Invitation & Contest: The Write-Brained Network & WordWatchers

Last week, I announced the emerging of The Write-Brained Network, my online writing organization (formerly Shenandoah Writers Online).


I’d like to extend a formal invitation to anyone out there stumbling upon this blog post who is a writer and who has not yet checked us out.  I’d love to meet you—virtually or otherwise. 🙂

We are doing some cool things, and I’ve love to have you be a part of them:

  • We currently have four satellite chapters starting up throughout the country—soon to be six!
  • Three members have also started subgroups by genre—currently, for YA (YAwesome Writers), horror writers (The Dark Ones), and literary writers (Literary Lovers)
  • As well, we are in talks about putting on an IRL conference possibly as early as next year!

Like I said—cool things happening.  I could not be more of a proud mama bear. 🙂

Click here to check out The Write-Brained Network.


This is our third month doing WordWatchers, and while we’ve had participation every month, I’d like to up the ante a bit for September.

This month, we’re competing for a prize (well, I won’t be, since I’m the one offering the prize, but whatever!).

No, I'm not giving out Grammys, but that would be cool!

One winner will receive a 10-page manuscript critique from moi, and one will receive ONE of a number of SIGNED BOOKS (I finally got my box o’ plunder back from the RWA conference, and there’s a ton of great stuff available in there—details forthcoming)!

To be eligible, all you have to do is:

1) Be a member of the Write-Brained Network.

2) Participate in WordWatchers.  Click here for details on what that is, if you don’t know. The gist: set a weekly word goal and WRITE!
3) Log your progress on the WB group wall and/or in the September WordWatchers discussion in our WB forum.

Don't let this alien beat you!

Here’s how the entries will be handled:
+1 entry for setting a goal and participating (publicly)
+1 entry for every day you log your writing progress
+5 entries for every week you HIT your weekly writing goal
+3 entries for every person you invite to join the WB (who joins!) between now and the end of the month*
+2 entries if you Tweet or blog about the WB*

*You will have to let me know if you invited someone and they joined or if you’ve blogged/Tweeted about the WB—I’m not a mindreader!

At the end of the month, I’ll have you tally your entries, send them to me, and I’ll pick two winners.

Sound good?

RWA Freaking Rocked – Part 2

**DISCLAIMER:  There is an obnoxious amount of exclamation points in this post—but that is how RWA made me feel, so get over it.**

To see part 1 of my adventures at the Romance Writers of America national conference in Orlando, click here.


  • I woke with a shot of adrenaline. “OMG—You’re teaching today!” So, I went over my PowerPoint again, fixed my links (don’t ask), and set out toward my designated room.
  • When I got there, I realized I forgot the one thing they specifically told me I needed: a Mac LCD projector hookup thing-a-ma-jiggy.  Fear not—I had left it in my room—however, I had to sprint down the escalator (you never realize how slow those things really are until you’re in a hurry), across the ginormous lobby, back to my wing of the Dolphin, up to the fifth floor, and then back again.  In my adorable, but not-if-you-have-to-walk-in-them (and especially not-if-you-have-to-run-in-them) 3″ black heels.

So much fun!

  • I cursed myself as I threw my computer bag this way and that, in search of the stupid plug (“Great—now, you’re going to be late, sweaty, and out of breath for your session!”).
  • But all was well.  Just got some blisters, but that’s it.
  • And get this: People actually showed. A good amount of them—to see me!  Or to see my session!  Even though the Harlequin book signing (where NORA ROBERTS was signing), the Avon book signing (where MEG CABOT was AGAIN signing at a time I couldn’t see her—boo!), plus a ton of other fabulous sessions were going on at the same time!  (All grammar nerds, no doubt!)
  • And people wanted to hire me to edit their manuscripts!  (Not that I don’t already do this—I do!—but it was great that folks liked me and what I had to say enough to want to entrust their babies to my care.  That’s a huge deal!)

  • So, I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening riding my session high—relieved things had gone well and ready to relax and enjoy the rest of the conference.
  • We (Cambria, Kaylee, and I) went for sushi, and I had eel—unagi! Kaylee and I referenced the episode of Friends where Ross has “unagi,” and I fell in love just a little more with her.  😀  I ate California rolls (mmm!)  with roe (<—ew, but whatever).  I ate dragon rolls—with spicy tuna in them.  Translation: I really lived on the edge that night!

Pic #1

Pic #2

Pic #3

  • We took a hundred of pretty much the same three pictures (see above), in attempt to get the perfect one, and we ended up hanging out with Wendy Toliver again (yay!) and awesomesauce women’s fiction/nonfiction author Jenny Gardiner.  During said hang-out, I revealed my not so secret fangirl crush on Meg Cabot and how I was super excited for the next morning, when I could finally meet her at her “chat” session.
  • More pictures.  More fun!


  • I danced out of bed (yeah, not really), so thrilled about my first chosen session of the day—the moment I’d been waiting for (well, other than my session) was about to commence: “Chat with Meg Cabot”!
  • I got to the room, and she was late . . . and I seriously thought to myself, God does not want me to see this woman for some reason.  Woe is me! But then, we found out she was just doing her make up outside the room, and she arrived shortly before a panic attack ensued.
  • She was fabulous.  I don’t know how she does what she does—I really don’t!  She basically talked and answered questions for an hour, and after that . . .
  • . . . I got her to sign my Princess Diaries!  And I took a picture with her!*

Chat with Meg Cabot!

Meg Cabot and ME!

  • I was dying.  And all my friends made fun of me (in a loving way, of course) the rest of the day.
  • Kaylee and I had a mound of fries for lunch and went to some fantastic sessions—I can’t wait to blog about them!—and publishers’ book signings (including one, where two agents, an editor, and an author simulated what happens in an acquisitions editorial meeting.  Very eye-opening!).
  • Exhausted, I thought I’d have a few hours before the 2011 RITA & Golden Hearts Awards Ceremony to pack up all my newly-acquired books, relax, and get ready.  This was not exactly to be*, but I did eventually get my books packed and shipped.
  • The RITA & Golden Hearts Awards Ceremony was inspirational. I teared up a lot of times, listening to the acceptance speeches, and it really made me feel like I was a part of something big. And important.  And, most of all?  It made me feel like this is really . . . possible.

TWITSOM & M.G. Braden

Cambria, Leia, Kaylee, and me

Us with Shawntelle Madison

  • Afterward, I hung out in the lobby, took a million more pictures, and said my goodbyes to all the amazing folks I’d met throughout that week.
  • And Cambria, Kaylee, and I made plans to room together next year. 🙂

*And then, some thing really sad happened, but that is for the next post.

SWA Presenter Spotlight: David L. Robbins

As I announced in December, I will be teaching a workshop on journalistic writing* at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference next month.

To gear up for that, I am featuring interviews and spotlights with this year’s presenters.**

Next up is historical fiction author David L. Robbins.


This born-and-raised Virginian is another lawyer-turned-author success story—although, unlike John Grisham or Steve Berry, Robbins only practiced law for one year.  Actually, even less than that.

Robbins. (Photo by Adam Ewing)

According to his Web site, the College of William and Mary alum quit practicing law two weeks before his one-year anniversary of becoming a lawyer.  His father had stipulated that Robbins would have to pay him back for law school if he quit before one year; however, in a final act of negotiation, Robbins got his father to allow for the equivalent of a two-week vacation.  Well done!

Currently, his fast-paced novels include: Souls to Keep (HarperCollins) as well as War of the Rats, The End of the War, Scorched Earth, Last Citadel, Liberation Road, The Betrayal Game, The Assassins Gallery, and Broken Jewel (all Bantam).  His current work-in-progress is called The Devil’s Waters.

In addition to being an accomplished novelist and Latin classical guitar enthusiast, Robbins is the founder of James River Writers, a writing organization based in Richmond, Va.  He also teaches creative writing at the College of William and Mary—his alma mater—and will be this year’s Advanced Fiction instructor at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference.


Although Robbins and I were unable to coordinate our schedules for an interview, here is an excerpt from an interview he did for James River Writers, which may offer a bit of insight in terms of what Robbins will be highlighting in Advanced Fiction at SWA in June.

JRW:You mentioned at your book release event that although you are adamant about not using back story, you did this anyway. When is it necessary for an established writer to break the rules and what caused you to do it here?

DLR: I’m adamant about pacing. Back story, dream sequences, narration, flashbacks, all of these and more are devices which exist on a plane not concomitant with the story itself. While the reader is ensconced in them, nothing happens to the characters in real time. No jeopardy, no progress, no action. No pace. So I recoil—usually. In Broken Jewel, I used a lengthy recollection—and I believe it is some of the most beautiful prose in the novel, to be honest—to express a father’s checkered history with his son. The entire passage is a bad idea that worked. This demonstrates that there are no rules in art, only default settings. It is necessary simply for a writer to have a working knowledge of the “rules,” so when they are broken, this is done with control and intent. I did it on purpose. That’s my only explanation.

JRW: When writing historical fiction, how do you keep history from controlling the plot so that the protagonist can do his or her job which is to instigate the action rather than react to events?

DLR: Design active protagonists instead of victims. Immature writers often rely on plots where their characters are buffeted by events, villains, heartless nature, or bad mojo. The key is to write a tale from the perspective of main characters who drive the action, not merely survive it. Do this, and you’ll never have the problem of a character being overwhelmed by history. In fact, if you’re clever, you can even invent characters who actually explain some bits of heretofore veiled history. So that’s how it happened! See?

For more information about Robbins, please visit his Web site.


Join us at the Southeastern Writers Association conference in June in beautiful St. Simons Island, Ga.  For the 4-1-1, please see their registration page as well as my post.  Reserve your spot today!

*To learn about the workshop I’m teaching, click here.

**For more SWA Presenter Spotlights, click the appropriately-named category in the right-hand sidebar.

Writing News: My Guest Post over at GLA

As you may or may not know, I am a contributor to Writer’s Digest Books (with articles forthcoming in the 2011 and 2012 editions of Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents as well as the 2011 editions of both Alice Pope’s Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market and Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market).  From time to time, I also interview literary agents  for Chuck’s Guide to Literary Agents blog.

My article in the upcoming GLA deals with maximizing your writers conference experience, and to gear up for that as well as my speaking engagement at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference next month, I guest blogged over at the GLA blog today.

Here’s the link to my post, “How to Have an Awesome Time at a Writers Conference.”

Hope you enjoy!

You Have a Question; I Have an Answer: Where Do I Start?

“You Have a Question?  I Have an Answer” is a feature that answers real questions from real writers.

Q:  Hi Ricki!

I know I haven’t been participating much in the online writer group, and this is honestly because I feel completely out of my depth.  I never worked on newspaper staff, I didn’t major in English, I don’t work in journalism—I took one creative writing class in college and loved it, but that’s about the extent of my training.

I want to break into the writing world, but I really don’t have a clue where to start. Do you have any suggestions for starting points?  I don’t just mean for writing a novel; I’m also interested in freelance or nonfiction writing.


A: Thanks for the question!

First of all, none of this talk about how you didn’t major in English and blah blah blah.  That doesn’t matter!  I’ve been hearing a lot lately, and it’s a little disturbing to me.

Just because Molly happens to be a professor doesn't mean you have to be one!

What matters is you are into writing now and you want to learn the things you don’t know—and that is AWESOME.

I did major in English, but I didn’t always enjoy everything in my program of study.  Nothing against my alma mater—John Carroll University has a great program—but my interests always lay in writing, and I did not get to do enough of it.

Thinking back, it was probably my fault.  I was good at all the analysis and everything, but it wasn’t until I immersed myself in all this that I learned most of what I know today.  Teaching helped with that a lot—and quitting teaching helped with it even more!

The point is, you’re driven.  And that hunger to learn about writing will take you farther than if you were some Waiting-for-Godot-loving (I’m sorry—I hated reading that the 50 billion times I had to read it in college) English major.  So don’t feel hopeless!

But I digress.

As far as getting started with it all, there are couple of things I would suggest.

1) Go to a writers’ conference. There’s nothing like meeting other writers, attending workshops, hearing established authors speak, and schmoozing with industry professionals to get your creative juices flowing!  Although they can be pricey, the amount you can learn in one short weekend or a week-long writing retreat is totally worth it.  In addition to learning about the business as well as the craft of writing, socializing with others and hearing multiple perspectives from writers at all levels can put you on the right path for your own writing future.

Here's a great conference to try!

2) Read about writing. Immerse yourself in writing books, magazines, and blogs.  In terms of your interest in freelancing, I have two book suggestions offhand: Peter Bowerman’s The Well-Fed Writer and Writer’s Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing (edited by Michelle Ruberg).  Both of these titles are chockfull of tips on how to generate ideas for articles, how to go about writing them, whom to query, etc.

3) Figure out what kinds of things you can write. Read magazines, newspapers, blogs—find your  niche.  Study the articles that are similar to what you’d like to be writing in the magazines for which you aspire to write.  You’d be surprised at how the ideas will flow.  If you want to try your hand at writing a novel or a nonfiction book, read several types of books until you find one that calls to you.  And when you do?  Read even more of that kind of book.

4.) Find your markets. But once you know what you want to write, you’ll need to check out a book like Writer’s Market (Writer’s Digest Books), which is a reference book published annually (you can also get a Web subscription to it) that lists and categorizes (by genre, region, type, etc.) where you can sell your work, what publications are specifically seeking, what they pay, and how to contact them.

5.) Learn to write an effective query letter. When you’re ready to pitch something, you need to query editors.  You can find several great resources on how to write a query letter (since that’s a whole other animal to attack)—there’s actually a section in Writer’s Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing that discusses writing query letters.

6.) Actually do it. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at first.  But if you’ve got that nagging feeling in your gut that says you have to write, get your be-hind in front of your laptop and start typing.  Join a writing group—online or IRL—take a class, whatever.  Just let those words out before your brain explodes. 🙂

But don't let it make you insane . . .

SWA Presenter Spotlight: Charlotte Babb

As I announced in December, I will be teaching a workshop on journalistic writing at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference in June 2010.

To gear up for that, I am featuring some interviews and spotlights with this year’s presentersFor more SWA Presenter Spotlights, click the appropriately-named category in the right-hand sidebar.

Next up is science fiction writer Charlotte Babb.


This writer/Web designer/teacher has most recently published two science fiction story cycles in a collection called Port Nowhere. Eppie-winner Babb also writes poetry for children, including her anthology, The Thing in the Tub, and she has various short story and article credits, such as “Fairy Frogmother.”

She runs two blogs, Maven Fairy Godmother and Be Your Own Fairy Godmother. For more information about her work, please visit her Web site.


RS:  How did you get into writing?

CB: I have always wanted to write, and [I] wrote stories in elementary school for myself.

I wanted to grow up to be Jo March [of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women], and did to some extent, going into teaching instead of writing for a career.

RS:  What keeps you writing?

CB: I need to write. I use writing to find out what I think. I use it to build worlds where the good guys win and where people can do magic.

It gives me a sense of personal power to shape the words—when I can get them lined up like I want them.

RS:  What do you do when you’re not writing?

CB: I am a web designer for Sherman College of Chiropractic, and I teach college writing for the University of Phoenix online.

When I am not writing or reading, I am grading papers, studying web analytics or watching movies from Netflix.

RS:  What draws you to the science fiction category?

CB: I am fascinated by other cultures, other ways of looking at the world.

I grew up during the space race—my first grade teacher actually brought a TV to school so we could watch Alan Shepard fly into the sky and fall back down in 1957—and when I was a senior in high school, Neil Armstrong took that one small step onto the moon.

I fell in love with Spock Prime. Along with Louisa Alcott and Lucy Maude Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, I was reading Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and eventually, Stranger in a Strange Land.

The feeling is mutual, Charlotte. 😉

The golden age of science fiction was about “know how” and using science to solve problems, most of which were caused by people who were ignorant and thought that physical laws could be repealed. Like many people, I felt like an alien in my own land, so it was comforting to know that there were other places, other times, other ways. I find historical novels interesting for the same reasons, but history lacks the sense of wonder that is necessary for good science fiction.

I also love fantasy, but I am weary of vampires, which to my way of thinking is just the Gen-X reversal of the James Dean syndrome: Die first and live long as a beautiful corpse.

RS:  What are you currently working on?

CB: I am plotting out the sequel to my first novel, wherein my fairy godmother has to deal with the repercussions of her first week on the job.

I have some other stories in mind, and they are clamoring for my attention. I have a lot of research for a science fiction novel, but the characters have not shown up yet.

I am also doing some research for content pages for my day job, which will promote the college where I work. I teach online, so a good bit of my writing is explanation and conversation with my students, teaching them the finer points of writing for college.

Bibbity bobbity boo! Babb encourages you to be your own fairy godmother.

RS:  What’s one genre or type of writing in which you’d like to dabble but haven’t yet?

CB: I’d love to learn better copywriting, compelling sales copy for my day job.

I miss the academic work that I did for my master’s and the pulling together of information about myth and folktales to make analysis of popular culture and re-tellings of those stories.

RS:  What book(s) currently adorn your nightstand?

CB: I’m reading Jodi Picoult’s Second Glance, and my Facebook book club has started Sherman Alexie’s [The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian].

I’m looking forward to the second book in Kate Elliott’s Spirit Gate trilogy, when my chiropractic intern finishes it.

I have the most recent copies of [Analog: Science Fiction and Fact] and [Asimov’s Science Fiction] for research on the current science fiction market.

RS:  Name an author that helped shape who you are as a writer and how he or she had that effect on you.

CB: Robert Heinlein’s books [and] YAs written for boys in the late ’40s and early ’50s showed me a world where it was assumed that girls make better pilots than boys because they understood math better.

Heinlein’s characters believed that anyone should be able to cook, diaper a baby, pilot a starship or do any other task that might be needed. I started reading Heinlein in third grade, just after graduating from Dr. Seuss. While his female characters were always beautiful and sexy, especially in his adult novels, they were also smart and independent.

I was also reading Alcott and Montgomery, who had a strong feminist thread in their books (which were written as the women’s suffrage movement was getting started), and I was reading during the Civil Rights movement and the beginning of Vietnam.  These two influences showed me worlds equally alien to my rural North Carolina home, but told me that it was all right to be different, to see my own road and to follow it.

I like Anne McCaffrey and Andre Norton, whose work has one foot in science and one in fantasy.

RS:  Can you give us a quick teaser about the course you’ll be teaching at Southeastern Writers Association?

CB: I’m teaching a four-hour course called “Science Fiction,” with a look at the elements that group those books on the shelf together, although vampires, zombies and werewolves are crowding out the science fiction.

I plan to explore why that is, and how the market is changing.


For more information about the Southeastern Writers Association conference in June, please see their registration page as well as my recent post.  Don’t wait to sign up—and you must be registered by April 1 in order to participate in contests and manuscript evaluations, so reserve your spot today!

To learn more about the workshop I’m teaching, click here.

SWA Presenter Spotlight: Emily Sue Harvey

As I announced in December, I will be teaching a workshop on journalistic writing at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference in June 2010.

To gear up for that, I am featuring some interviews and spotlights with this year’s presenters.

First up is inspirational writer and SWA board member Emily Sue Harvey.


A long-term SWA member, Harvey is represented by PMA Literary & Film Mgt, Inc., and her upbeat stories have appeared in dozens of anthologies including: Chicken Soup for the Soul, Chocolate for Women, From Eulogy to Joy, A Father’s Embrace, True Story, Compassionate Friends Magazine, and Woman’s World.  Her first novel, Song of Renewal, was released in 2009 by Story Plant.

She is also currently seeking renewal story submissions for a possible anthology.  For more information, please visit her Web site or contact her at


RS:   How did you get into writing?

ESH: I was an English major in college, so I did lots of writing. The tragic death of my 11-year-old daughter, Angela, catapulted me into writing in earnest.

At that time, it was therapy. Along the way, it developed into a passion that remains until this day.

RS:  What keeps you writing?

ESH: Plain and simple: passion. Writing is in my genes and soul. It gives me a voice that makes a difference.

RS:  What do you do when you’re not writing?

ESH: I’m quite active with family, church and my old high school class.

I do a quarterly newsletter for the old classmates in which several columns appear: Profiles (updates on lives), Rainy Days (relating to deaths, health and other issues that need attention), Let’s Talk (newsy items) and Accolades (celebrating accomplishments, etc.).

I found that this bonds our gang in ways that otherwise wouldn’t happen.

RS:  What are you currently working on?

ESH: Currently, I’m editing and enlarging upon my newly-released mainstream fiction hardback novel: Song of Renewal. I am allowed to enlarge the story for the upcoming paperback release. The hardback release limited me to 160 pages. No such restrictions limit the paperback length.

Since I love editing, I’m enjoying this phase of the project.

The paperback edition of Harvey's novel, available at

RS:  What’s one genre or type of writing in which you’d like to dabble but haven’t yet—and why?

ESH: Since I’ve dabbled in both fiction and nonfiction, there’s little I’ve not explored. I’m well published in numerous anthologies such as Chicken Soup, Chocolate for Women, and a wide spectrum of outreach magazines and etc. I’ve also done Renewal articles for heavily-trafficked Web sites such as Dr. Laura and Shine.

I’ve written several novels already, which are in the publishing wings. Perhaps I will decide to do a collection of all my short stories and articles in a future project.

RS:   What book(s) currently adorn your nightstand?

ESH: The Greatest Words Ever Spoken: Everything Jesus Said about You, Your Life, and Everything Else by Steven K. Scott, which is a book of the words of Jesus. Powerful.

Also, I just finished a delightful, engaging novel by Jennifer Greene, a new author-find for me. Will be reading more by her.

Harvey, the 2008-2009 SWA president

RS:  Name an author that helped shape who you are as a writer and how he or she had that effect on you.

ESH: Cec Murphey was and is a mentor of the highest caliber. He took me under his wing years ago at SWA and told me (among many valuable things) to address myself  as “a writer.” That began my real odyssey to where I am now.

RS:  Can you give us a quick teaser about the course you’ll be teaching at Southeastern Writers Association?

ESH: My “Get it done!” course consists of a no-nonsense (but fun) approach to writing, gleaned from both my academic and professional experiences, which taught me to sit down and “Just Do it!” (last year’s [workshop] title)—and that writing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.

This year’s course continues on to incorporate networking skills offered at SWA workshops. Part of writing success is directly contingent upon the “Just Do It!” mindset, which calls for discipline and the instruction gleaned from SWA workshops.

Wrapping it all up are critical networking opportunities offered at the SWA workshops. Without some form of networking, writing success can be elusive. It’s so simple that folks often overlook its significance.

So come on down to St. Simons and join us for perhaps some of the most crucial lessons of your writing journey. “GET IT DONE!”


For more information about the Southeastern Writers Association conference in June, please see their registration page as well as my recent post. Don’t wait to sign up—and you must be registered by April 1 in order to participate in contests and manuscript evaluations, so reserve your spot today!

To learn more about the workshop I’m teaching, click here.

Join Me at the Southeastern Writers Association Conference

As I announced in December, I will be teaching a workshop on journalistic writing at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference in June 2010.

To gear up for that, I’m going to be featuring some interviews and spotlights with this year’s presenters:

  • Professional freelancer and PR master J.M. Lacey
  • Celebrated poet and creative writing instructor Susan Meyers
  • and moi (OK, I’m not interviewing myself.  If you want the gist of what I’ll be teaching, click here.)


Held at the beautiful Epworth by the Sea in St. Simon’s Island, Ga., SWA’s annual conference is the perfect place to soak up some rays along with some writing knowledge from these seasoned professionals.

In addition to workshops led by the aforementioned instructors, the SWA conference offers:

  • Up to 3 manuscript evaluations, including personal conferences with instructors
  • Free entry in up to 15 contests (in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, inspiration, humor, romance, and science fiction & fantasy)
  • The chance to network with a literary agent, successful authors, and writers in all stages of their careers
  • A place to sell your books, whether you are pubbed or self-pubbed

Don’t wait to sign up, however.  Registration is open—and you must be registered by April 1 in order to participate in contests and manuscript evaluations, so reserve your spot today!

Surprises in South Carolina, Coming Down off My Conference High

I spent the weekend in beautiful Myrtle Beach at the South Carolina Writers Workshop.


Being around writer folk for the first time since June made it pretty darn difficult to return to writing all by my lonesome today.  However, I’m dealing with it by mad networking, blogging, querying—oh yeah—and editing.

Here are some highlights/surprises of the weekend:


First of all, Janet Reid of FinePrint Literary Management is awesome.  Actually, I figured she would be, considering her blogs on agenting and query letters, but I was pleasantly surprised by her as an instructor.

Miss Query Shark herself really cares about writers.  See this blog post if you don’t believe me.  This hit me the most during her session “To Whom It May Concern: Effective Query Letters.”

Where most other agents say to narrow your querying pool to a select few, Janet says to query widely because it’s in the best interest of the writer to do so.

“What does it hurt you to query?” she asks.  “If it’s not right, you’ll just get a rejection.”

She also stresses not to beg in your query (e.g., “I know your time is exquisitely valuable…”).

“We’re all busy,” she says.  “Some of you have jobs and husbands and children to take care of.  Your time is exquisitely valuable.  We’re just sitting around reading.”

She even empowers writers—albeit realistically.

“Don’t demean yourself.  Remember: Agents and publishing cannot exist without writers—though, no one’s going to treat you like that.”

Another helpful hint?  To increase marketability, she says you might consider changing the sex of your main character, as this can make it stand out against other books like it.

Most importantly, however, she stressed that a query letter is the foundation upon which your publishing career rests.

“You can query too soon; you cannot query too late.”

For more of Janet’s query tips, see my guest post on Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents blog.


  • Despite their busy schedules, they are approachable and willing to answer any questions at writers’ conferences.
  • They know how to party.  No elaboration necessary.
  • If you’re slightly dressed up, people might think you are one.  (Even though I look nothing like the fabulous Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary, I still enjoyed being mistaken for her.)
  • They are curious creatures.  They vary in submission guidelines as well as personal preferences, but check out their Web sites, blogs, and interviews to gain insight.


  • It behooves writers to be somewhat ADD.  As far as I can tell, the more active your mind is, the more ideas you’ll have for books and articles.  I gotsta get me some of that!
  • According to one faculty member, stealing ideas is okay, as long as you make them your own.
  • Pitching is scary, but just get over it and do it…because the agent might just request pages. 🙂
  • New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry is a down-to-earth guy.  It took him 12 years and eight finished manuscripts before he ever sold anything.  Keep at it, he says.
  • Your first novel may not be publishable.  And that’s OK.  Put it away and start the second.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this weekend such a success.  I had a great time and am rejuvenated to continue my work.

Bring on the next conference!