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26. 5 Lessons I Learned In the Decade It Took to Publish a Second Novel


Perhaps you’ve heard the one about a journalist who arrived at Joyce Carol Oates’ home to interview her? “I’m sorry,” said her assistant. “But she’s working on her new novel right now.” “That’s okay,” said the journalist. “I’ll wait.”

With over 40 novels written — averaging two a year — Oates makes us all look bad.

While there’s no average time for writing a novel, a decade certainly sounds like a long time. And it feels like it too. Throughout the nine years I worked on my latest novel, I worried that I’d never reach the finish line, and even if I did, readers would  no longer be there to cheer me on. I was convinced that when it came to publishing, slow and steady won no races.

What gave me hope was keeping in mind some great role models: Donna Tartt published her second and third novels eleven years apart. Loorie Moore spent fifteen years between novels; and my favorite example comes from one of my all-time favorite writers: Marilynne Robinson spent twenty-four years between her acclaimed first novel Housekeeping and her second novel, Gilead.

“Maybe it’s a question of discipline, maybe temperament, who knows? I wish I could have made myself do more,” said Robinson in a 2008 Paris Review interview. “I wouldn’t mind having written fifteen books.”

“Even if many of them were mediocre?” asked the interviewer.

“Well, no,” said Robinson.

Exactly. Once I accepted the fact that ultimately what matters most is writing the book I wanted to write — a book I would love to read — I calmed down and learned to respect my own, deliberate process. Following are some lessons I learned that helped me get there:


1)    It takes the time it takes.  A novel takes as long as it needs to take to say the things you need to say in the way you need to say them. Worrying about arbitrary deadlines does not influence the creative process. Nor should you be concerned about “timeliness” or literary trends, which are completely unpredictable elements. My novel is set in Detroit and Lagos, Nigeria — both are places in the news now. Who could’ve planned for that?

2)    Gifts from the Universe will appear: The longer you work on a novel, the more happenings in the world that can enhance your plot. For example, the Afro-beat musician Fela Kuti figures prominently in my novel. Just as I was writing a final draft, I learned that Fela had performed in Detroit in the exact year my story takes place, and that the long-lost “live” recording of that concert had just been released on CD. That information fit beautifully into my plot — a gift that would’ve been lost had I published the book sooner.

3)    The story gets to marinate. Fresh ideas and plot twists will come that only time and a deep familiarity with the material can bring. With more time you get to do more research, receive more feedback, do more revising, read more widely for inspiration. Most importantly, you get to let the work sit for a while. When you return to your story with fresh eyes, you can be more ambitious with its structure or themes. Here’s a line from my journal on the eve of my eighth year working on the novel: “It’s so me, this book. And yet it’s ambitious in a way it took me a long, slow way to be.” As all cooks know, marinades deepen flavor.

4)    You will not be forgotten. No one loves you less as a writer because your book is taking several years to finish; In fact, anticipation breeds excitement. On the eve of Into The Go-Slow’s publication, I am both awed and humbled by the many friends and strangers who’ve reached out to say, “I enjoyed your first book, and I can’t wait to read your new one!”

5)    Time breeds confidence. Because my new novel was so lovingly (and painstakingly!) crafted, I know who I am now as a writer. Here’s another quote from my journal in 2012: ” For the ninth-year anniversary of writing this story, do this: Don’t let up. Be relentless. Let your maturity show in the form of bravery on every page. Use all this living hence to imbue the work with wisdom.” The evolving years between novels have allowed me to become a fearless storyteller.

A final thought: Think of the long-term work spent on a novel as a personal playground in which you get to slowly work through concepts — themes and characters and POV and descriptions of place, and context. That kind of free play can yield wondrous surprises. Slow-burn writing is also a great way to learn how to balance personal-life demands and the desire to just write.

Know this: no time is ever wasted. Every year you spend on your work is another opportunity to document your creative journey, and grow as a writer. Now why would anyone impose a time limit on that?

Into_the_Go-SlowBridgett M. Davis is the author of Into The Go-Slow, released September 9, 2014 by Feminist Press, and the debut novel Shifting Through Neutral, a finalist for the 2005 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.

Touted by Time Out as one of “10 New York Authors to Read Right Now,” Davis is Books Editor for Bold As Love Magazine, a black culture site; her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Essence, O, The Oprah Magazine, and TheRoot.com.

She is a professor at Baruch College, CIty University of New York, where she directs the Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence Program. She is also curator for the Brooklyn reading series, Sundays @…..

For more information, visit bridgettdavis.com.

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27. Query Question: is August a good month to query?

I have the impression that August is a month during which the publishing industry if not shuts down, then at least ramps down.
Nonetheless, I sent out a query, just one, to my 'dream' agent. Being accepted is a long shot, but if I was to be refused, I wanted to get it out of the way.
 In the future, I'll send queries to multiple agents. After five years and many drafts, my manuscript is ready. I 'rested' it for several months, then re-read it, after which I gave it to several trusted readers. Even though it was August, I just couldn't wait any longer to get the process going.
Does August really affect response time? Should I not even start to fret until well into September?
 Also, the agent does not list a time frame by which she says she will reply. To me, a reasonable reply time is 4-6 weeks. It has only been 3 weeks, but seems like a year. Now I wonder: will she ever reply?
Maybe I should just have a stiff drink and focus on my next project.***

I'm always amused when people think publishing shuts down in August. Not anymore it doesn't, and we're all the poorer for it, I must confess.

A lot of higher-echelon decision makers take vacations in August and early September, so it's harder to get contracts signed, or deal memos ok'd but that has NOTHING to do with queries.

Frankly, agents are behind on answering queries (well, I'm not, everyone else is) all the time.

The normal wait time for a query is 30 days.  However, that means nothing to you because you will send queries out to agents starting now, and continuing until you get an offer.  You can follow up in 30 days with that first agent, but chances are unless she's committed to replying to every query, you won't hear back unless she's interested.  ( rant about "No response means no" here)

 [And don't get me started on why you should not set your hopes on a Dream Agent.  Oops...too late ]

*** that is always the correct course of action when querying

0 Comments on Query Question: is August a good month to query? as of 9/9/2014 9:08:00 AM
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28. Greenhouse Books on the Big and Small Screens

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29. Query Question: book from an original movie

For books based off films (films that are not adaptions), how would one go about obtaining the rights? It is difficult (I personally tried to research) to find the correct person to contact.

I do have an outline and details for an idea but I am unsure about going forth writing the piece if I have no way of the ability to send the final manuscript out to agents with copyright issues.

What would I go about doing?

What you are proposing to write is called a novelization.
The rights are owned by the studio (generally.)

Finding out who to contact is impossible for someone with no connections or an agent. And frankly, even if you find the right guy, they won't call you back if you're on your own.

Several publishers have novel tie-in publishing programs. They hire writers (usually on a work for hire basis) to write novelizations.  As far as I know, those authors all have agents.

But here's my question to you: why on God's green earth do you want to do this?  Novelizations generally don't sell all that well, unless they're something like Star Wars or other big brand name franchises or blockbusters.

Write your own book. Find an agent.  If you still want to write novelizations, then you'll at least have someone who can help you do that.

0 Comments on Query Question: book from an original movie as of 9/8/2014 7:16:00 AM
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30. New Literary Agent Alert: Genevieve Nine of Andrea Hurst & Associates

Reminder: New literary agents (with this spotlight featuring Genevieve Nine of Andrea Hurst & Associates) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.




About Genevieve Nine: Genevieve has had a lifelong love affair with books. Her tastes are eclectic, ranging from the classics to quirky. She’s drawn to the fantastic, the curious, and the unexpected. Genevieve is looking to represent authors who weave layered tales with well-developed worlds and characters who threaten to burst from the page. She appreciates smart and original plots with well-crafted twists. And no matter how zany or diabolical, every character should be undeniably human at heart. Follow Genevieve on Twitter (@GenevieveNine).

(11 literary agents share what NOT to write in your query letter.)

Genevieve joined Andrea Hurst Literary Management as an intern in 2012. She has a background in professional editing and gets great satisfaction from developing authors. She’s a Creative Writing MFA candidate at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, holds a Certificate in Children’s Writing from the University of Washington, and graduated with honors and a B.A. from the USC School of Cinema & Television. When not reading or writing, Genevieve enjoys watching her Sherlock DVDs, planning future travels, and embarking on culinary adventures. She and her husband live in Seattle with their two naughty cats, Selkie and Napoleon.

Within young adult and middle grade, she’s looking to acquire:

Fantasy (open to all subgenres except game-related)
ŸScience Fiction
ŸHistorical Fiction
ŸRetellings (classics, fairy/folk tale, myth)
ŸContemporary Realism (especially with elements of humor)

She also represents the following adult and new adult categories:

ŸMystery (detective/PI, amateur, cozy, historical, comic, caper)
ŸThriller (supernatural, historical, disaster, ecological)
ŸGothic/Hauntings/Quiet Horror
ŸHistorical Fiction
ŸRetellings (classics, fairy/folk tale, myth)
ŸRomantic Comedy
ŸMagical Realism
ŸFood Memoir
ŸTravelogue/Travel Memoir

(The One Big Reason Some Blogs Succeed, While Others Crash and Burn.)

She is not seeking:

ŸHard SF/Military SF/Space Opera
ŸGraphic Horror
ŸReligious Fiction/Nonfiction
ŸShort Stories

Submission Guidelines: querygenevieve@andreahurst.com. Email queries only. ŸNo attachments. ŸInclude “Query: Book Title” in the email’s subject line. ŸPaste the first ten pages of manuscript below your query. ŸPlease state if manuscript has been previously self-published. ŸPlease state if query is a multiple submission and inform Genevieve if the project becomes no longer available for representation.



The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.



Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:


Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.




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31. Create an Author Website in 24 Hours or Less — Webinar With Jane Friedman on Sept. 11, 2014

If you want to find success as an author — whether through traditional publishing or self-publishing — you must make an effort to connect with other people. That’s the whole point of social sites like Twitter and Facebook — to connect with readers and writers. But fundamentally more important than social media is simply having a (free) comprehensive author website. That’s why we’ve enlisted eMedia professor and guru Jane Friedman to teach the webinar “Create an Author Website in 24 Hours or Less” at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, September 11, 2014. The intensive class lasts two hours.

Speaking from an editor’s perspective, I can tell you that having a simple, neat website is absolutely essential. You must have something show up when people Google you or try to connect with you. All webinar attendees get to ask Jane as many questions as she wants, and no question goes unanswered.


Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 11.01.52 AM




It’s indisputable: All authors must have their own website. It’s critical for effective marketing (online AND offline), as well as long-term career growth. Even unpublished authors can benefit greatly from establishing a starter site. Why? You work through the learning curve, you build online awareness, you make contacts in the writing and media world, and more opportunities open up to you.

This intensive webinar focuses on the simplest, most robust, and FREE tools to get a site up and running in a day or less—often in one evening! You don’t have to know any code, understand any technical jargon, or have previous experience with websites or blogs. You also don’t need to own your own domain or have hosting, although advice will be given on those issues.

While several different site-building options will be discussed, this session offers a step-by-step tutorial on setting up a site using WordPress—a best-in-class system that underpins 1 one of every 6 websites on the internet. WordPress is free to use, open source, and continually improving. Sign up for the webinar here.


  • 5 simple services that help you create a codeless website, for free, in an hour or less (plus what services to avoid)
  • Absolute must-have elements for every author site, even if you’re unpublished
  • The difference between a blog and a website, and whether or not you need a blog
  • How to get started with WordPress, either at WordPress.com or on your own domain
  • What WordPress themes are best to use, plus what premium themes you might consider investing in
  • Basic and free WordPress plug-ins that you need, plus how to extend the functionality of your site with more advanced plug-ins
  • How to add multimedia to your site (audio, video, photos, etc)
  • How to integrate social media sharing tools onto your site
  • What site upgrades or additional features you might want that necessitate further investment
  • An easy-to-understand explanation of domains and hosting (but you don¹t need to own a domain or have hosting to get started!)
  • Common mistakes and pitfalls of websites and blogs
  • When you should hire a professional designer or site developer, and how much you can expect to spend
  • All these points and more will be answered in this nuts-and-bolts webinar about creating a model author website.  Sign up for the webinar here.


Jane Friedman is the former web editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review, where she oversees all online content, website development, and technical maintenance. She is also the sole developer and designer of her own website, JaneFriedman.com, which has won numerous awards and enjoys 50,000 unique visitors per month. Jane’s expertise on technology and publishing has been featured on NPR, PBS, and Publishers Weekly, and her social media presence is often cited as a model to follow in the writing community. Before joining VQR, Jane was the publisher of Writer’s Digest and spent two years as a full-time professor of e-media at the University of Cincinnati.


  1. Writers who want to establish a new website from scratch.
  2. Writers who want to learn how to use WordPress to build a new website.
  3. Writers who have tried to use WordPress but need a tutorial.
  4. Writers who want to transition from a blog-only site, such as Blogspot or Tumblr, to a full-featured, long-term site on WordPress

 Sign up for the webinar here.

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32. Comment of the week

There's been rumbling in the readership for a new contest so I decided to surprise you by having a contest and NOT telling you about it.  [This is in honor of  Jeff Somers' amazing essay over at Medium.com about how People Are The Worst. --so blame Jeff for this new wrinkle of cruelty in your life.]

I decided to look back through the blog posts this week and select a Comment of the Week.

Of course I was instantly stymied by you, dear readers, even though you didn't know about the contest.  Stymied in that the comment I loved was quickly followed by two more that were equally amazing and funny.

So, instead of one winner, we have three.

french sojourn 9/6/14 10:21am
It pains me that you would throw my name out as a cautionary tale. Maybe you don't remember me, but i'll never forget you.

Bora bora, sunsets, blue whale cocktails and our chums at the hookie-lau-a go-go.

Felix Buttonweazer.

LynnRodz  9/6/14 10:53am
Ahh, how soon they forget, Felix! (Too many fish in the sea, I suppose.) I will say, this wasn't the first post where your name was mentioned, so you aren't completely forgotten.

yes indeed, Felix has appeared when
his email was wrong on a conference list

 using pen names (with a name like Buttonweazer, why would you want to!)

 and there have been several others.

Carolynnwith2ns 9/6/14 11:20am
 Janet, a dear friend and wife of my former writing teacher and literary agent, has asked if I would please pass this message on to you.

Dear Ms. Reid,
May I respectably request that you cease referring to my loving husband, Felix Buttonweazer, as anyone less than informed and stellar as a writer. When I think of the hours my dear Felix spends on his computer researching websites related to the importance of relationships, (thank God he doesn’t call those 900 numbers anymore) and how this has enhanced our relationship, I just bristle because of your flippancy.
We have a passel of little Buttonweazers who look up to their father, so please do not belittle the man, history will eventually recognize and admire as the writer whose last name has more letters in it than Hemmingway.
Betty Buttonweazer

Of course there are prizes! If our three winners drop me a line with their mailing address, we'll send them body parts books .

There were some other terrific comments as well. By terrific I mean ones that cracked me up usually. Here they are in chrono order

Terri Lynn Coop 9/3/14 3:18pm
No matter the question . . .

Jack Reacher is always an acceptable answer.

Sort of a little black dress of characters.


Anastasia Stratu 9/2/14 10:24am
Added to "1,000,000 books to read before I die" list.

List growing alarmingly fast.

List owner feeling more and more like the protagonist of that joke about the creative writing college admission commission interviewing a candidate. When asked about favorite books and authors, the candidate says: "None. Joe is not a reader. Joe is a writer."

General sentiment of self-addressed peevishness explainable by circumstances entailing a dulled sense of comedy and ignoble pilfering from folklore.

Generally inane tone hereof justifiable by severe sleep deprivation.

Decision to post this comment anyway triggered by general inability to shut up.

Lance 9/1/14 9:04pm
Is that why you're having to repaint? 

NotAWarriorPrincess 8/31/14 12:19pm
My husband came home one day in July to find I had removed the floor, subfloor, toilet, and fixtures from the masterbath. I had the new subfloor and vinyl down and the new toilet halfway installed and was cursing the skies that a part was missing from the box it came in so I had to return to Home Depot. If it hadn't been for that extra trip I'd have had it all done except for the paint. And then the paint... the saga of ugly paint rivals some of the sagas of Norse Iceland for length and tedium, if not violence. And maybe a little of the violence. In the midst of it all a wise woman told me "Teal is not your friend. Teal is no one;s friend." ALways listen to your wise woman, folks.

0 Comments on Comment of the week as of 9/7/2014 8:16:00 AM
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33. How I Got My Literary Agent: Julie Lawson Timmer

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Julie Lawson Timmer, author of FIVE DAYS LEFT. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we’ll talk specifics.



five-days-left-novel-cover     julie-lawson-timmer-author-writer

Julie Lawson Timmer grew up in Ontario and earned a bachelor’s degree from
McMaster University before heading south of the border. She has a law degree
from Southern Methodist University and works as in-house legal counsel in
Michigan. She lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and children. Her first novel
is FIVE DAYS LEFT (Putnam; September 9, 2014), book club fiction that was
praised by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist , and Library Journal.

It didn’t start out well

My journey to landing a literary agent was one of premature querying and bad decisions, followed by months of course correction and, ultimately, the alignment of the stars and a great deal of luck.

In the summer of 2011, I finished a first draft of the manuscript that ultimately became Five Days Left. It was terrible, and far too lengthy, but I pitched it at a writers’ conference anyway. Of course I didn’t get an agent, but I acquired a terrific group of writing friends and some solid advice about writing, revising and querying. I also received enough encouraging feedback about my writing that I drove home with a renewed sense of determination.

After the conference, I gutted and rewrote the manuscript, and started querying. I received a few requests for partials and fulls, but mostly, I received form rejections or heard crickets. In the spring of 2012, though, I received a revise & resubmit request (an “R&R”) from an agent who took the time to speak with me on the phone about the changes she thought the book needed. When my first revision didn’t work, she gave me another R&R, which means she read ultimately the book three times–so incredibly generous! She ultimately passed, but because of her, I had a much more polished manuscript for my next round of querying, and I will always be grateful to her for that.

(Looking to attend a writers’ conference? Start here.)

It was time to move on

By the end of the summer of 2012, I had sent close to 100 queries and hadn’t landed an agent, so in August, I announced to my husband Dan that FDL would be my “practice novel.” I was shelving it and moving on. I had written another book, and I started preparing to query it.

Over the following few weeks, rejections from outstanding FDL queries would trickle in and I’d laugh–I was over it anyway, I told myself, so those rejections no longer stung. So, when I got an R&R from Victoria Sanders, an agent at the top of my “dream list,” I told Dan that I wasn’t even going to respond Victoria’s email, let alone do another revision. (I’m not sure I’ve ever told Victoria this story. Let’s hope she finds it amusing!)

Thankfully, Dan urged me to sleep on it, and of course by the next morning, I realized I wasn’t “over” FDL at all, and in fact, because it was inspired by the loss of a friend, I was still as determined to see it published as I’d ever been. I had simply been query weary, and while in some cases, that might be a sign that it’s time to shelve a book, I realized I wasn’t at that point with FDL. And, there was also the point Dan was hoping I’d reach: who in their right mind ignores an R&R from a terrific agent? I spent yet another six months doing yet another gut-and-rewrite.

(Tips on how to find more agents who seek your genre/category.)

The stars align

At the end of January 2013, I sent the revision to Victoria. Five days later, she called to offer representation. Twenty-one days after that, she sold it, at auction, to Amy Einhorn.

So, it was a long, slow, two-year slog uphill and then Bam!–everything happened so quickly it made my head spin.

My usual answer to “How did you land your agent?” is, “The stars aligned and I got lucky.” When pressed, and for the sake of aspiring authors seeking direction, I elaborate: I attended a writers’ conference and made friends who offered untold amounts of advice and support. I signed up for manuscript evaluations by conference instructors, and submitted my work to online contests–the positive feedback was invaluable. I queried widely and revised my query often. I said yes to R&Rs, and ended up with an increasingly-refined manuscript.

And also: the stars aligned and I got lucky.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 4.12.53 PM

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for where to start? Look no further.
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media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
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34. Question: 5 Key Things to know about personalizing your query

I am cold querying and wondering how much time I should spend on personalization.

I mean, of course I'm reading about each agent to make sure he or she reps and will be interested in what I'm querying. But aside from addressing the query to the agent, is it worth it to write a sentence or two about why I think the agent would be a good fit for my work?

I'm sure it probably wouldn't hurt, but would my time be better spent sending more queries rather than writing a few individual lines in each? Does a cold query stand only on the merits of the work being queried, or would a few lines of personalization really make a difference?

There is no industry standard on this. Some agents like personalization, some don't give a hoot. I am among the latter.
However, just cause I don't care if you personalize doesn't mean I have no opinion on how to do it well. Of course I do.  (Janet Reid has an opinion IS an industry standard!)

Here are the five key things to know about how to personalize your query:

(1) Most important is if you've met the agent in a positive way.

YES:  We met at the Rocky Mountain Writers Conference and you offered me some help on my query letter.  

NO: We met at the Fecal Roster Writers Conference and you said no to my pitch.

See the difference?

(2) if you've had previous contact with the agent that was personal.

YES: I've participated in the Chum Bucket experiment and you gave me advice which I have taken to heart.

NO: I've queried you before but it wasn't right for you (this is particularly bad when I look up your name and see that I sent you a form rejection)

See the difference?

(3) if someone I know said to query me.

YES: Barbara Poelle read my manuscript and said it was too high falutin for her vodka swilling tastes, so she sent me over to you.

NO: Felix Buttonweazer said you were a good agent (this is particularly bad when the person you name is NOT someone I know)

How do you know if the person knows me? Ask them. If it's someone giving a presentation at a writers conference, the odds are lower that they know me.  If it's someone with a whisky bottle and bite marks, the odds improve.


(4)  if you've read and LOVED my clients' books

YES: I read RUN by Andrew Grant and it knocked my sox clean off. I'm hoping my high concept, action packed thriller will be right up your alley.

NO: I read The Electric Church by Jeff Somers and my book on the influence of electronic music in churches is just like his but MUCH better.

In other words, read the book. And don't say yours is better (even if you think it is.) No one is better than my guys. That's just an ironclad fact. Most agents feel that way about all their clients too.

The bottom line here is:

(5) Personalization MUST be real.  Don't over reach. It's better to leave it off than get it wrong.

Here's why: if you demonstrate that you don't know what you're doing in the first line of the query, I'm less likely to want to work with you. That means your novel has to be A+++ not just A+.

As I said though at the start, tastes vary on personalization.  This is one of the major advantages to agent blogs, and Twitter and Facebook.  You can get a better sense of HOW to personalize a query and whether that personalization is important to the agent.

Me, all you need to do is write like Patrick Lee and it's all good.

0 Comments on Question: 5 Key Things to know about personalizing your query as of 9/6/2014 7:06:00 AM
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35. The Best Part of Growing Up

Growing up in the '50s, the biggest joy of my life was throwing a ball. True, Easter was bountiful in candy; Christmas was full of toys; birthday parties were fun; and the tooth fairy always paid off, but that perfect pink rubber ball symbolized heavenly slices of childhood, and both of my parents knew it

 Our front door looked dented and battle worn from hard rubber projectiles pounding its surface. My father’s ritual nap after work was constantly interrupted by mortar fire. Our ball playing broke windows, tore up the lawn, cheated serious injuies, and created lasting memories.  

A month ago, while riding my bike for exercise, I had an unusual daydream that reminded me of how important a rubber ball could be. As I slowly drove through a plaza, my eyes caught an old brick wall with a perfectly drawn stickball batter’s box. Suddenly I imagined the batter’s box screaming at me, “Stop! Get off your bike! Play here! Practice! Fire your best pitch!”

I yelled, “I don’t have a ball!”

The box declared, “Your loss fella, not mine!”

The rest of that day I couldn’t think about anything else, except the most popular sport played during my childhood—baseball, in any form, including stooball and stickball.

As a younster, I had two choices as what to do with my time. I could go outside or I could go outside. Rain? Rainy days didn’t count. They were strange interludes in baseball limbo before we could take the field again. On rainy days, I played ball by seeing how close I could throw the ball up to the ceiling without hitting it until I exhausted my mother’s patience. In the bedroom I could play “All-Star Baseball” with players represented on cardboard disks. But I’d rather be playing ball outside because inside the house I felt like a baseball without a cork core, hallow and  bounceless.

When I played stickball near my cousin John’s house, his ballpark was on the side of a factory building. If you blasted the ball on the roof of a distant factory, that was a Mickey Mantle home run. As soon as it was hit, the batter automatically yelled, “Going! Going! Gone!”

A Mickey Mantle home run was a joy to hit, but a small nightmare to retrieve Now we had to climb on the roof to retrieve our rubber Spalding. A collection of galvanized pipes, running from one building to the other, formed a makeshift “ladder.”

It was like climbing a fire escape with half the steps missing. Fortunately, workers never caught us. They were too busy working, and they always missed our death-defying aerobatics. We used every limb to reclaim our twenty-nine cent investment in fun.

There was that one time we used the back of the house as a backstop and my Aunt Frances warned us, “You’re going to break a window!”

We assured her that the ball never goes near the windows. Of course, we were

absolutely right about that. Wanting to hit a home run with my first at-bat, I slashed at the first pitched ball with all my might, and the wooden-broom-handle bat sailed through the kitchen window.

In disbelief Aunt Frances stuck her head through the shattered window and said, “I thought you couldn’t break a window!”

It was obvious that we had to focus on playing ball at my house for a long while.

Fortunately, I did have special parents.

To play stoopball properly, you needed parents who were enlightened enough to realize that it was “okay” in the long run, if their child periodically broke the amber bug light above the door, bent the scallops on it with erratic foul balls, and riddled the bottom of the door like a car crusher. It was “okay” if John and I wouldn’t allow cars to park near the house or across the street in front of the home run trees, while a game was in progress. It was “okay” to redirect traffic and parking on the block. Playing ball ruled.

We needed access to those trees because that’s where the home run balls were headed. The fielder, standing in the middle of the street, he had one chance to make a miracle catch by swiveling around, racing to the trees, and snatching the ball out of mid-air. These miracles occurred with the frequency of Brooklyn Dodger World Series victories; but when they happened, it felt as if we just had won the Golden Glove Award for fielding.

We knew that we were good at something: catching a little pink missile as it scrambled down through the maple leaves or hitting majestic home runs. And we never had any trouble with self-esteem. We didn’t need brown certificates of merit, blue ribbons of achievement or towering silver plated-trophies. We just needed a special moment in the sun and parents who understood the joys of youth.

That pink ball had magic. We just had to unleash it.

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36. How to Launch a Wildly Satisfying PAID Copywriting Career in 60 Days or Less

Is it possible to make a great living as a writer – and still have plenty of time for fun and hobbies?

Can you write for a living and support a family, go on vacations, and still enjoy leisurely afternoons by the pool?

The answer is a resounding YES, and Mindy McHorse, professional copywriter and freelancer, will show you how copywriting can make it possible.

Mindy will share the story of how she built up a profitable copywriting business working from home and became a six-figure freelancer in just three years. More importantly, she’ll explain how YOU can pursue a satisfying life as a freelance copywriter in 60 days or less, starting with:

• Where to find the REAL money-making opportunities (not the pennies-per-word clients)
• Which experts to follow (and who to ignore)
• How to choose a writing specialty you’ll enjoy for years to come
• Why freelancing is a stable career move
• Time-management tricks so you can make more money in less time
• Who to reach out to for help along the way
• How to balance your mountains of personal freedom with getting paid projects done
• What qualifications you need to be a freelance copywriter… and what doesn’t matter
• How soon you can expect to start earning money
• What to do first if your serious about launching a career as a paid, freelance copywriter

Mindy will finish with tips on how to fit your fiction or nonfiction writing in on the side, and why learning the craft of copywriting can help you go big and succeed with your most treasured writing goals.


Mindy McHorse is a freelance copywriter who serves as the Executive Editor for The Barefoot Writer and runs the pet loss site, HealingFromPetLoss.com. Mindy was the original Reality Blogger for the Wealthy Web Writer and chronicled her real-life journey of going from $24K to six-figures in just one year as a freelance writer.

With three young children, Mindy considers herself a full-time mom who is lucky enough to make an impressive income on the side. She hails from Albuquerque, NM where she writes with a full mountain view and with her three Cavalier King Charles Spaniels always close by.

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37. Must You Have a Room of Your Own to Write

My writing buddy’s face turned dark pink as she shouted over her latté. “No one can do anything worthwhile without a private writing place!” She thrust her face into mine. “It’s gotta be your own!”

I was as adamant. “Oh, come on. All you need is the desire and will and your stone tablet and scraper. It doesn’t matter where you write!”

Our little debate embodies two often-discussed viewpoints about writing. Despite my vehemence with my friend, I have long puzzled about the most effective place to write. If you too are in a quandary, or lament you have no writing spot to call your own, maybe this piece will help you enlarge your perceptions about your own physical and mental writing places, spaces, and times.

Noelle Sterne, Author, Head Shotnoelle-sterne-trust-your-lifeThis guest post is by author, editor, writing coach, and spiritual counselor, Noelle Sterne, who has published more than 300 pieces in print and online venues, including  Author Magazine, Funds for Writers, Children’s Book Insider,  Inspire Me Today, Transformation Magazine, Unity Magazine, Writer’s Digest, The Writer, and Women on Writing. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, Noelle has for over 28 years assisted doctoral candidates in completing their dissertations (finally). Based on her practice, her handbook addresses dissertation writers’ overlooked but very important nonacademic difficulties. Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles will be published by Rowman & Littlefield Education in 2015. In her book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books, 2011), Noelle draws examples from her academic consulting and other aspects of life to help readers release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. Her webinar about the book is on YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95EeqllONIQ&feature=youtu.be  Noelle invites you to visit her website: trustyourlifenow.com

Physical Places

One Place, One Room. Virginia Woolf’s well-known 1929 observation in A Room of One’s Own presents the ultimate prototype of this view. She was referring pointedly to the few women writers of the time, but, despite women’s wonderful writing progress, the idea still clings. The solution, Woolf said, was, in addition to the little matter of a stipend of 500 English pounds a year, to have a room of one’s own.

Like Woolf and my writing friend, many writers swear up and down, usually without the elusive independent income, that the only true way to write is the reverently dedicated spot you worship at regularly, surrounded by your favorite, comforting possessions. Novelist and writing teacher Leonard Bishop in Dare to Be a Great Writer counsels, “If possible, write at the exact time and in the same place every day. The place where you write must become your sanctuary, the realm in which you ignore the existence of the world.”

My Room. At an early point in my writing career, I craved the same. I felt unable to use my desk at home for both client work and my own writing, so I rented a room a few blocks from my apartment. While the owner was at work, I went to my sanctuary several afternoons a week and wrote. It didn’t matter that the room was dingy and furnished in New York City street-treasure castoffs, or that all I saw out the window was the cracked bricks of the building next door. It didn’t matter that the desk had piles of files pushed aside to make a space for me. Or that I made instant coffee (at the owner’s invitation) from a battered pan and stirred the powder with a dime-store spoon.

I went to my room regularly, three times a week, and wrote essays, stories, poems. For a year I did so, until the owner one day left a note on “my” desk saying she’d gotten engaged and would be moving out in a few weeks.

[Learn How to Become a Travel Writer in 6 Simple Steps]

Many Places. I was sad, of course, but not devastated. I could have started looking for another room of my own, but I realized something momentous: the room had given me the gift of consistent writing and confidence enough to write in other places. Surprised, I saw that Woolf’s room of one’s own can have many mansions.

As many writers attest, we can and do write in all kinds of places: libraries, restaurants, parks, laundromats, locker rooms. I knew a novelist who completed her first multigenerational blockbuster in taxis as she dashed around New York City for business conferences—and without a laptop.

I got to be able to write, with my marvelously peripatetic clipboard, on a bus and plane, in a van and two-door convertible, on a park bench with takeout coffee and Danish (heaven!), and even on the subway, elbowed between swarthy strangers. For my children’s book of dinosaur riddles, I wrote most of the 450 riddles (of which 146 were finally used) under a tree facing the staid Columbia campus buildings, an ironic site my dissertation professor would chuckle at.

One of my favorite spots near the university was the highly personal, full-of-tortured-intellectuals European coffee shop. Pre-Starbucks, its sympathetic expatriate owners glided among the tables with generous endless refills. I watched others hunched over their notebooks and savored a single daily magnificent Hungarian pastry during glorious afternoons of inspired, furious scribbling.

Neither did I invent writing on the supermarket line, the dentist’s office, the Sunday drive to relatives, the beach, the boardwalk, the woods. Other writers find time and space at the mall, during lunch and coffee breaks at work, walks, and church (don’t tell). Christina Katz, the consummate “writer mama,” reports her productivity while waiting for her kid at afterschool activities. Some write in class, in the tub, or even on the pot. Today, with laptops and Ipads, and the thoughtful installation of WiFi in every mall and market, writers can type and save almost anywhere.

A few deviant writers sit at their computer and write. As I started using the computer, and even though I loved writing in different geographies, I made the great transition to my own desk, spreading a blanket over the client projects so I could work without distraction on my own pieces.

Writing at home, though, one needs changes of venue, although these may take other forms than people-watching. A prolific children’s author confides that short bursts of writing suit her much better than long, struggling stretches. When her words become momentarily congested, she knows that to “step away from the computer” restarts the flow. So, she takes walks around her yard, gets up to transfer clothes from washer to dryer, even jogs lightly up and down the stairs. Julia Cameron in Walking in This World urges walking; as she hiked in the foothills of the Taos Mountains, she reports, “I knew what to write, how to write it, and that write it I should.”

Other writers, who also love to sit at their desks, have many ways to “step away”: go look out the window, pace up and down the porch or terrace, do a few situps or yoga postures, cook, eat (a little), water a few plants, dance to one song, sing along at the top of your voice. I do five minutes on the stationery bike, straighten one pile, make one call, grab one apple.

[Learn the 5 Essential Story Ingredients You Need to Write a Better Novel]

Mental Space

These many examples show that the one-place-one-space dictum can swell into many places and spaces. Although the great debate may continue, these examples reveal writers’ almost endless ingenuity, flexibility, and fluidity. To become more flexible and fluid, consider also the following.           

Your Outlook. First, enlarge your view of what writing is and where and when it can take place. Wherever you are, jotting notes, doodling titles, listing a character’s facial oddities, working out a sequence of scenes or chronology, recording alternate plot decisions—all these are part of the process.

Such tasks, although we’re quick to label them “non-writing,” are nevertheless key. They lend themselves well to modest chunks of time in traffic, on line, or while the pasta is bubbling. Don’t think they don’t count. To the contrary, they advance your project, clarify your focus, reinforce your theme, keep you involved, and sow fertile seeds for your next session.

Second, enlarge your view of what writing time is. The stoic, time-honored predawn stint before the day job begins is still held up by many as the only serious writing time. I recently read an interview with a novelist and freelance writer. To finish his novel (later taken by an agent), he worked from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. six days a week for seven months. At 9:00, turning to his freelance technical writing assignments, he put in another eight hours.

I don’t know which I was more jealous of—his completing, his agent, or his self-discipline in getting up at that headachy hour. Unless I’ve got to be on a plane or speak to an editor at 8:00 in the morning, I can’t even look at 6:00 without knowing that only more sleep (please!) will ameliorate the slit-eyed grog. After many essential morning rituals, I finally get to the desk by 9:30. But then, having taken care of client duties during the day, I often work on my creative pieces until 9:30 or 10:00 at night, and my mind keeps sifting and sorting through the night. A very successful writer/editor I know admits she rises at 10:00 am and works until 1:00 or 2:00 am.

Your Time. As we broaden our definition of writing place, we expand our view of writing time. If you think “real” writing only counts when you’re sequestered in your converted pantry home office, you’ll never pull out your notebook on the grocery line. If you rule out anywhere but the corner table at the mall Starbucks for a delicious two hours, when you’re waiting at the auto shop for an oil change you’ll never turn your attention to the story idea that’s been tickling for days.

So, if you’ve slammed the door on any other than your sole, self-righteous writing practice, and fault yourself when you’ve skipped it, now you can open your mind to many more places and times. And no approach excludes any other.

[Writing a Hero's Adventure story? Here's a simple template you can apply to your own work-in-progress.]

A Concluding Roomination

A room of your own, finally, is a mindset. Virginia Woolf notwithstanding, your physical space does not dictate your mental space but reflects it. Reeducate yourself about workable space by reading about writers who aren’t boundary-tied, talking to writers about their place-space-time variations, and experimenting with your own.

There’s no right or wrong venue for writing. Just because a bestselling writer does it one way doesn’t mean you have to; you can attain similar success with your own methods. At any given writing session, the right place and time for you are governed by your allowing and accepting them and your resources, preferences, and discipline.

Listen to yourself, not only about places you love to write in but also about all the possible alternatives. Honor these leanings. As you enlarge the possibilities, you’ll become more consistent in your writing and more creative about places and times. And you’ll discover, with joy and gratitude, that you have a great many writing rooms of your own.


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brian-klems-2013Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
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38. UK/US editors

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is being released in 30 countries and I'm reading it in large part because I think there's lots a writer can learn from a book that sold so well. In her acknowledgements, she thanks both her UK and her US editors (both belonging to different publishing houses). I know it's being translated in some countries, but the multiple English-speaking editors surprised me.

Do multinational releases have editors in different countries that result in slightly (or not so slightly) different versions of the book being released?

Maybe.  It depends on how the book is initially sold.  For example, if an agent sells only North American rights to the US publisher, the UK rights can be sold to a UK publisher, and the editor there is not working in concert with the American publisher.

If an agent sells World English, generally the editor who buys those rights  here will make a deal with a UK publisher and they will decide how closely the UK edition will match the US edition.  Often there is tweaking but only for what we fondly call "britspeak"--garden means yard, bonnet means hood, lorry means truck, and do NOT ask what a fanny pack means in the UK.

How much Britspeak is understood here is always a subject of debate, most recently in the Bouchercon anthology where two of the contributors are from the UK. We decided in this case to let most of the UKisms stand because crime readers are used to it. 

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39. Thinking about self-publishing? Want to be a better, savvier writer? Check out the latest from Writer’s Digest!

blueashAre you interested in self-publishing, but are looking for a service that offers a bit of education in addition to cover design and text layout? If so, consider giving Blue Ash Publishing a look.

Blue Ash Publishing is the official self-publishing service of Writer’s Digest, created through a partnership with BookBaby, one of the country’s highest-rated self-publishing service providers. You can learn more about it at www.blueashpublishing.com, but in a nutshell, here’s what you should know:

  • Authors keep 100% net earnings on all sales; Blue Ash Publishing takes no commission on any book sales. Once retailers are paid their percentage, all remaining revenue goes back to you.
  • Authors who publish their books with Blue Ash Publishing gain access to select Writer’s Digest educational resources, which are designed to help you write better, build an audience, and publish successfully in whatever way you choose. Options include live consultations, online tutorials, subscriptions to Writer’s Digest magazine, and more.
  • Suggested “packages” listed on the Blue Ash Publishing website are 100% customizable, enabling you to add or discard whatever components you like and create the book that’s right for your budget.
  • Blue Ash Publishing provides worldwide distribution of your ebook as well as access to a suite of free promotional tools.
  • Blue Ash Publishing provides print copy options that are of the highest quality.
  • Blue Ash Publishing offers the largest eBook distribution network, including Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and many other popular retailers in more than 170 countries around the globe.
  • Unlike other programs, Blue Ash authors own their work including all electronic files and cover art. Authors retain the rights to their work and maintain total creative control.

If you’d like some insights into the creation of a self-published book, be sure to download our FREE guide at http://www.blueashpublishing.com/howtoguide.

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40. Call for Submissions: 2016 Poet’s Market

It’s that time of year again. The new 2015 Poet’s Market is hitting bookshelves, which means it’s time for me to start figuring out the 2016 Poet’s Market–and I need your help!

Running until 11:59 p.m. (Atlanta, Georgia time) on October 15, 2014, I’ll be accepting pitches for articles and poems in the 2016 Poet’s Market. Sometime soon after, I’ll start making assignments. If you’re interested in pitching an article idea or three (or a poem!), read on.

What I Like

For the Poet’s Market book, I’m interested in instructional articles for the following three categories:

  • Craft of Poetry. Articles on creation, revision, meter, etc.
  • Business of Poetry. Articles on submitting poems, reading poems, etc.
  • Promotion of Poetry. Articles on finding and connecting with readers.

If you have something outside these areas, feel free to pitch that too. If interested, I’m sure I can slot it into one of these sections. Feel encouraged to take chances.

One note: I’m not interested in folks pitching interviews with poets (unless you’re pitching an interview with a super high profile poet). The reason for this is that I often interview poets myself.


2015 Poet's Market

2015 Poet’s Market

Publish Your Poetry!

Learn how to get your poetry published with the latest (and greatest) edition of Poet’s Market. The 2015 Poet’s Market is filled with articles on the craft, business, and promotion of poetry, in addition to poet interviews and original poetry by contemporary poets.

Plus, the book is filled with hundreds of listings for poetry book publishers, chapbook publishers, magazines, journals, contests, grants, conferences, and more!

Click to continue.


How to Submit Articles

Here are some guidelines on submitting articles (guidelines for poems are below):

  • Submit your pitch via e-mail in the body of the e-mail. I don’t like attachments.
  • Send your pitch to robert.brewer@fwmedia.com with the subject line: 2016 Poet’s Market Pitch
  • Begin with your pitch (or pitches) before introducing yourself through your bio. While you may have an impressive bio, I’m most interested in your article idea(s).
  • If you have more than one pitch, include them all in one e-mail. My inbox is crowded; please avoid sending me several e-mail messages.
  • Deadline: October 15, 2014–11:59 p.m. (Atlanta, GA time).

How to Submit Poems

Here are guidelines for submitting poems:

  • Submit your poems in the body of the e-mail (unless there is some formatting issue). In instances that formatting is a concern, use a common file type (doc, txt, pdf) and explain your reasoning.
  • Submit up to 5 previously unpublished poems.
  • Submit the poems to robert.brewer@fwmedia.com with the subject line: Poems for Poet’s Market
  • Include your name, a brief bio note (up to 50 words), and your e-mail.
  • Deadline: October 15, 2014–11:59 p.m. (Atlanta, GA time).


roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He enjoys all forms of poetry, including traditional forms, free verse, prose, experimental, rhymes, no-rhymes, and so on. What he really appreciates is poetry that surprises and interests, which may be serious in one poem and silly in another. All subject matter and tones welcome and encouraged. Just be yourself and let your poetry shine.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


Check out more poetic stuff here:

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41. How Applying For Writing Grants (Even If You Don’t Get Them) Can Help You Be A Better Writer

winters_cristin_aptowicz-withskull_800BY CRISTIN O’KEEFE APTOWICZ

In the summer of 2010, I gave up what were the defining elements of my life for over a decade—my New York City apartment, my arts-related job in Soho and my role as host of a popular Lower East Side reading series—all to pursue my dream of writing the biography of 19th century collector of medical oddities.

More than a few people in my life thought I was crazy. Sometimes the person staring back at me from the mirror thought I was crazy too. But I knew that the idea couldn’t be completely insane because of one reason: I had earned a yearlong residency at an Ivy League university to do it.

To confirm, I was not the likeliest candidate to receive such a residency. I didn’t (and still don’t) have a MFA, nor did I study nonfiction writing as an undergrad. The vast majority of my arts career had been developed within the New York City poetry slam community, about as far from academia as you can get. My earliest poetry collections were self-published, and had titles like Dear Future Boyfriend: This is What I Sound Like and Hot Teen Slut, a “memoir-in-verse” about the year I spent writing and editing erotica.

But even from the earliest parts of my career, I understand that the biggest obstacle between me and the writing grants, fellowships or residencies I coveted was myself. After all, the only true way to guarantee you won’t get a grant is by not applying for it.

And so, it is in that spirit that I present to you a brief guide to submitting for grants (which typically provide writers with financial support), residencies (which offer writers a work and/or living space to create for little or no cost) or fellowship (often times a hybrid of grant and residency, where a writer receives ongoing support in someway) with the hope that it will inspire you to put yourself out – no matter how new or established you are – and challenge yourself and your art for the better.

1. Believe in yourself. That might sound silly to state, but it’s important. You need to realize that you are talent worth rewarding, and that your ideas deserve attention and support. Believe in yourself, and go to Step Two.

2. Evaluate Yourself. Note I did not say “Cast Judgment on Yourself.” No, evaluate yourself means looking at everything you bring to your art. Be specific and catalogue it all. Please know that every perceived minus you feel you have, can be a plus. There are just as many grants and fellowships for new/emerging artists (for which artists already knee-deep in their career cannot apply) as there are for more established artists. Where ever you are in your career, there are grants and funding opportunities for you!

3. Figure Out What You Want To Do. What do you need to help you take your art to the next level? Would it be funding, to help buy supplies? If so, how much (or really, how little) money would it take to make a real difference? Would you prefer a residency, to give you time and focus? If so, how long could you leave your life to participate in a residency: two weeks? two months? a year? Be honest and specific, but don’t be afraid to be ambitious too!

4. Research Opportunities. Too often, artists will get overwhelmed at this stage, but that’s because they put too much pressure on themselves to get started on grants immediately. Instead, I would suggest making it a two week long game for yourself, where you collect as much information on grants, residencies and fellowships as you can which fit you and your vision of where you can go with your art (now, or in the future). It’s as easy as creating a Word doc, and copy & pasting information. The name of the grant or fellowship, a sentence-long descriptor, a URL and the deadline date is really all you need. Put the information in chronological order, closest deadline date to farthest, and pretty soon you’ve created a pretty spectacular to-do list.

“But how do we find about grants, residencies and fellowships?” you are probably asking.

The easiest answer is the most obvious one: search. Just plug in your chosen art form (“writing,” “fiction,” “playwriting,” etc…) and the word “grants” (or “residencies” or “fellowships”) and see what comes up. However, please take into consideration that the smaller the pool of applicants, the greater your chance at a success. So instead of just searching “writing grants,” try searching “poetry grants.” Another tip: searching grants that are just within your state or your city (the name of your city or state with the phrase “arts council” can yield great results).

Another way to discover grants, fellowships and residencies is to look up the bios of writers you admire to see what funding they’ve received when they were at your stage in their career.

And lastly, another incredible resource is NYFA National Artists Grants. It’s the largest of its kind in the county, and it’s absolutely free to use:

And now the big one, Step 5.

5. Just Do It. Don’t overthink the applications. As long as you qualify at the basest level, submit. The first application you do will be the hardest, as you will likely creating everything you need from scratch: bios, artistic resumes, samples, project summaries, etc. But once these have been created once, you’ll be able to repurpose them for every future application. So don’t let the first one scare you.

And if you freeze up in the middle of your application, try thinking about what the granting organization NEEDS to hear from you, instead of what you WANT to say. It’s basic enough advice, but you’ll be surprised how often artists get caught up polishing the bells & whistles of their application, and ignore its heart: who are you, and how will awarding you this opportunity ultimately benefit you (the artist) and the organization (whose mission is to help artists just like you).

6. Be Proud of Yourself. The moment you submit an application, you’ll immediately be obsessed with knowing if you’ve won or not. That’s natural, so be forgiving. But also be proud. The moment you submit your application is the moment that you prove to yourself that your work is worthy and deserving. Regardless if you win or if you lose, that new sense of self is something you should honor and celebrate.

7. Spread the Word. This is the final step, but in many ways, it’s one of the most important. As writers, we need to empower each other to take these steps forward, and the best way I’ve found is to match artist friends we believe in with grants that would make good fits for them. It’s natural to feel territorial about grants you yourself are applying to, but if you stumble across a good grant that you can’t (or aren’t) applying for, try to find to match it with another writer you know. Even artists who seem more established and in the know may be extremely grateful at your thoughtfulness, and poets who are peers (or are even less established than you) will surely be heartened and inspired by your attention.

And that’s it. The first few times you submit can be rocky, but as you get more comfortable with the process, you might even find yourself looking forward to it. Grant applications can be interesting new ways for you to examine your art and your process. They can ask you questions about your projects that you’ve never thought of, and force you to create things (budgets, time lines, etc…) that will only help you and your project in the long run, regardless if you get the funding or not.

Before I wrap this up, I want to tell you two short personal stories about me and grants.

I was 23-years-old when I received my first book contract to write a history of the poetry slam movement. I immediately set about applying for funding to help me with what I knew would be the enormous costs of tackling such a project. Over the course of three years, I applied for several dozen different funding opportunities. I got exactly zero of them.

However, I can also say—with absolute honesty—that I would never have finished the book without that relentless parade of (unsuccessful) applications. Each one helped me better understand my project, and the steps that it would take to cross the finish line with it. The applications asked me questions about timelines, budgets, whom I imagined the audience would be. It asked me if it could be taught in the classroom, if it would appeal to people outside of my community, if it helped shine a positive spotlight on any under-represented communities. It asked me about me: where I had as a writer to actually finish the project I was pitching.

With each application, I grew a deeper understanding of the book I was writing, and grew more and more determined to do it regardless if I received the funding I once thought was so necessary. And soon—with zero funding and a lot of hard work—my book, Words In Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam, came out in the Fall of 2007.

When it was time to write my second nonfiction book, I knew exactly what to do. I searched for appropriate grants, residencies and fellowships, lined-up my recommendation writers, and prepared my CV, artist statements and summaries of the project. And then I began applying. I applied to everything I could, and shortly after submitting my first batch of applications, I received my first rejection. And then another. And then another. Soon I had wracked up an entire year’s worth of rejection. I had reached the point where the very next application I was slated to start was the very first one I applied for the previous year.

But then I opened my email’s spam folder and found an email from the University of Pennsylvania. Certain that it was rejection, I opened it up to read without even removing from the spam folder. You can imagine my surprise when the first sentence congratulated me for being named the 2010-2011 ArtEdge Writer-in-Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, and I knew in an instant that leaving my comfortable life in New York City was the choice I had to make. A year’s worth of applications had forged in me a deep need to write this book, and the greenlight that UPenn had given me was the last piece of the puzzle. I knew I could do it, and know—with UPenn’s residency—I knew how I would do it as well.The UPenn residency turned out to be the first of several fellowships and residencies I would receive, each one absolutely instrumental to the creation of my resulting book, Dr Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, which was published in Fall 2014 by Gotham Books / Penguin.

When young writers ask me for my advice about how they can secure funding for their own projects, I tell them the stories of both my books. Because to me the value of these applications isn’t just the financial support they can provide if you win one. No, there is a lot to be gleaned from those first steps too: to find yourself and your project worthy enough to put in an application. That, my friends, can be the real game-changer.

9780698162105_p0_v1_s260x420Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz (@coaptowicz) is the author of six books of poetry (including Dear Future BoyfriendHot Teen Slut,Working Class RepresentOh, Terrible Youth and Everything is Everything) as well as the nonfiction book, Words In Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam.

Cristin’s most recent awards include the ArtsEdge Writer-In-Residency at the University of Pennsylvania (2010-2011), a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry (2011) and the Amy Clampitt Residency (2013). Her sixth book of poetry, The Year of No Mistakes, will be released by Write Bloody Publishing in Fall 2013 and her second nonfiction book, Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, was released by Gotham Books (Penguin) in September 4, 2014


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42. First3Chapters.com--save your money

I was working my way through the backlog of email yesterday morning when I come across "a newsletter" from an outfit called First3Chapters.com.

Since I'd spent a day of vacation cleaning up my subscription lists to better manage my email, I didn't just discard this, I took a closer look to see why I'd subscribed (I didn't remember this company at all.)

You can imagine my annoyance to find out this was one of those pay to play services designed to "help" authors and agents by avoiding the slush pile.  "Let an agent find you" is their tag line.

All for the very very low sum of something or other.

Here's the first page of the newsletter

The reason there's a gap is that I didn't post the password that was included. (Yes, I thought about doing that, but decided to avoid that particular fecalfrenzy)

Obviously these guys don't have a clue that most agents already take email queries and thus "keeping the industry green" isn't a problem we're trying to solve at the query letter level.

And of course, it completely overlooks why a query is important.  I wasn't surprised to find out the creators of this site are authors.  Most authors would love to avoid writing queries.  Sadly, that's never going to happen.  At some point, you have to be able to tell someone what the plot of your book is, and where it goes in a bookstore, and how many words are in it.

But this is just mere annoyance.

Where the steam started coming out of my ears is here: the list of agents

These scallywags make it sound as though all these agents are reading manuscripts from their site.

I checked with every agent at FinePrint and NONE of them knew anything about this site.  They'd all gotten emails with the newsletter password. They all had "access" but that is not the same as actually using the site to find materials.  We're not.  I haven't asked any of my colleagues in other agencies if they are, but I have a feeling we're not the only ones listed like this.

In other words, they're using our company's name and appeal to sell their services. Without our permission. (you can now understand why I thought about posting the password)

From a writer's perspective this is worse than the slush pile: you have no idea who has seen your work, and who hasn't.  This is worse than no-response-means-no; here you don't even know which agent on this list (if ANY) have seen your work. 

But the final absolutely unforgivable straw is this on the FAQ:

So, they're going to take your money, convey the impression that real agents will read your work, but they don't actually vet the agents with access to the site? They don't even make sure they're legit, let alone any good?

I know what their goal is: making money.

I know what my goal is: advocating for writers.

I know that this is a website that solves a problem that doesn't exist, and is text book Let The Buyer Beware.

Save your money for a good writing conference. First3Chapters.com is hogwash, pure and simple.

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43. 10 Books That Have Never Left You – What Are Your 10?

The QRecently a friend tagged me on Facebook and challenged me to, without thinking too hard, make a list of 10 books that have stayed with me in some way after reading them. This really gave me pause, as I feel like most books I read stick with me long after I’ve read them—but that’s the beauty of books. One of the best parts of this challenge, I’ve noticed, isn’t so much the championing of my favorite books, it’s seeing the lists that others are posting. Some are classics, some are books I’ve read, and some are books I’ve never even heard of. What I do know is that it’s giving me great ideas of what to add to my (already lengthy) list of “Books I Want to Read.”

So before I list my books, I want to officially challenge you to post 10 books that have stayed with you in some way after reading them in the comments section of this post. We will build a collective vault of great reads that our readers can turn to time and time again if they are looking for suggestions on books to read.

As a bonus, anyone who posts before Wednesday, September 10, 2014, will be entered in a random drawing to win a copy of our special 2014 Novel Writing Guide, a 130-page super-bookazine with tips and advice on what agents wants, how to craft a solid (but flexible) outline, getting you from first draft to final draft and more. (NOTE: If you purchase a copy right now, I’ll find something equally valuable to send your way if you win!)

Without further ado, here’s my list:

  1. The Comedy Writer – Peter Farrelly
  2. Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger
  3. Hairstyles of the Damned – Joe Meno
  4. Dave Barry Slept Here – Dave Barry
  5. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard – Chip Heath
  6. Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
  7. The Butterfly Revolution – William Butler
  8. The Mind of Bill James: How a Complete Outsider Changed the Game of Baseball – Scott Gray
  9. Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  10. The Rule of Four – Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason

(Note: I’m currently reading A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving and have a feeling that when finished it’ll be on this list.)

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brian-klems-2013Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

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44. I Think I’m a Clone Now

Ah, back home and time to relax. Long weeks are brutal. Is that the television you hear? Well you haven’t been home all day so you decide to check it out, thinking you left it on. As you enter the room you see the television is indeed on. And you’re already sitting there watching it. What’s going on here?

writing-promptsWant more creative writing prompts?

Pick up a copy of A Year of Writing Prompts: 365 Story Ideas for Honing Your Craft and Eliminating Writer’s Block. There’s a prompt for every day of the year and you can start on any day.

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45. How to Break the Rules of Writing (& More) According to Bestselling YA author Ransom Riggs

RansomriggsLike most first conversations and bad first drafts, my (WD’s Managing Editor Adrienne Crezo) interview with Ransom Riggs begins with a discussion about the weather. And not just any weather, either, but peculiar versions of standard precipitation: dust storms, cloudbursts, thundersnow and tornadoes. Of course, Riggs is experiencing none of those phenomena as he sits in the warmth of the never-ending summer of Los Angeles. “I hate to tell you what it’s like here right now,” he says. “No, I don’t. It’s gorgeous. Just perfect.”

That kind of easygoing humor is familiar to Riggs’ fans. Readers of his New York Times bestselling young adult novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and its sequel, Hollow City, convene on Twitter (@ransomriggs) and Instagram (instagram.com/ransomriggs) to follow the seemingly unshakable optimism of a guy who really enjoys what he does. Life is uncomplicated for Riggs, as is his approach to work and writing. “[I never] set out to be a writer,” he tells me. “I took a fiction class [in college], but … I just thought, That’d be a fun thing to do for a semester, not, This is my future.”

Whatever dreams Riggs may have had about his future, he couldn’t have predicted the wild success of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a tale of time travel and magic set against the eerie backdrop of unnerving black-and-white photos of levitating girls and creepy twin clowns. Before Peculiar Children’s release in 2011, the film rights had already been snapped up by 20th Century Fox, and the movie, directed by none other than Tim Burton, is slated for release in summer 2015. Hollow City, second of the three planned Peculiar Children books, was released in January 2014. And in the midst of all this, Riggs also released Talking Pictures, a coffee-table book of found photographs, in 2012.

It’s easy to see why Riggs is enjoying the ride, but what appears to have happened overnight actually evolved over many years. It started with a love of film and photography, which led him to collecting old secondhand photographs. In 2009, Riggs was encouraged by an editor at Quirk Books to use the found pictures as the basis of a novel. At the time, Riggs was writing daily for mentalfloss.com, a popular general-interest trivia website, editing and filming short documentaries, and shooting photo essays as he traveled. He laughs to himself as he recalls his initial reaction to the conversation: “OK, Quirk. No one’s going to read that. Let me go back to blogging.”

Luckily, Riggs decided to take the editor’s advice. He compiled his found photos and wound a weird, twisting tale around them—and, in return, an eager YA audience turned the Peculiar Children series into an unlikely hit. Here, Riggs talks about his writing and social media habits, why he doesn’t follow rules, and why it’s important to take time off.

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Your photo collection plays a huge role in the Peculiar Children books. Can you tell us how you started collecting people’s castoff snapshots?

I was at this swap meet in Pasadena [in 2009] called the Rose Bowl. I knew people sold old photographs, sort of in the corner of my mind, but I was never very interested in them … because they all looked like junk. But then I found a booth at this particular swap meet that was operated by a fellow named Leonard, who had clearly gone through many, many, many bins of photos and chosen his favorite 200 and put them in little plastic sleeves. I started looking at them and I [thought], Wow, there’s something really special here. This guy has the eye of a curator, and every [photo] is like a little piece of lost, orphaned folk art. That’s really cool! As someone who grew up loving photography in every way I could, I would have loved to have had a photo collection of my own, but I couldn’t afford to buy prints. … So I thought, Here is a way I could start my own little museum of photographs.You get to be your own curator; you’re rescuing them from the trash and saying, “I decide this is art, and I’m going to keep it.”

It occurred to me, as I collected more and more, that my taste in these photos ran in very specific directions. One was a sort of Edward Gorey-esque Victorian creepiness, and the other was photos with writing on them. I always felt like these were completely anonymous photos. … If they’ve written a little bit on the picture, especially if it’s more than just a label, if it’s a thought or a feeling or something revelatory, there’s a window into this lost world that suddenly has context where it did not before. That’s interesting.

Do you collect photos now solely for book material, or is it still a thing you just enjoy doing?

It’s still partly just a hobby. Maybe one day they’ll find their way into something I do, but maybe not. I just like owning them.

I started without anything in particular in mind to do with [the photos]; I just sort of wanted to have them. … And they’re not all creepy. There are so many I have that I love that are just sort of evocative in some simple way—the look on someone’s face, or a cool angle or interesting subject or something. I have a lot that I don’t even necessarily know that I’ll use—they don’t fit in the Peculiar Children books and they don’t fit in [Talking Pictures]. I just like them.

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In Peculiar Children and its sequel, Hollow City, your protagonist, Jacob, has some pretty interesting magical powers, but he’s also a teenager with all the typical teenager woes. You’ve called Jacob your “fantasy self.” How much of you is in Jacob, really?

You’d have to be a literary critic or a psychiatrist to pick the writer out of his work. Every fictional story goes through this sort of blender process where you take some real experience … you know what’s real or true when you put it into the blender with fiction, and then it gets all mixed up with something that didn’t really happen, but there’s still a little of you in there. I think the writer is in there no matter what you do. You can’t really remove yourself from it.

Did you set out to be a novelist or did you have other plans?

No, I wanted to make movies. When I was a kid I wanted to be a novelist … but then around the eighth grade I discovered movies and I became completely obsessed and lost myself in this dream of making movies. My friends and I had a video camera, and we would make movies all the time.

I knew I wanted to go to film school, but I also knew I wanted to learn things first. I wanted to learn about the important ideas and read the great books, so I went to Kenyon [College], but always with the understanding that I would go to film school afterward.

[I] was chasing the white pony of having a film career [and] doing whatever I could do: making short films and editing things and freelance writing. The writing thing came about completely by accident. … I never really wanted [it], or looked for it. I feel like the opposite might be true, instead, where if I’d tried really hard to be a writer, maybe someone would’ve [asked], “Do you want to be a filmmaker instead?” And I would’ve [said], “OK”—the theory of inverse effort.

I think [filmmaking] was a way for me to get into novel writing, which is not something I might have done on my own. Now that I’m doing it, I find that with each Peculiar Children book I have to work harder to include photos. The story has all this momentum of its own now.

Will that momentum carry the Peculiar Children series beyond the three books you have planned?

This story that I’m telling now will conclude in book three, but I think I’ll leave the door open to that world. I’m going to do something else next, but I will probably come back and write more [books for the series] one day.

Do you follow any specific writing rules?

I always distrust overly specific writing advice. I don’t agree with it, necessarily. When you’re thinking about what to write or how to write something, it’s too easy to make a lot of arbitrary rules for yourself. I think the difficult thing with learning how to write is not learning the style or rules, but figuring out what story you want to tell.

I spent a lot of time telling the wrong stories, especially when … I was in college or when I was a kid trying to imitate C.S. Lewis or Stephen King. I never understood why my writing didn’t take off. I would think, Well, the sentences are correct, and the characters are talking and everything looks right, and it seems like a story. I did exactly what [they] told me to do, but there’s no blood in it and I don’t know why. It’s something you have to learn, how to tell the right stories for you, and it’s this completely ineffable thing.

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What about schedules? Do you wake up some days and think, I’m not going to write; I’m not going to edit. Do you take days off?

Oh, all the time! Sometimes I say, “Today, I’m going to clean my house and go to the movies.” Or, “Today, [my wife] Tahereh and I are going to ride our bikes and go and eat too much Persian food.” That happens a lot. That’s a lot of our days, actually.

I spent the last three months plotting book three [of the Peculiar Children series]. So just in the last couple of days I’ve transitioned into writing actual sentences on pages of the book, and now that I have that momentum, I do want to write every day—at least a little, just to keep the thread. A lot, preferably, but between books I’ll go months and months without writing. It’s exhausting. I’m just like, “I can’t.”

That’s a long break between projects! It’s a wonder that you fall back into the groove at all. Is writer’s block ever a problem for you?

I don’t really believe in that whole “wait for the muse to strike” thing. I’m more of a “sit your ass in a chair and start typing” guy. … People treat writer’s block like it’s this kind of mythical, mystical ailment. It’s actually a very specific problem, and that is that something is wrong with your story, or wrong with your scene, and you’re trying to do something that is not motivated by your characters. If your writer’s block is so complete that you don’t even know where to start, it’s probably that you’re not spending enough time at the keyboard. It’s all part of the process.

I also think that writer’s block comes from judging yourself too much, and [thinking], I only wrote one sentence today! I’m terrible!

How do you keep yourself in a chair and working when you’re so active on social media?

I find myself retreating from social media when I need to work. I realize that I’m becoming too dependent on talking to everyone on Twitter. It’s too distracting. I’m constantly reaching for it, like a drug or something.

You can spend a whole day clicking and scrolling and feeling like you’ve gotten something done—Oh man, that was a really funny tweet—but then at the end of the day you’re like, I did nothing. All day, I’ve done nothing at all. I have nothing to show for it. Except that funny tweet, of course.

So you live in Los Angeles with your wife, bestselling YA author Tahereh Mafi. And you two work together. Do you share a desk?

Yes. It’s a very long desk, very wide. So there’s space enough for our things and our laptops and all our books, and we put on our noise-canceling headphones and [work]. That’s the thing about being married to another writer—we know all of the ways in which the other person is weird and quirky, because all writers are a little weird and quirky. So we [know we] need our quiet, broody time, but then we need to run around and go have fun when writing time is over—when work is over—because we’ve been kind of cooped up inside of our own brains all day. It works. Somehow it works.

You share a lot of your social media time with Tahereh, too, which your fans seem to love. But it seems as if it could become overwhelming at a certain point. Do you ever try to hold back?

I think we’re pretty knee-deep in it all, we read a lot of it. And it’s largely positive, which I think is pretty rare. I’ve been waiting for negative weirdness to start to surface, but it hasn’t yet.

I wouldn’t keep posting pictures of Tahereh on Instagram if people didn’t keep going, “Yay! Give us more,” you know? I feel like we both have been waiting for the Internet to collectively be like, “OK, gag me, it’s enough already!” But, bafflingly, it hasn’t happened yet, so we just keep going.

How about some parting advice for writers?

Just unclench, live your life and spend less time berating yourself. Anxiety and stress are the enemies of creativity.

CrezoAdrienne Crezo is the managing editor of WD. She lives, works and writes in Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @a_crezo.

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46. New Literary Agent Alert: Valerie Noble of Donaghy Literary Group

Reminder: New literary agents (with this spotlight featuring Valerie Noble of Donaghy Literary Group) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.




About Valerie: Valerie Noble is an Associate Agent at Donaghy Literary Group. While studying chemistry at California State University, Long Beach, Valerie mastered the art of doing proper research, particularly for technical writing. Her love of science and reading merged when she began penning her first novel in the midst of her studies. In true scientific fashion, Valerie researched all there was to know about publishing. She connected with agents, editors, and other writers, and interned for Jessica Sinsheimer of Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency.

An education is never finished and Valerie continues to cultivate relationships and hopes to use her knowledge and skills in finding fresh new voices for Donaghy Literary Group.

She is seeking: Valerie is seeking Young Adult, and New Adult — in the following areas:

• Science Fiction YA/NA
• Fantasy YA/NA
• Historical Fantasy YA/NA
• Historical Fiction YA/NA

Valerie loves YA/NA science fiction and fantasy (think Kristin Cashore and Suzanne Collins) but reads everything under the sun. For her, it’s more about the writing and less about the genre. In saying that, Valerie is generally not interested in romance or paranormal.

Submission Instructions: Electronic Submissions only. Send the query letter, 1-2 page synopsis and the first 10 pages of manuscript — all in body of email, no attachments. Send to query(at)donaghyliterary(dot)com.



The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.


Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:


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promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
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47. The Brave New World of Publishing

Technology(This is a re-post from one year ago.)

Here’s the deal: I don’t like the fact that you have to “build a platform” these days, any more than you do. But I get weary of writers complaining about it. I get frustrated by hearing that publishers are “abandoning writers” and “bringing nothing to the table.” I know it’s hard to market your books — I feel your pain — and yet I dislike it that people saying that publishers are shirking their duties by “leaving it all up to the author.”


Publishers did not create this brave new techno-world we live in.

It is not the publishing industry that has created this society of ubiquitous electronics, Internet noise, YouTube, X-Box, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, and the decline of reading. It is not the publishing industry who put a computer in more than half of all American households, allowing millions of folks just like yourself to write books they want to sell.

It is not the publishers who brought our society to a place where it’s no longer possible to “market” books the old-fashioned way. It’s not the publishers’ fault that average human beings everywhere are being bombarded with literally thousands of pieces of information every day, making it more challenging than ever to draw a person’s attention to one little book.

The fact is, publishers are doing everything they can dream up, and everything they can afford, when it comes to marketing books. They have the same limitations you do: Time and Money. But they’re coming up with new ideas and innovations all the time.

Publishing is an “old world” industry, figuring out, day by day, how to thrive in this “new world.” We all face these challenges together. We all have to figure out how to get people to want to read our words… to want to PAY to read our words. We all have to figure out how to get our books to rise above the “clutter” and get the attention of readers who are willing to pay for them.

Those of you who find yourself bemoaning that “writers are expected to do everything” and concluding “we might as well self-publish” — perhaps the self-publishing route will work out better for you. For certain kinds of books and certain authors, it’s working out great. Give it a try!

But I want to point out that publishers are still in business because of the value they bring to the table — not just in marketing but in every aspect of the editing, production, and selling of books. It is harder these days to sell books than ever before, yes, but publishers are more than just a business selling widgets, they’re entities who take seriously the responsibility of preserving and disseminating the written word. And so publishing persists, despite the challenges, despite our changing world.

Part of the value publishers bring is a sense of history, a sense of tradition and permanence. Many authors still want to be a part of that. It’s about great stories and important thoughts. It’s about legacy. It’s about a dream. People in publishing still see this dream as worth it. They’re willing to swim against the tide because publishing isn’t just a business, it’s a life, it’s a calling, it’s a passion.

To all writers who believe in the dream, who have the passion, who feel called to the legacy — I’m right there with you, and so is everyone else who has staked their livelihood on this crazy, unpredictable, totally unrealistic business called publishing. Thanks for being here, and hanging on for the ride. To those who are frustrated by the ways it seems publishing can’t meet your expectations, I commiserate with you and I apologize that things aren’t the way we wish they could be.

To each and every author, I sincerely wish the very best for you as you seek your own way of getting your book to its intended audience. I am doing my best to be a positive and helpful part of this process.

Are you in it for the legacy? Or something else?

Comment below or by clicking: HERE.



Publishing is an old world industry, figuring out how to thrive in this new world. Click to Tweet.

Publishing isn’t just a business, it’s a life, it’s a calling, it’s a passion. Click to Tweet.

To all writers who believe in the dream, the passion, the legacy – I’m with you.  Click to Tweet.




The post The Brave New World of Publishing appeared first on Rachelle Gardner.

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48. ahem, there fishy one

wait, you're back from vacation and you haven't written your blog post for today?

Oh, you were reading PERSONAL by Lee Child last night instead of writing your blog post?

Ok, I'll let it slide this ONCE.

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49. Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 278

Quick note on the April Poetry Challenge results: We are just three days short of having all 30 days reported. Hopefully, we’ll finish it up between now and the next prompt. Want to see who’s already been listed as a winner and/or finalist? Click here to see 27 winners and 243 finalists.

For today’s prompt, write a framily poem. That’s not a typo. I’m thinking framily: friends and family (you know, like Sprint’s framily phone plan?). Okay, it’s a little silly using the word “framily,” but when have I avoided silly? Write a poem that involves (or is inspired by) your friends and family. Everyone should have a good story to tell, whether it’s funny, sad, serious, etc.


2015 Poet's Market

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Learn how to get your poetry published with the latest (and greatest) edition of Poet’s Market. The 2015 Poet’s Market is filled with articles on the craft, business, and promotion of poetry, in addition to poet interviews and original poetry by contemporary poets.

Plus, the book is filled with hundreds of listings for poetry book publishers, chapbook publishers, magazines, journals, contests, grants, conferences, and more!

Click to continue.


Here’s my attempt at a Framily Poem:

“friends & family”

we commandeered a boat when the zombies attacked
because none of them could swim & we figured we had
at least a month’s worth of food & drink & we were all friends

& family so it would be kinda like a month-long party while
the land lovers & brain eaters fought it out on shore & well
it kinda was a party for the first night or three (can’t recall)

to the point that we drank all the alcohol & ate the meat
& dumped a lot of the rations overboard because johnny
thought it would be a good prank & that’s what we believed

until we sobered up to the reality that we’d have to dock
& draw straws for who would hunt down some grub stuck
as we were but sometimes you gotta talk & others walk

& when you see an approaching bar you best had better duck


roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He spent Labor Day weekend in a car for more than 30 hours with three kids packed like sardines in the backseat of his tiny Kia Spectra. In other words, it was an interesting trip. In addition to driving all over the place with his family, Robert also makes slight alterations in his bio notes for these Poetic Asides posts. Honk if you read them.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


Find more poetic goodies here:

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50. Rosemary Rhodes Royston: Poet Interview

Please join me in welcoming Rosemary Rhodes Royston to Poetic Asides. I first met Rosemary at a writing workshop in North Carolina, so I’ll take all credit for her debut chapbook, Splitting the Soil from Finishing Line Press.

Just kidding.

Rosemary Rhodes Royston

Rosemary Rhodes Royston

Rosemary was actually already rocking her way through the poetic universe, so I probably learned more from her than the other way around. As mentioned, she is the author of Splitting the Soil. As not mentioned, she resides in northeast Georgia. Rosemary’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in journals such as Southern Poetry Review, Appalachian Heritage, NANO Fiction, The Comstock Review, Main Street Rag, Coal Hill Review, Flycatcher, STILL, Town Creek Review, and Alehouse. Learn more at http://theluxuryoftrees.wordpress.com/about.

Here is a favorite poem of mine from Splitting the Soil:

Salve, by Rosemary Rhodes Royston

When sound hurts,
when desire is a rock,
and when darkness leaks from every pore,

the only cure is to bathe
in the light of the moon.
Undress. Shed all that’s artificial,

lie on the ground under the pine,
on the moss by the pond,
or in the middle of a field.

Feel the air on your flesh,
how parts rarely exposed
tingle. You smile. You recall

an act you have long forgotten.
Do not move. Stay.
This is prayer.


What are you currently up to?

I’m working on a collection of poems about natural things, such as cherries, watermelon, oranges, bluets, Japanese magnolias, snapping turtles — and titling each one by their scientific name. In some ways, it’s like a riddle, as I never use the common name within the poem. That in itself forces me to be even more creative as I revise. I’m also paying close attention to sound and imagery in these poems, and I seem to be in the groove with them, as in the summer we eat so many wonderful fruits….

I’m very happy to say that Appalachian Heritage picked one up, “Prunus avium,” so one of them will soon be in print.

Splitting the Soil is your debut collection of poetry. How did you go about getting it published?

Publishing came about after a false start, which turned out to be a very good thing. Initially my book was accepted by a small press but the press folded before it was printed. At the time, I was devastated, but it was a good thing, as after re-reading what I’d submitted, I knew I could put a better manuscript together.

My current book probably went through at least 50 iterations – organizing, reorganizing, and pulling poems that were weak. I solicited feedback from a well-published poet, and another friend who edits. The stabilizing thing was that I always knew which poem was the opening one and which one was the ending one. So the middle was the challenge.

I sent my manuscript to many presses, and it was Finishing Line Press that picked it up. As you probably know, they specialize in chapbooks. They gave me quite a bit of freedom as to the artwork on the cover, which is a photo I took of a sunflower in my garden. I greatly appreciated the creative freedom, and was very pleased with the quality and look of the book. However, if I add up the years, it would be about six years of sending and revising and editing before I was published.

So the advice I have is keep trying, and know, as one of my mentors, Laure-Anne Bosselear, always says, “It’s always a draft.”

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Many of the individual poems in the collection were previously published in a variety of literary publications. How do you handle submitting your poems?

I go in spurts when it comes to submitting work. First, many hours go into reading the journals to which I submit, as it’s true that you need to know which journals your work fits with. Second, I’m an ongoing critic of my work, so I never feel it’s good enough, so I must sit with a poem for quite awhile before I deem it worthy of an editor’s time. Only after I feel it’s strong enough do I send it out.

And I’m still working towards publications in journals I’ve not yet been in, my “top tier” list –and I know to be patient and keep trying. I make a list in my journal of publications that are a good match for my own work, and I scribble down the deadline. Then I block out a few hours to send the poems out. Sometimes its submittable, sometimes an e-mail, and there are still a few journals out there who want snail mail…. so submitting is a process that I often put off until I feel I have enough time and strong work to send out into the world.

I’ve noticed that you’ve been making the rounds reading your poems lately. Any suggestions for better readings?

Be alive! Let the passion you feel for your art come through in the reading, and always practice reading in front of a mirror before you read in public! I cannot stress this enough. You not only will find places that need editing (because you will stumble again and again), but you will become confident in your reading.

You want to read the poem enough that you feel it physically in your body, knowing where your pauses are. I always find myself moving like a pendulum when reading, because there’s a beat. Emulate those who do a good job of reading. Practice.

Splitting the Soil, by Rosemary Rhodes Royston

Splitting the Soil, by Rosemary Rhodes Royston

I like to share poetic forms on the Poetic Asides blog. Do you have a favorite form?

I mainly write in free verse, but I often attempt the pantoum. But you’ll see no pantoums in my chapbook, as I’ve yet to master it!

I do have a ghazal, “Dogwood Winter,” where I’m true to the form and manage not only to have my name in the “signature” line, but also my daughter’s. So, I consider it a success.

I also have “loose” forms that have a rhyme scheme, but do not fit under any formal definition of a form — more of an invented form that fits the poem. And I think almost every poet writes in sonnet form, whether formal or not. I know I do — the 14 lines with a volta — often a question or speculation followed by some type of response. I do enjoy the loose sonnet, as it forces both thought and compression into a set amount of space.

If you had to pick 2-3 writing influences, who would they be?

Beth Ann Fennelly taught me that it is not only okay but it’s necessary to write about the female experience.  I often turn to Tender Hooks for excellent poems on being a mother/woman and to Unmentionables when it comes to lineation, as many poems in that collection have wonderful lineation that either mimic the subject being written about or even mimic the syntax of a conversation. They always are fresh to me and make me think more deeply about my own lineation.

Anne Carson is an influence because she’s smart as hell and so diverse in her books. In Decreation, she has a screenplay between Heloise and Abelard, essays, and poems. I am into mixed media art, so I’m especially drawn to NOX. I like her intelligence and ability to write in either poetry or prose with great skill. She brings a depth of knowledge of Ancient Greece to her writings, which engage me both creatively and intellectually.

Finally but not last is Emily Dickinson. When I first read her entire collection along side Sewell’s biography of her, I felt as if I were a detective or an archeologist of sorts. Her upbringing in the church and her deep questioning of such mirrored some of my own upbringing, so I’m especially drawn to poems that address sanctuary and nature.

One poet no one knows but should‹who is it?

Anna Swir. I came across her work in an anthology by Czeslaw Milosz and subsequently bought a translation he and Leonard Nathan did of her work, Talking to My Body. Thematically, it makes sense that I’m drawn to her, as she, too, addresses the body in so many ways, from the erotic to the inevitable aging process. The translations of her poems are simple yet full of every day beauty — the type of beauty we must keep our eyes open and be present to see.

In “The Same Inside,” the speaker realizes her connectedness to “an old beggar woman.” While bonding with this woman-sister the speaker questions her initial trek towards her lover, “And then I no longer knew / why I was walking to your place.”

Who (or what) are you currently reading?

I attended the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival at LMU in Harrogate, Tennesee. So I bought a couple of wonderful poetry books this summer that I’m working through: Jeff Hardin’s Notes for a Praise Book, and Ron Houchin’s The Man Who Saws Us in Half.

Also, ongoing reading that feeds me and keeps me grounded is Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart, a collection of excellent essays that are worth reading whether things are falling apart or not.

If you could only share one piece of advice with fellow poets, what would it be?

Let it simmer.  Don’t be in a hurry to send out your work.  It needs to stay put for a bit before the world sees it.  We all fall in love with our poems, as they are our creations, but before showing them off, let them incubate a bit!


Robert Lee Brewer is an editor with the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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