bring along is a bagged lunch (leave in the locker). Most facilities are notorious for not being located close to any restaurants, but they do “generally” provide a lunch room where you can purchase boxed sandwiches that have been on display for only a few months. It is better and safer to bring your own lunch and not be surprised or made ill because of overlooking this fact of research facilities.

This is the end of Part I, read tomorrow for Part II.

Part of the joy is the search for knowledge!