Have a Little Faith (and Trust)

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Recently another writing friend put a wannabe novelist (WN) in touch with me. It's not that I'm an expert in writing, by any means. This individual was looking for writing feedback, and I'm part of a couple of critique groups.

We met at a local coffeehouse. WN wanted to meet me before sharing her writing. I get it. The writers in my feedback groups are supportive and encouraging. However, I've visited a couple of groups which had a few problematic members. Writing something and sharing it--especially something like a novel--is scary. You don't want to just hand over your baby to a complete stranger.

Also, what if the person you're handing over your manuscript to is a complete idiot? You don't want to have to listen to a dolt bash your work.

                                                                   image by Pixabay

This is what I thought would happen: WN and I would chat over some tea/coffee, and if she felt comfortable, she'd hand over the first few chapters of her novel. We'd talked about three chapters being a good sample. What she wanted to know: was her writing crap?

One problem: this was a romance novel. I don't read romances. However, I told WN, "If you can get me interested in your manuscript, you've got something." Of course, a good story is a good story. It doesn't matter if it's dystopian or sci-fi or a cozy mystery or historical fiction. If it's written well and the characters and plot are well crafted, it sucks you in, no matter the genre.

On the counter she had set a three-ring binder. Hmmm. I've seen manuscripts clipped together or carried around in a big manila folder, but never in a binder. When she indicated that she felt comfortable letting me read the chapters, I said, "So, you're going to let me take this binder home?"

"No, I want you read it here."

Say whaaat?

So, for the next couple of hours I sat in an overstuffed leather chair and read... and read... and read. They were long chapters. I made some notes on a pad of paper I'd dug out of my purse. Later, I found out what WN was doing while I was reading.

"I texted my husband and told him, 'I think she's fallen asleep. She hasn't turned a page in a while.'" Apparently she was watching me... like a hawk. I get that too. When I gave my two beta readers my manuscript, I bit my nails (literally and figuratively) worried that my writing was so horrific, they were using the pages for toilet paper.

The good news: the characters and how they're going to possibly connect later in the book intrigued me. WN is a clever wordsmith. Her lines are crafted with care. Her phrasing kept me turning the pages, excited for more.

WN and I are now writing buddies. We've emailed each other several times in the week since we first met. I'm using an electric cattle prod  a taser gentle nudging to get WN to set a goal. She has 80% of the manuscript finished, and as we all know, blank pages can't be revised and an unfinished manuscript can't be published.

I guess my point in writing this post is this: even though it might be difficult, have faith in your reader. (This WN had enough faith in her reader to connect the dots. She didn't spell everything out, nor did she beat things to death.) Have faith in your writing friends. If you're lucky, they'll all give you brilliant advice. If you're not quite so fortunate, disregard the comments and criticism from the one or two dolts in the group.

Have a little faith... and a little trust.

Sioux Roslawski is a middle-school teacher, a freelance writer and the author of the historical novel Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story. If you'd like to read more of her stuff, check out her blog at https://siouxspage.blogspot.com



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The Baby and the Bathwater

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

I’ve been reading quite a few headlines lately about celebrity parents and their lack of hygiene when it comes to their kids (and themselves). And of course, it’s none of my business if these folks want to walk around till they (and their young’uns) smell to high heaven. But every time I see these articles, I think of the same expression. 

Technically, I see this image in my head, of a baby being thrown out with the bathwater. Because if you go around for who knows how long, skipping baths, you’re going to have some pretty dirty bathwater. At least, that’s where the expression came from, back in the day, when people bathed on the not-so-regular. 

Honestly, I cringe thinking of that bathwater and the poor little babies who came last to the water party. It’s a vivid expression, and some of us still use it today to mean getting rid of something bad (the bathwater) along with something good (the baby). 

I say “some of us” because the older I get, the more I notice that colorful expressions and classic, time-honored idioms aren’t used so much. Even in the South where expressions are a way of life, I find kids using hashtags and acronyms like favorite sayings. About once a week, I have to look up all these weird initials. 

Or worse, I get a crazy look from the teenaged server when I say something like, “in for a penny, in for a pound!” when I order fried catfish and hushpuppies. 

Is this where we’re heading, the demise of expressions like that? Will we all go around saying, “YOLO!” or “FOBO” or “#love.” Maybe we’ll skip words all together and just make the heart gesture instead.


The struggle is real, y’all, for writers like me. In my everyday life (that’s IRL for you young folk), I use expressions constantly. And right now, I’m writing a cozy mystery with characters similar in age to me and so naturally, expressions I love are sprinkled liberally within: 

“You look like something the cat dragged in.” 

“He was as drunk as Cooter Brown.” 

Everyone knew she had more money than sense. 

 I feel like these are pretty common sayings, but then I begin to wonder. Will readers know what the heck I'm talking about? Should I add more context clues, just in case? Is this idiom way too regional?

It’s very tiring, second guessing oneself on nearly every page, especially when it comes to the kind of writing that I purely love. Which is to say, regional dialogue and colorful expressions. 

Ultimately, I begin to feel old and curmudgeonly, shaking my fist at the Millennials and younger who could care less about my favorite expressions. And they don’t want to hear my favorite stories as to how the expressions originated, either (though apparently we’ve exaggerated through the years).

But then I pull myself up by my bootstraps and put nose to the grindstone. Because if this manuscript sells, it’ll be to an audience of women readers just like me. So I’m not throwing the baby out with the bathwater; I’ll keep my outdated yet colorful and regional expressions in, thank you very much. (Unless an editor puts the screws to me.)

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Interview with Karen Ingram, Spring 2021 Flash Fiction Runner Up

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Today I'm excited to interview Karen Ingram, one of the runner-ups for the Spring 2021 Flash Fiction writing contest. Be sure to read her story IED first, and then come on back to read our interview.

First, more about Karen:

Karen Sarita Ingram is half Kentuckian, half German, and proudly 100% Army Brat. Her first published story, “The Suicide Artist,” was featured in Touchstone Literary Magazine’s Spring 2012 issue and won the Best Undergraduate Writing Award at Kansas State University’s English Department the same year. When she’s not demanding to speak to your manager, Karen enjoys science fiction and video games. Against her better judgment, she currently resides in Topeka, Kansas.

---- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on winning runner-up! What inspired you to write this story?

Karen: I began writing flash fiction in an attempt to break my writer's block. I would go to free photo websites, like Unsplash or Pexels, find a random picture, and write a story about it. I managed to write about 100 or so before my writer's block came back. IED started out as Untitled #30, inspired by a photo by Kevar Whilby, which you can see here.

If the photo is not what you expected, great. I'll get to that in Question #5. 

The photo reminded me of those perfect moments in life, where you try hard to memorize every detail. I tried to imagine the relationship between the woman in the photo and the narrator, and why they would need a good moment like that to hang on to. That's when I knew the narrator was a soldier. 

WOW: I love that photos inspire you because I'm the same way! How do your experiences as an army brat influence your writing? 

Karen: I don't usually write about Army Brat life, or about soldiers, but IED definitely pushed me in that direction. I used to hang out with my dad at a local brewery, and he would inevitably end up sitting at a table with a bunch of old veterans, swapping war stories. I never ask a soldier questions about war, but when they feel compelled to speak about it, I listen. It's the least I can do for them. I've heard a lot of very dark stories, but I don't share them. I want to make that clear. IED is not based on a true story, but the smells are. I think the old cliché that your life flashes before your eyes when you die is probably not accurate, based on most of the stories I've heard from people who have had near-death experiences, but it's a nice idea. A hopeful idea. So I painted a perfect moment for my narrator to hold on to and let it carry them through the horrific experience that was really happening to them. 

WOW: You definitely captured that final moment of a wonderful memory carrying someone through a terrible moment (even if it is a cliche!). What is your rewriting and revising technique after you've written the first draft? 

Karen: I tend to finish rough drafts quickly in a spurt of inspiration, then just sit on them for a long time. If the idea is any good, I know it will keep pestering me until I return to revise it. Untitled #30 was like that. The rough draft sat around for about two years before I ever looked at it again. But during those two years, it kept lurking in the corner of my mind, muttering. When I saw the Spring 2021 WOW! Contest was an open prompt, Untitled #30 insisted "NOW IS THE TIME." So, I had another look at it... and I hated it. I ended up rewriting the entire thing from scratch. But that seemed to satisfy whatever muse or beast haunts my imaginings, because it finally shut up when I hit "submit."

WOW: How amazing you rewrote it from scratch! What surrounds you when you write? 

Karen: Coffee. 

WOW: Ha, me too! What do you hope readers take away from reading your story? 

Karen: If you ask ten people what a painting or a song means, you get ten different answers. Writing is a form of art, so it's just as open to interpretation as any other art form. I think writers tend to forget that sometimes. It's bewildering to me when an author I like gets irritated because somebody saw sadness in the blue curtains and they're all, "That's not what it means!" I decided a long time ago that I'd have zero expectations about what readers take away from my stories. That's why I was intentionally vague about the narrator's gender and race in IED. I know what I had in mind, and I left a breadcrumb or two to give them a clue, but I'm totally cool if the reader ignores that and cuts their own path through the woods. I know they enjoyed themselves if they tell me where story took them.

WOW: Writing is absolutely an art and you captured it wonderfully! Thank you so much for your time and I can't wait to see what you come up with next. 
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Michelle Walshe, Runner-Up in the Creative Nonfiction Q3 2021 Contest

Sunday, September 12, 2021
Welcome to Michelle Walshe who is one of our creative nonfiction essay winners for her essay, "The Shape of Loneliness," which you can check out here. 

Michelle lives in Dublin, Ireland. She began writing in 2017. Her work has been published in newspapers, magazines and two anthologies: Teachers Who Write and A Page from My Life, which was number one on Irish bestseller lists in 2020. Her work is online at Writing.ie, Skelligmichael.com, Athensinsider.com, IrishExaminer.com, CabinetofHeed.com, and IrishTimes.com. Her short stories, memoir, and flash fiction have been shortlisted and won prizes in literary competitions. She has won residencies to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre and Greywood Arts, scholarships to Aurora Writing Retreats and the Pat Conroy Centre, and bursaries to the John Hewitt and Stinging Fly Summer Schools, The Bronte Parsonage Festival of Women’s Writing, and the Iceland Writers Retreat. She volunteers at Roddy Doyle’s Fighting Words and at literary festivals in Ireland. Her memoir is out on submission, and she is working on a children’s book. All her published work can be found on her website www.thesparklyshell.com.

WOW: Congratulations, Michelle, on winning runner up in our creative nonfiction essay contest with your essay, "The Shape of Loneliness." This essay really captures your feelings during the pandemic and shutdown of "regular" life that occurred for everyone--worldwide. You start with comparing your feelings and a lot of what happened to a square. How did you come up with this symbolism/metaphor? 

Michelle: Thank you. I am delighted this piece is out in the world! This essay fell out of me almost fully formed, so I think it must have been swimming around inside my head for some time before I put pen to paper. To me the words confinement, contraction, containment, restriction, reduction, imprisonment, isolation, all conjure images in my mind of angles and walls, shapes that hinder and constrict, that weigh down upon freedom of movement, unlike circles which are open or triangles that point upwards or downwards but ultimately outwards, or spheres that roll and move. Squares are solid, blocky, stubborn things. They are the shape of so many vessels of containment – think of waiting rooms, prison cells, shipping containers, or cages. Squares scream enclosure. Then there is the technology angle – the Zooms, the Teams, and the Hangouts – more squares – lives reduced to box shapes on a screen. And the name of the platform Squarespace – squares are everywhere! The term self-isolation – the first of so many words to learn in the new pandemic lexicon - made me think of people all over the world, sitting alone in bedrooms or living rooms, which are, for the most part, square in design. The world is going through a hard time and a square is a hard shape. That was the genesis of the idea. 

WOW: I never really thought about all that before, but now that you mention it, I can see how a square is the most perfect shape for what you were doing with your essay. How did you feel writing about a subject that you are so close to? What I mean by this is: often writers have trouble capturing their emotions in the middle of the event, but you did it so well. How did you manage to write about this topic while most likely also experiencing it? 

Michelle: Yes, that is true. Normally a significant period of time needs to elapse to absorb and process an event before it can be expressed in writing. However, I had been living this way since March 2020, so I had a year of it under my belt before I wrote this piece. So in a way, I did have some distance from the event even though everyone is still going through it. Like any profound change, you soon adapt and get used to it; you have no other choice. So things that had been terrifying in March 2020, like going to the supermarket, are no longer quite so frightening and maybe a certain level of acclimatisation to the new world order allowed me to write about it. 

WOW: This is true, for sure. I'm glad that you were able to put it into words for us to read. In one section, you take the time to describe four corners of your life. What made you stop the way the essay was going and include this section, which I found extremely powerful? 

Michelle: Thanks, I’m glad you found it powerful. I’m really happy to know this piece of writing resonated with readers. During lockdown, I took a writing course online at the University of Glasgow with Dr. Tawnya Renelle, on Experimental and Hybrid Forms. That gave me the courage to experiment with form and structure, something I have always been reluctant to try, mainly because I didn’t know how. It is interesting to me to see how a lot of the essays in this quarter play with form. But it is also the way the essay formed in my head. I was writing about squares, and it seemed a natural thing to do to place something in each corner to emphasize the shape and expose the middle. That was the idea I was trying to express – the hollow middle, empty, like an open box. 

WOW: Yes, playing with form and structure in creative nonfiction writing is becoming a popular trend because, in my opinion, it makes the work strong and really stick with the reader. In your bio, it states that you have been writing since 2017--and then you have a very long list of accomplishments! So, what made you "start" writing in 2017, and what do you attribute to all this success--publications, awards, residencies, etc? 

Michelle: In 2017, I decided to stop talking about wanting to write a book and start writing instead. While I have always written and always wanted to be a writer – I have kept a diary since childhood – loved English as a subject in school, wrote academic essays in university, but in 2017, I decided it was time to see if I could make a go of writing, if anyone would read what I wrote, if I could get published. And yes, there is now a long list of accomplishments, awards, and prizes but there is no secret to impart. They are the result of persistent, unrelenting focus, and hard work. I’ve taken courses, gone on residencies, met other writers, workshopped my work, read hundreds of books, spent a lot of time in my local library, researched opportunities, and spent hours on application forms. I’ve sacrificed weekends, evenings, holidays, and events to spend time writing. Every win is hard won. There is a lot of competition out there, especially in Ireland, where it often feels like every single person on the island is writing! The flip side of that is there are lots of writing events, a vibrant and supportive literary scene, and plenty of competitions, journals, and opportunities for submitting work. I won a bursary to the John Hewitt Society Summer School in 2018, and that gave me the confidence to keep writing. I won a bursary to the Stinging Fly Summer School in 2019, and that transformed my book from a collection of essays into a memoir. I attended the University of Limerick Winter School in Doolin in 2019 and was lucky to have Kit de Waal (My Name is Leon, Penguin, 2016) as a mentor who helped me to structure the book. I’ve had to carve out time to focus on writing, but, as with most things in life, persistence and patience yields results. 

WOW: I love to see that your hard work is paying off and that you are taking a chance on your writing--jumping in with both feet to perfect your craft. I think you will be inspiring and motivating to other writers! Your bio also states you have a memoir out on submission, and you are working on a picture book. Can you tell us a bit more about those? 

Michelle: I have written a memoir about a twelve-year period of my life from the age of twenty-eight to forty. This time period is bookended by illness and grief. It is a story of resilience and hope and is one I hope would resonate with readers, especially women. While it has universal themes, it is ultimately a woman’s story of struggle and survival. It is set in Morocco, where I moved to in 2014 and where I lived for two years, and it flashes back to events in Ireland. The colours and vibrancy of Morocco act as a potent foil for the traumatic events I revisit. I wrote part of the book on a month-long residency in the Sahara Desert in Morocco. It has taken me two years to write. But now it is finished, and I am looking for an agent. The picture book is the story of an angry elephant trying to cope with and manage his difficult emotions. I didn’t set out to write a picture book; it is just the way the story emerged. I haven’t illustrated it. I don’t draw. I have written the text – 700 words on anger management techniques! It is out on submission too.

WOW: Best of luck with both of your queries. They sound very interesting, and I'm sure well-written. Thank you again for entering the WOW! creative nonfiction contest and for taking the time to answer our questions today! 
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Rejections Are Personal, Just Not How You Think

Thursday, September 09, 2021
TBR: Book love is highly personal.

Rejection letters are not personal. I know you’ve heard that before. 

We tell each other that because rejection letters sometimes feel personal. After all, we’ve poured time and soul into the manuscript. Telling us you don’t want it, or worse yet that you hated it, feels deeply personal. I’m not going to stick up for editors or agents who say that they hated something. Or that you should stop writing or whatever. I think we just have to assume they didn’t have a West Texas grandma with a broom. They’d have learned not to be hateful. 

Recently, I learned just how rejection letters are personal. The book club I’m in just read a mystery. I love mysteries. Love them! And I know that the friend who picked it out did so because she knows how enthusiastic I am about mysteries, but this book was a slog. I disliked it enough to look it up. Surely there would be tons of bad reviews. What?! It won an Edgar. 

I never did warm up to this particular book, but I’m glad I read it because it clarified for me how rejection letters are personal. I like mysteries, historic nonfiction, biographies of historic women, and American history. I like fantasy, science fiction, and humorous fiction. I love everything from picture books to novels and book-length memoir. 

But that doesn’t mean I want to read every mystery. If a book features an anti-hero, I’m not going to be easily pulled in. I don’t mind police procedurals or edgy stories, but there needs to be humor and a bit of levity. And, please, no talking cats. I’m not saying that cats are incapable of speech, but simply that they do not deign to chat with the help. 

I have similar quirky preferences with every type of book I read. For historic nonfiction, Stamped from the Beginning is a YES, but presidential biographies are generally a NO. I love fantasy but not vampire stories. And science fiction must be character driven. These preferences are deeply personal. 

Now think about that in terms of agents and the manuscripts they receive. I recently saw an agent speak at an event. She talked about her love of humorous picture books. I immediately pulled up the library catalog and requested every one of her humorous picture books. I am sad to report that I didn’t laugh even once. Humor is deeply personal, and we clearly like very different things. 

When you are researching possible markets, you are going to find magazines that sound spot on and agents who seem like your dream. Read the magazine. Check out books the agent represented. Some won’t appeal to you but others will, because what we each love is personal and subjective. 

And that’s okay. It is why there are so many books out there. We each like something a little different whether we are readers, writers, editors, or agents. That's why each of us has a different pile of books on their bedside table.


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 30 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on October 4, 2021).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins October 4, 2021) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins October 4, 2021). 
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Children's and YA Writers: Remember What It's Like to Be Obsessed with Books?

Wednesday, September 08, 2021
My daughter has discovered Percy Jackson. This is after she discovered Harry Potter in early 2020, and then Hunger Games once we made our way through all seven books of Harry, and we were still in the middle of a pandemic. And for each one, she was in love with the books--couldn't get enough of them or the characters or the authors. 

She's in fifth grade this year, and when she discovers something, it consumes her. She's now planning her Percy Jackson Halloween costume and using her allowance to buy a PJ Camp Halfblood shirt. She made a PJ necklace, and she's constantly asking her grandparents and me trivia questions about the plot of Percy Jackson book one, even though we've never read the book (or maybe I read it years ago--it's hard to remember--I'm old). And she's telling us about the Greek gods, as if we had never heard of them before. But I'm letting her because she's excited, and she loves knowing something we don't.

Her enthusiasm helps me remember. I remember being consumed by things like this before I had to get an adult job and have adult responsibilities. I loved Trixie Belden and Sweet Valley High, and when I would go to the mall with my parents, I would beg for the next Trixie or SVH book from the B. Dalton. I wanted to be Trixie. I wanted to be one of the twins, and I couldn't get enough.

The great thing about being the mom of a kid who loves stories is that my enthusiasm for creativity gets a spark--all the time. She helps me remember what it's like to be absorbed by the things I love, by the things my friends loved, and to have a big worry (be not such a big worry at all), like how will I get the next book in the series? Or how will I design my Halloween costume?

Plus, another bonus right now is she's the age of the audience I write and publish for. And she tells me my books are good (although not quite as good as Percy Jackson...), and trust me, she wouldn't just say that because I'm her mom. Her words are encouraging and hopeful, and I feel so lucky to be her mom and to have a kid who loves books. 

But what do you do if you're writing for this audience and you don't have this spark of energy in your home? Eventually, I won't--eventually she'll be driving and dating and working her part-time job, and then she'll be in college. What do I do then? How do I keep that kid-like enthusiasm alive? How do I remember what it's like to be that age?

We read. We watch Netflix shows that kids are watching. We schedule school visits (although I know that's pretty hard right now!). We talk to librarians and bookstore clerks. We talk to people whose kids are that age. What are they into? What are they obsessed by? How do they act? Then we read and binge the shows they're binging. Maybe we even play a video game or two. We understand our audience. Or we try.

My point?

We write because we love to write, but we all must remember our audience. And when you're a children's writer or a YA writer, your audience is different than you, and it's important to remember how they are--not just for the characters whom you're writing, but for your readers. Imagine your perfect reader, your reader who is obsessed with your books and wants to dress up like your main character or write fan fiction or make YouTube videos about your book. Write the best book you can for that reader. Keep that reader in your mind, and you will already be on your way to having a Halloween costume designed.

As for my daughter? She's currently on to book two of Percy Jackson, already watched the first movie, and her Camp Halfblood shirt is on its way from Amazon, arriving tomorrow. I better get busy with book one. 

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, instructor, coach, and publisher, living in St. Louis, MO with her daughter and dog. Find out more at www.margoldill.com.

Want to learn more about writing for kids and YA readers? Consider taking Margo's class that starts October 6 and is CURRENTLY ON SALE this semester. Find out more about Writing Middle Grade and YA Fiction: A Study and Workshop by clicking here
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Tuesday, September 07, 2021
Myna Chang writes flash and micro. Her work has been selected for Best Small Fictions, Fractured Lit, X-R-A-Y Lit Mag, and The Citron Review, among others. She has been nominated for Best Microfiction, longlisted for the Wigleaf Top 50, and named a finalist for the New Millennium Writing Award. She is the winner of the 2020 Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction. Myna lives in Potomac, Maryland with her family. Read more at MynaChang.com or @MynaChang.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Spring 2021 Flash Fiction competition! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “An Alternate Theory Regarding Natural Disasters, as Posited by the Teenage Girls of Clove County, Kansas?” Such a great title!

Myna: I started this story in one of Tommy Dean’s “Flash Perspectives” workshops. My goal was to encapsulate an entire year or era in a way that only the main characters could see. The prompt reminded me of the summer a devastating hailstorm wiped out most of the wheat in my rural county and how that changed everything for all of us.

WOW: What key elements do you think make a great piece of flash fiction?

Myna: My favorite flash stories invite the reader into the piece, almost in collaboration with the writer. I love the way some stories stick with me, leaving me to ponder the various layers and meanings that are revealed with a close read. In those pieces, the information that is left unsaid is, perhaps, more important than what is included.

WOW: Can you tell us what projects are you currently working on? What can we plan on seeing from you in the future?

Myna: I’ve written several flash and micro stories set in the shortgrass prairie region of the US. I’d like to organize a collection of these stories, but first I have to write a few more to fill in the gaps. I’m also reading for two great publications, Uncharted Magazine and Janus Literary, and managing a speculative fiction discussion group.

WOW: On your website, you joke that you are “powered by coffee and donuts.” So we’d love to know what are your favorite kind of donuts and coffee drinks?

Myna: I wish I could tell you my favorite donuts were the ones my grandmother made when I was little, but honestly, they weren’t very good. My preference is a plain glazed donut with a huge cup of strong black coffee.

WOW: Simple is often best (though I can't make myself do black coffee, unfortunately!). Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Myna. Before you go, do you have a favorite writing tip or piece of advice you can share?

Myna: Connecting with others in the literary community has helped me more than anything else. A writing partner, critique group, or network of flash folks on Twitter can give you a boost of energy and help you stay motivated. The best part is meeting other writers because writers are fun!


For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.
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A Focus on Friendships - Part Three of Three

Monday, September 06, 2021

Thanks for tuning in for part three of three on our focus on friendships. Last time we discussed how feeling connected to someone matters in real life and on the page. Prior to that, during Part One of our focus, we talked about feedback; giving it, receiving it, growing from it, walking away, considering the reason for the feedback, and MORE! In part three, let's talk about to walking away and what that means in life and in our writing/reading lives.

 So - here goes - let's talk about friendships, shall we? This isn't me telling you what to do or not to do - it's just a conversation and hopefully it will offer each of us a little something. Grab your favorite beverage (I'll fill my coffee mug) and we can chat a bit.  If you're wondering, today's photo headline is me and my best friend on our wedding day - I still say marrying your best friend is a most fabulous idea!

Take a moment to remember a friend who meant a lot to you - someone who is no longer part of your circle. They walked away, you walked away, etc... Take a moment to remember a book character you felt close to; someone you were sad to part with at the end of the story. Quite clearly, in the book example, whether you be a reader or writer, the relationship ended because the book ended. If you are a writer, why didn't you chose to write another book about that character? In the real life example, think about the reasons you may be thankful to no longer have that person in your circle. Each of our reasons is going to be different with specific scenarios and conversations swirling through our mind. Ultimately it boils down to energy though, doesn't it?

Maybe the friend had a different energy than you. Maybe the negative energy they brought left you feeling drained. Maybe your positive energy was too much for them. Or was it the opposite? Maybe you didn't have the energy to put into the friendship because your life shifted focus. Whatever the reason or reasons, that person was important to you during a particular period of your life and that friendship can still be cherished for what it was, even if you don't want to rekindle the relationship moving forward. As a writer, maybe you feel you've done a good job with that character, but you just want to move onto someone else. We can honor what was, even if it no longer is. Each person in our life or character from our story helped pave the road that brought us to where we are today. For that, we can be grateful. 
Our time is coming to an end today - but before we get together again, leave a comment and answer one of these questions if you would please? 

**  If you've ever stepped away from a friend, what brought you to that decision? 

**  If you've ever considered writing another book about a beloved character but you decided against it; what played into that choice?

**  If you're a reader - tell us about a character you wish you could read more about and tell us why! (title of the book and author name would be fabulous too!

And with that - hugs my dear friend and until next time! You know we love hearing from you - if you don't feel comfortable commenting on this post, feel free to drop us a note - we love that too! (crystal@wow-womenonwriting.com )


Today's blogger is Crystal J. Casavant-Otto who is a hot mess of a momma and dairy farmer enjoying her little corner of the cornfield in Wisconsin! 

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Sunday, September 05, 2021
Originally from Colorado, Krista Beucler received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia. She was the Editor-in-Chief for Issue 7.2 of the Rappahannock Review, the literary journal published by the University of Mary Washington. Krista is a winner of the Julia Peterkin award for flash fiction, and her creative work has been published in From Whispers To Roars, and South 85 Journal, and Under the Sun. She can be found online on her website and on Instagram.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Q3 2021 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Krista: I get your newsletter which is always so helpful with tips, markets accepting submissions, and your own competitions! I'd been tinkering with this shorter nonfiction piece for a while and thinking about looking for a home for it when I saw the call for the Q3 essay contest. I've read some of the wonderful winning essays and fiction pieces from WOW's other contest and thought my essay might be a good fit.

WOW: Your entry, “Pineapples” is of course about pineapples, but also online dating. What inspired you to write this particular piece?

Krista: I consider myself a fiction writer but lately I've been exploring creative nonfiction. My goal was to write an object lesson and when I thought of pineapples, one of the things that came to mind was this argument about pineapples on pizza that I have had more than once with Tinder matches. So I was wondering how I could explore these two things--pineapples and online dating--simultaneously.

WOW: What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Krista: I'm rereading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is one of my favorite authors and Neverwhere is a book I've read many times, but I like to reread it when I move somewhere new (as I've just moved to San Jose, CA). The first time I reread it, I had just moved to London, but I realized the story isn't just about London, it's about finding belonging and learning the secrets that come with really knowing and loving a place.

WOW: Can you tell us what projects are you currently working on? What can we plan on seeing from you in the future?

Krista: COVID has been a time of both low motivation and low inspiration for me. I am working on several short stories, a novella, a longer essay, and a novel but the writing has been very slow and plodding. Instead of trying to force myself to write, I've been more focused on polishing some pieces I have hidden away in files on my computer and really working on sending them out to literary magazines. My very first publication was only a year ago so I'm still trying to build momentum and get my work out there. You can find out more about my work on my website and Instagram.

WOW: Keep at it and best of luck to you! Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Krista. Before you go, do you have a favorite writing tip or piece of advice you can share?

Krista: I find it helps me to have a second creative pursuit other than writing. When I feel I need to stretch my creative muscles but words just won't come and I can't focus on editing, that's when I collage. Often it can help me get unstuck in my writing even though--or perhaps because--it has nothing to do with writing. I do feel it's important to note that you don't have to be good at drawing or painting or collaging or whatever creative outlet you choose, you just have to enjoy it.


For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.
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A Little Courtesy Goes a Long Way

Saturday, September 04, 2021


I like to keep a list of national “days” handy because it can be helpful when planning content for magazines, podcast episodes, and blog posts. For September, I noticed we have “National Courtesy Month” to celebrate. 

Here’s what the website has to say about the holiday:  

There are so many ways to show kindness to people through courtesy. Hold the door open for the people behind you! Mow your elderly neighbor’s lawn! Compliment that shy person you see every day on the subway! Above all, SMILE at everyone you meet! 

Because this is a blog for writers, I thought I’d talk to about the importance of being courteous to one another. If you’re anything like me, you have highs and lows with your writing. Sometimes you feel like you’ve produced the greatest essay, short story, novel etc. and then you send out a few submissions, and crickets. Or worse, a “thanks, but no thanks.” This can send us into a downward spiral where we feel like failures and can prevent us from continuing our craft or submitting. 

A woman in my writing accountability group recently shared a story with us. She has been working on a manuscript for several years, won a one-on-one pitch session with an agent, and received positive feedback and the invitation to submit her novel. As you can guess, she was jumping for joy at the opportunity. When the agent passed on her manuscript with a form letter a few weeks later, she was crushed. She began letting those feelings of self-doubt overwhelm her and shared those feelings in an Instagram post. She’s from Australia, and an author there reached out to her, offered to set up a Zoom call, and encouraged her to begin submitting her novel directly to publishers. This writer was so encouraged by this act of generosity from a writer she didn’t even know that she finally set up her website so publishers would have a place to see her writing online and it looks amazing! She could have wallowed for weeks, or even months, but a simple act of courtesy got her motivated again. 

Several months ago, I had a writer I connected with on Instagram send me a direct message. She had a pitch session with an agent lined up at a regional conference and asked me if I would be kind enough to read her elevator pitch and give her a few suggestions. Because she had been so kind in promoting my podcast for me, I told her no problem. I only sent her a few suggestions and wasn’t even sure I was helpful, but she sent me a card and a bookmark a few weeks later and told me she had received a request for her manuscript. A few weeks ago, when I was mulling over having to give up one of my editing gigs because of my workload, she happened to reach out me because she runs a staffing agency, and one of her clients was looking for a copywriter. She was looking for someone who could put in about 10 hours a week of copywriting, and that fit what I was looking for. If I hadn’t shown her a bit of courtesy when she asked form my help with her pitch, would she have thought of me for this other gig? Maybe, maybe not. I hope these stories of generosity have inspired you! You never know how much the smallest gesture of kindness can impact someone. 

Do you have any stories of other writers or editors helping you out that you’d like to share? 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and magazine editor who also produces a true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas.
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Reclaiming My Enjoyment of Reading

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Nothing like a worldwide pandemic to make even reading feel impossible. I don't know about you, but somehow over the last couple of years, I lost my love of reading. Like a former relationship, I knew the love had been there once upon a time, but somehow I wasn't feeling that same passion anymore.

Luckily, I wasn't alone. I came across countless articles written by my fellow bookworms, bemoaning their loss of reading. (Here's one.)

Instead of fighting it, I accepted it. It wasn't like I didn't try to find the right book for me, but I didn't beat myself over it. 

Jump ahead to 2021. Oh look, the pandemic is still here. Then came a heatwave. Several days of humid 90s, and itching for something new, I perused Netgalley and my local library (their e-book app) for a book. Hungrily, I looked over the books, desperate for something to distract me.

And then something amazing happened. In the midst of my least favorite season, I reclaimed my love of books. 

I started out with reading a thriller called The Couple Upstairs. I was soon knee deep in the drama and read the book over the course of a few days. And since then, my enjoyment of books is back with me again.

If you are struggling with enjoying a book, I have a few pieces of advice. First, be picky. Very picky. If a book doesn't interest you, ditch it. Treat it like dating, don't read a book just because you feel sorry for it. It's not you, it's the book. Second, read genres you enjoy. Throw away the "step outside of your comfort zone" advice and nestle into that familiar nook you love. Lastly, consider things like graphic novels, audio books, and even young adult books (or younger). These formats can appeal to you in a way that surprise you. 

Enjoying books again is wonderful and if you lost your love due to the stress, give yourself time. It will come back again.

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A Soft No? Or a Hard One?

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

 I've gotten hard nos--lots of them. Over two hundred (no exagggeration or stretching of the truth) of 'em. When I was trying to get an agent or publisher interested in my book, I submitted it over 140 times. Some replied with "no thanks." Mostly, I got no response at all. 

No response--in the publication world--means no. Sometimes the agent or press has a long response time, but after a couple of years, I got the message from the majority of the people I queried. They were not interested clueless about how totally brilliant and soon-to-be award-winning my manuscript was. (I mean this jokingly--at least semi-jokingly.)

Once, I received a rejection email less than twenty-four hours after I'd sent in a prospective short story. Or maybe it was an essay. I'm not sure. The email said something like, "It doesn't fit the tone we're interested in."

I seem to remember my essay/short story was an on-the-cusp piece. It could have been serious, or it could have been funny. I don't remember which direction my submission took but whatever it was, they didn't like it. 

Seeing the possibility of simply pivoting my way to success, I sent back a quick email, saying something like, "I could easily rewrite this so it has a ______  tone," and the editor (a woman, I remember) fired back an immediate answer:

"Please, do not send us anything else again."

What she was trying to say? What did she mean by that? Seriously, that one stung. Perhaps my writing--in her opinion--stunk so much, she'd file a restraining order if I submitted anything in the future? That one was a double-hard no.

However, I've gotten some rejections recently that made me think they were soft nos... and yet I simply accepted them, turned around, and left. Let me explain:

I had a friend who read my book and said, "You need to contact church groups." She also suggested fraternities and sororities. That one I'm still working on, but back to the church possibilities.

Since my novel is historical fiction (it's about the Tulsa Race Massacre) and since there is a tiny religious/spiritual thread that's woven through it, I approached a few churches--churches that I thought might be open to having a book group focusing on my novel. I just dropped in, spoke to the church secretary in each case, and when they said no, they didn't have book clubs, I thanked them and left.

I did it all wrong. Not only that, but when I screwed up the way I did it, I also took their soft no and considered it a done deal. 

So perhaps they don't have an ongoing book group... Probably the church secretary is not interested in setting up one... But maybe, the pastor of the church would be.

Launching a book group would be a win-win. The church would get their faith community involved in a different way, and I'd get a chance to reach more readers, probably in a deeper way, because I'd offer to join them insist I get invited to the group's get-together.

My education--when it comes to who I need to contact--came about after being invited to Margo Dill's church book group. It's next week, and I'm so excited, I can barely keep from squealing inside. Of course, Margo (my publisher) set it up, so all I have to do is show up... and hope they liked the book.

What did I learn? I am going to set up some appointments with some pastors, and begin with a conversation. I hope that during the dialogue, the pastor embraces the idea of having a book group, and that they're intrigued enough by my book to give it a try.

So, how have you taken a soft no and turned it into a yes? Determined minds want to know...

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An Alarming Situation

Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Last Saturday, my cell phone rang at 8:10 AM. When I picked it up it read “Nancy Next Door.” 


Nancy Next Door only calls when there’s something wrong. A coyote jumping into my yard. A fallen tree on our shared fence. A broken gate…that sort of thing. Naturally, I thought a tree had fallen since A. there are lots of trees in the woods and in my yard that are leaning in a bad way and B. after over a year, I’d finally fixed the fence from the last fallen tree. 

“Are you home?” asked my neighbor. I was not. I was five hours away, at the beach. “There’s an alarm going off in your house,” she said. “I don’t see smoke but it’s been going off for about 15 minutes.” 

No problem, I told her. I’d call my other neighbor who has a key to my house. 

It’s 8:20 or so on a Saturday morning, and my neighbor answers her phone and after hearing my predicament replies, “I’m not home.” She’d had a family emergency the night before and was at her in-laws’ house, checking in. She was 15 minutes away but still, I hated to ask her to drive over to my house. 

“That’s okay,” I say, “I’ll call my daughter.” 

My daughter lives about 20 minutes from my house. But when I call her, she doesn’t pick up. 

Saturday is her day off, I know that she likes to catch up on her sleep. Who knows if she’s even got her phone turned on? And I don’t want to call her husband because…well, what if they’re not asleep, if you catch my drift? So I can call my sons (both of whom live about an hour away and let's face it, they're not going to pick up) or call back my neighbor (with the key). I call the neighbor.

She doesn’t pick up, either. 

It’s now 8:30. My smoke alarm has been going off for at least a half hour, maybe longer. I’m pacing like a lunatic, wondering what to do when my cell rings and it’s my daughter. She listened to my message and she was pulling on her jeans and heading straight over to my house. Whew! 

I call Nancy Next Door who says, yep, the alarm is still going off. She still doesn’t see smoke. But now I am really alarmed. I suspect that the alarm she’s hearing is coming from my basement; I remember that I store paint and all kinds of other cleaning products down there. 

I call my daughter who’s just about at my house and tell her to be VERY careful. “Touch the front door. If it’s hot, just call 9-1-1.” I’m still on the phone with her when she gets to the house. “The door is cool but the smoke alarm is still going off,” she says. “Should I go in?” I tell her to open the door and determine if she smells smoke. And she says, “Mom, you know I still can’t smell normally. I may not be able to smell smoke.

OH MY LORD. It’s been nearly an hour that the smoke alarm has been blaring! And at this point, like the Calvary riding up, my neighbor who has the key and her husband and full use of her olfactory senses walks up to my door. 

Now, the point to this re-telling is this: how goes the story you’ve been working on?

Because if you don’t have a gripping problem, a couple of interesting characters, and more than a few obstacles to provide a fair amount of tension (and a ticking clock is always good, too), then you don’t have much of a story. You might have some delightfully pretty paragraphs and such but readers need story. 

And P.S. the house didn’t burn down; it was just a faulty smoke alarm. (I’m partial to happy endings but your story can have whatever resolution you like.)

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Interview with Jeanie Ransom, 2021 Q3 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest Runner Up with "How to Write a Perfect Sentence"

Saturday, August 28, 2021
Congratulations to Jeanie Ransom and How to Write a Perfect Sentence and all the winners of our 2021 Quarter 3 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest!

Jeanie's Bio:  
Jeanie Ransom sold her first story to Seventeen magazine when she was seventeen. She’s written for numerous national and regional magazines and newspapers since, was an associate editor at a bed-and-breakfast magazine, worked as an advertising copywriter, and is the author of nine traditionally-published children’s books. In addition, Jeanie has been an elementary school counselor, a licensed professional counselor, and a Starbucks barista and Coffee Master. She’s participated in workshops at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival as well as taken several WOW! Women on Writing classes. Previous WOW! Contest entries have been in the Top Twenty or a finalist. Her flash-fiction story, “The Space Between,” was just accepted for publication by Flash Fiction Magazine. When she’s not traveling between her home in a western suburb of St. Louis, MO, and a cottage near the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula in northern Michigan, Jeanie likes to read, look for rocks, be on the water or walk in the woods with her husband and their two collies, Sadie and Sawyer.

 If you haven't done so already, check out Jeanie's talent in writing with the moving story How to Write a Perfect Sentence and then return here for a chat with this talented author.

WOW:    Thank you for writing this essay - what is the take-away you'd like readers to gain from How to Write a Perfect Sentence? 

Jeanie: Thank you for reading it! The essay grew out of frustration with my writing process. I find myself writing and rewriting the first few sentences so much – in essence, editing as I write rather than doing a rough draft – that I have trouble pushing through to finish a piece. I was tired of being paralyzed by perfectionism, of beating myself up because I wasn't as productive or prolific as I thought I should be. So, for this essay, I decided to just write what I was feeling, and oddly enough, the memory of my grandfather making me walk "the right way" when he took me to the zoo surfaced. It was an "aha" moment when I realized how early messages had affected the way I thought about myself. I feel like a lot of writers have a harsh inner critic that makes them doubt the quality and/or value of their work, and I hope that by sharing my story, they'll know they're not alone, and may want to explore where their inner critic came from. 

WOW:     That darn inner critic - you're right...I'd never talk to anyone else the way I talk to myself!

Where do you write? What does your space look like? 

Jeanie:  I divide my time between Missouri and Michigan, so my writing tools – computer, pens, journals, projects – are usually stashed in a backpack so I can write wherever I am. My favorite – and most productive – place to write is at a coffee shop or cafe. My writer friends and I call it "cafe writing," which is code for "no talking, just writing" for a set amount of time before taking a break. As far as what my writing space looks like, in Missouri I have a desk in my eldest son's old room, along with a couple of shelves filled with books on writing and books written by members of my critique group. On top of the desk is my mother's old typewriter, the kind that makes the satisfying "clackety-clack" when you type, a writing totem (mine is a small carved wooden owl my oldest son gave me), and a bowl of miniature dog biscuits for my two office "assistants," Sadie and Sawyer, both rough collies. At my cottage in Michigan, I tend to write in a spare bedroom with a big comfy leather chair in one corner, or go out on the deck. Sometimes my writing space is in the woods, on a fallen birch tree about fifty feet long. I guess I write here, there, and everywhere! 

WOW:     I love a cozy coffee shop - thanks for sharing some of your story - I love that you have your mother's old typewriter. That's so sweet! Speaking of family; who is your support - what have you found to be most supportive in your writing life as well as in life in general? 

Jeanie: My husband and three grown sons are my biggest cheerleaders, followed closely by my critique group, The Polished Pens. 

WOW:    Sounds like you have a great support system!

 What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for the remainder of 2021 and beyond? 

Jeanie: My plan is to continue writing essays, flash fiction, and micro memoirs. Ideally, I'd like to generate enough material for a book. I've also been doing some nature writing, though I'm not sure where that's going yet. My writing goals for the rest of 2021 include submitting more work to online and print literary journals and magazines. I just had a flash fiction story, "The Space Between," published by Flash Fiction Magazine, so I'm excited to see what I can do this year and beyond. 

 WOW:         YES! Congratulations!

You've worn many hats according to your bio - which job (so far) has been your favorite? 

Jeanie:  Hmmm, that's a great question! I believe that every job a person has – good or bad – teaches them something. Even if it's only to learn that you never, ever want to work in that field or industry again! For example, writing ad copy for radio stations and then at advertising agencies taught me how to write short and to meet tight deadlines, both of which came in handy when I started writing children's books years later. Working as an elementary school counselor gave me experience writing lessons and presenting them to students from kindergarten through third grade, which just so happened to be the target audience for the children's books I'd write and the school visits I'd eventually do. My favorite job was working as a radio station copywriter. I'd just graduated from college, and radio was a fun and exciting business to be in, especially for young people. I met my future husband, a DJ, at a radio station in Little Rock, Arkansas, so there's that, too! 

WOW:       Isn't that a tough one? You did great with your answer though!

 What role has journaling and/or writer's groups played in your writing life? 

Jeanie:   I kept a diary when I was growing up, and amazingly, I still have all of them! So I guess journaling came pretty naturally to me when I became an adult. I don't remember exactly when I started journaling on a pretty regular basis, but I know that over the past few years, journaling became an essential part of my self-care. I've tried "Morning Pages" and writing a certain amount every day, but I decided I didn't want to feel bad if I skipped a day or my word count fell short. That's not helpful! Now I journal on a regular basis, just not every day, and not a prescribed number of pages. Sometimes I'll fill two pages, or as many as seven. I just start writing whatever comes to mind, even if it's "I don't know what to write about," and continue until I feel like I'm done. I know that for me, especially during the pandemic, journaling was often the only writing I could manage for months at a time. It kept me grounded and ended up providing material for future essays. I've belonged to a writers' group for at least twenty-five years. Different members have come and gone, moved away or moved back, but the group has continued. There is nothing more important for a writer, in my opinion, than a good critique partner or group, whether it's online or in person. 

WOW:         Why do you enter contests? What would you like to tell other authors concerning contests and submitting their work? 

Jeanie:  At the start of the pandemic, I found myself unable to read a book or to write more than a few sentence fragments. To motivate myself to write and submit something, anything, I started entering contests. I'd taken a flash-fiction workshop at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival in 2019, and really enjoyed it. It was something totally different from writing children's books, which I'd been doing since 2000, and I think that's why I was able to switch gears. Once I started playing with flash fiction, I tried flash non-fiction and micro memoirs. Everything's under 1,000 words, so even as stuck as I was, I could manage to squeeze enough words out to write a whole story. I also returned to writing essays, something I hadn't done in decades, and submitting several to contests. I was familiar with WOW – Women on Writing – from taking an online class a few years ago, but I hadn't really paid much attention to the fact that they had contests until the pandemic. I decided to enter one, and was pleased to be a finalist, so I entered another one, and so on. I found WOW's contests to be affordable, easy to enter, and extremely well-run. While I still enter some contests, I'm really careful to do my research and choose wisely, which is what I'd advise anyone to do. I've started submitting more to online and print literary journals and magazines that don't charge a reading fee, and have found that taking online classes has helped me generate new material to submit, whether to a contest or for publication.

WOW: Thank you ever so much for sharing your essay, sage advice, and your laughter today - we look forward to reading more of your work! Congratulations again! 

  Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!

Check out the latest Contests:
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3 Things to Remember When You Query

As I look up various agents online, I get this strange feeling that I’m playing duck-duck-goose. Here’s an agent that might be suitable – duck. Here’s another one that could work - duck. This one looks like a great match – goose! 

In kindergarten the goose always gave chase. With agents it is much less certain, but you can improve your odds by putting your best foot forward with your query.
Here are three things to remember when crafting your query letter. 

Out of All the Others, I Chose You 

Writers approach agents every single day. Some will have done no research beyond finding an e-mail address. These are the people who query an agent who only represents children’s authors for an adult cozy mystery or a thriller. 

Others will have put a bit more effort into it. These are the writers who skim a market listing and see that this agent represents mysteries. They then assume that the agent will want a cozy when she only represents hard-boiled detective stories and police procedurals. 

To demonstrate that you have really and truly done your research, tell the agent why you are approaching them. “I saw on Twitter that you want stories set in 15th century Mongolia.” “Your Manuscript Wish List indicates that you want to see more STEM picture books.” Don’t claim a connection that you don’t have, but do let the agent know why you think they are a good fit. 

How Is Your Manuscript Unique? 

Perhaps even more difficult than showing why you chose the agent is figuring out which information to include about your manuscript. All too often, we resort to the kinds of phrases we hear in movie trailers. “This is a story of one woman’s fight against big government and corporate corruption.” “A fantasy epic to rival Lord of the Rings.” 

That approach just doesn’t work in a query. One problem is that we already have Lord of the Rings. The other problem is that these kinds of statements are too general. 

Instead you need to show what makes your story unique. Your character is struggling to get a toxic waste site downwind from her neighborhood cleaned up, but government regulations and lobbyists stand in the way. That’s much more specific. 

Cut the Clichés 

Since you only have one page for your query letter, it is going to be tempting to use written shortcuts. Be careful when you do this, because it is easy to fall into using clichés and overused phrases. 

What falls into this category? Referring to your nonfiction character as a national treasure. Other worn phrases include sordid underbelly, uphill battle, low-hanging fruit, or a drop in the bucket. 

Keep it short, but keep it meaningful.

Many agents post their query letter preferences online. Explore to see what you can find, then take the time to write a letter that explains why your story is unique and why this agent out of the many you have researched is a good match for your manuscript. Do this and maybe the Goose will give chase!


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 27 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on September 6, 2021).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins September 6, 2021) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins September 6, 2021). 
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A Focus on Friendships - Part Two of Three

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Thanks for tuning in for part two of three on our focus on friendships. My favorite books are the ones where I feel most kindred to the characters. I finish those books and feel like I've had a visit with a dear friend. During Part One of our focus, we talked about feedback; giving it, receiving it, growing from it, walking away, considering the reason for the feedback, and MORE! In part two, let's talk about what draws us to certain people and pushes us away from others. 

 So - here goes - let's talk about friendships, shall we? This isn't me telling you what to do or not to do - it's just a conversation and hopefully it will offer each of us a little something. Grab your favorite beverage (I'll fill my coffee mug) and we can chat a bit. Stop back in a few weeks for part three publishing on the 6th of September!. If you're wondering, today's photo headline is me and my best friend celebrating our engagement over a decade ago - he still makes me smile like this! 

Let's start with a quote by English writer Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)



Isn't that an interesting concept (and clearly not a new one)? I think about this as I start a new book. I've never met these characters before, but if they feel familiar to me I am immediately drawn in. As authors, we need to keep this at the forefront of our craft and make sure those real life idiosyncrasies of each character make it to the page. Often, in our own mind we know our characters quite well, but we need to make sure they feel familiar to our readers as well. So - how do we best do this? By taking a look at what draws us to friendships off the page.

What is it about someone that draws us in and makes us decide they need to be part of our world? Is it an unexplainable energy or vibe, a welcoming smile, their posture? What makes them approachable (or how did they approach us - in the case of an introvert)? Think about these things and make sure they land on your page - your readers will thank you! And for non-writers; remember that the key to a healthy relationship of any kind is appreciating the other person; so as you read this, think about what it is you appreciate about those friends in your life - and get out there and tell them about it! Similarly, if you're a reader who has fallen in love with the characters written by a particular author - take a moment to thank them in a review! 

Our time is coming to an end today - but before we get together again, leave a comment and answer one of these questions if you would please? 

 ** Were you ever drawn to someone after initially thinking you didn't really care for them? What shifted? 

** Have you ever ended a friendship? Why and what feelings went along with that "break up"?

** What do you think is the key to a long lasting friendship?

And with that - hugs my dear friend and until next time!

Today's blogger is Crystal J. Casavant-Otto who is a hot mess of a momma and dairy farmer enjoying her little corner of the cornfield in Wisconsin! 

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