Sunday, September 28, 2008

Novel in Query Land

Life shrinks or expands
in proportion to one's courage.
~Anais Nin

I live exuberantly, joyfully, and expansively: I sing out loud, though off-key, chomp into ripe peaches with gusto, juice running down my chin, and wink happiness at strangers. I charge into sensory experiences, luxuriate in velvets and cashmere, and sink into violin and cello solos. I love life.

Oddly enough, I tend to be a private creature by nature, nursing my thoughts, my joys, my pains in silence. Tending to my blog, then, becomes a balancing act, as I rush to share as much as I can ... without sharing too much. I'm sure many of you find the same tugs of shyness and brashness flirting with one another, and I've been impressed with the levels of forthright professionalism and vulnerable humanity I find in so many of your blogs.

In sharing one's writing journey, one can choose between so many shades of positive, negative, or neutral. I am choosing to share one of each, today, in an effort to be a little less private and a little more open about this journey so many of us have embarked upon.

My Query Tally:
1. I have sent four queries out within the past 3 months.
2. I have received one "no, thank you", two requests for the first 10 pages, and one non-response.
3. Out of the two requests for the first 10 pages, I have received one "no, thank you" and one request for the next 60 pages.

And so the journey continues. I have begun work on my next project, so my brain registers the news, both good and bad, but carries on with a fairly even keel. I do, however, allow myself secret smiles now and then and hope for the best. I am wishing you all the very best on your projects as well.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

$50,000 worth of Freedom for Female Writers

This one goes out to my female writerly audience:

A Room of Her Own Foundation awards a $50,000 Gift of Freedom each year to provide a female author or artist the ability to concentrate on her craft. The concept is based, of course, on Virginia Woolf's assertion that a woman must have a room of her own if she is to write. This year's focus is on poetry, play-writing, fiction, and creative non-fiction. To be competitive, you must demonstrate not only talent but also motivation. The grant is a two-year term, and successful applicants have a "moral" obligation to see their work through to their self-designated goal. I assure you, the application is arduous, but the prize is hefty.

Deadline: October 31st, 2008

2009 Writer's Retreat: Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico

A Room of Her Own Foundation also sponsors a Writer's Retreat for sixty-five women writers at Georgia O'Keeffe's Ghost Ranch every other summer. Pulitzer Prize-winner and former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove will be in attendance for a reading and a seminar. Applications will be accepted until March 5th, 2009 or until spaces are filled. Tuition is $785 plus room & board; partial scholarships are available.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Writing Prompt: Insect Experience

At a training on Friday, we were all invited to spend ten minutes and write in response to a fifth grade writing prompt. This one happened to be last year's for Idaho's Direct Writing Assessment. When I read the prompt, I balked. I have no personal experiences with insects. And by insect, does that mean that one cannot write about a spider or other non-six legged creatures? But then I remembered this little adventure in college...So here's my first draft, written in 10 minutes, typed for your reading pleasure. If you choose to jot out a response to this writing prompt, feel free to post it! I'd love to read it.

Fifth-Grade Narrative Direct Writing Assessment 2007-08
Writing Assignment
: Write a personal narrative for your teacher about an experience you had with an insect.

Shrieks echoed down the hallway of the girls’ dorm. Startled, I dropped my books and darted into the hall, looking for the source of noise. More cries spiraled out of an open doorway, these more distinguishable.

“Amber! Where’s Amber?” Squeals, terrified and high-pitched, followed.

Pounding footsteps thudded toward me, and I saw my sister zipping down toward the open door, her long hair flying behind me.

“I’m coming,” she yelled.

I followed more slowly, worried, curious, a bit perplexed. What I found bemused me further. My sister huddled scrunched up on the ground, butt in the air, as she peered beneath the bed, one arm extended, the other supporting her.

“I’ve almost got it,” she announced.

Girls, who crowded the doorway but refused to entered, collectively gasped, making various “yuck” sounds.

“What’s it?” I asked, noticing that I alone actually stood in the room.

“A cockroach!” someone answered just as the insect crawled to safety, spread its wings, and buzzed into restricted airspace.

My sister leaped to her feet. “Broom!” she called. “I need a broom!”

Just as I felt a weight land on my head, prickling through strands of hair, I heard my sister say. “Don’t move, Sis. Stay. Still.”

She crept toward me as if stalking skittish prey. “Easy now,” she whispered.

Blood drained from my face. But my younger sister, once the tag-along tattle-tale nuisance, reached past sibling rivalry and plucked the cockroach, sticky feet clinging, to become my newest hero.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Agent Blogger: the Swivet

Slogging through blogs and randomly pulling out gems is hard work. That's why it's nice if someone else does it for you. Thanks to Nathan Bransford for pointing his readers in the direction of agent Colleen Lindsay who maintains a succint & informative site.

An agent with FinePrint Literary Management, Ms. Lindsay has posted her submission guidelines, currently seeking list, and tips for earnest writers in an organized and witty fashion on The Swivet.

The good news? While she represents a vast array of genres, Ms. Lindsay loves S/F and fantasy, especially the kind that breaks through the more common tropes of the genre. So, explore her site, mull over her advice, and start submitting your work!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Time Out: Remembering How to Breathe

En route to the Pacific Northwest Writer's Association's Summer Conference in Seattle, I found myself zinging along the back roads that curl across eastern Washington. I had left home later than prudent, a million things still milled about on my to-do list, and a dozen responsibilities percolated in my head, assuring me that taking time to go to a conference was the most asinine idea I'd had in a while.

I wasn't so lost in thought, however, that I missed the vast and silent beauty stretching out before me. In fact, the sheerness of air, the distinct layers of land, and the myriad of colors did more than take my breath away. They also reminded me how insignificant my problems are; how eternal the purity of nature is; how gracious and generous our Creator is; and how incapable I am of naming every shade or texture or shape that graces the landscape. The moon, pregnant with possibility, lent a new sense of purpose to my journey. I felt less foolish, more hopeful. I pulled the car over, prayers of thanksgiving on my lips, and sat in wonder, just soaking it all in. Then I leapt out, dug through my luggage, and found my camera.

Deciding to take time out to simply breathe is more than token gratitude. Most days, it is a matter of survival, determining our levels of response and our abilities to face new challenges. Although I'd love to say I daily practice yoga and deep breathing and, yes, even spinning, the truth is that I often forsake exercise & meditation and opt instead for frantic coping, moments of clarity, and those precious detours that remind me how to breathe.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Writers of the Future: Free Writing Contest

One of the elite writing contests of the day happens to be sponsored by L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future. Many leading science fiction and fantasy authors have earned their first laurels -- and major recognition -- as semi-finalists, finalists, and winners of this contest. Big names in the field (like Orson Scott Card, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, and Anne McCaffrey to name a few) also make up the panel of judges.

Check out the contest rules, explore the site, and contemplate sending in your masterpiece.


  • No entry fee
  • 17,000 words or less
  • Four quarters per year, each with prizes
  • First prize: $1000
  • Grand prize: $5000 for the year's winner
  • No professional writers (see site's definition)

Contest Deadlines:
December 31st
March 31st
June 30th
September 30th
Contest year ends at midnight on Sept 30th.

Note: for you budding artists out there, check out the Illustrators of the Future contest for new & amateur artists worldwide; $1500 in prizes awarded quarterly.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Struggling Writer Files: What You Can Do

Conflict simmers along quite nicely when large bodies of intent, replete with significant gravitational pulls themselves, can squint down their individual pathways and envision the coming collision.

Take this one, for example: struggling writer (actually, fill in this blank with any writer, struggling or not) glances up from precious work-in-progress to note several items of import...

Panic flares in multi-hued edges; what if there are no buyers for my book? What if books are banned because they use precious resources? What if pushes through legislation requiring all texts to be read via kindle?

Oh, wait. Writers don't think about things like that. What was I thinking? However, on the off chance that things like this do prickle along your subconscious while you're doing a find for all -ly words in your manuscript, I have a truly scintillating piece of advice.

Go forth and buy books. It's your civic duty. Actually, it's you single-handedly saving the publishing industry. After all, shouldn't we writers support the very companies we want to someday work for?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

My First Paragraph

It takes guts to post the first paragraph(s) to a novel you've written but haven't yet published. Sending it out to agents and/or publishers pales beside posting that one solitary paragraph on a blog. Agents can reject so painlessly -- send you that little form letter that helps convince you that so & so is just not accepting anyone these days and it has nothing to do with your writing or lack thereof.

But posting on a blog? You've preened and polished and crafted the best opening you know how to write. What if people laugh? or cringe? or wonder, What is she thinking, posting something that asinine? I think paranoia and shaky self-confidence stalk the writer, no matter how many times he's been published. So kudos to Ken Kiser for braving the wilderness and posting his first paragraph. I'm duly impressed. Others (Anthony Pacheco, shariwrites, dianegallant, among others) have jumped in as well, feet first and welcoming comments, thoughts, constructive criticism, and general applause. I can do no less. Here are the opening paragraphs to Ceilyn's Calling.

Ceilyn sprinted down the darkened hallway, conjuring a light spell with his right hand. The light flared, revealing the thick-set demon hurtling towards the heavy monastery door.

“Halt!” the boy commanded, his voice ringing with power. He hurled the magical sign of restraint, willing it to stop.

The squat hell-creature swung around, nostrils flaring, chest heaving. The stench of unwashed rags assaulted Ceilyn, and he flinched. The demon’s eyes, crusted over and rimmed with red, narrowed, sensing fear. He took a step back toward Ceilyn.

Ceilyn inhaled sharply. Retreating, he fumbled in his waist pouch for the tiny glass vial. With a thundering roar, the demon threw his head back, teeth glinting in the spelled light. He shook his body, thumping his chest before lowering his head to charge. He snarled, breath fouling the air.

Ceilyn closed his eyes, mouth moving in the ancient spell of reverse conjuring. He held the vial up, swirled its contents several times, then flung it toward the charging beast. But the final word wouldn’t come. Fear billowed up in his chest, blocking his mind, his throat, his words.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Fantasy Movie List Revisited

This Is Just To Say...

I have devoured
the movies
that you posted on
my blog

and which
you were undoubtedly
saving for a rainy day

Forgive me
they were delightful
so intriguing
and gripping

with apologies to William Carlos Williams

If you haven't yet listed your favorite fantasy movies, please post them here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Call for Stories

For you short-story writers out there, two opportunities present themselves in September. Both of the them come from the Literary Cottage; working for Adams Media, the Literary Cottage is seeking stories for two anthologies they're currently working on.

1. Woodstock Revisited: Adams Media is seeking true story accounts written by people who actually attended the 1969 Woodstock Festival. According to their website, "stories must be TRUE, 850-1100 words, vivid, and substantive." DEADLINE: Sunday, September 7th, 2008.

2. My Dog is my Hero: The fourth book in the Hero series, this volume will contain stories about the remarkable dog in each writer's life. Stories must be 850-1100 words, true, and preferably uplifting. See website for more details. DEADLINE: Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Monetary concerns: You will be paid $100 for your story, receive a free copy of the anthology, and be considered for a "top three" monetary prize. Submission guidelines are located on each topic's page, and questions can be directed at Susan Reynolds.
Note: For you non-fiction writers out there, Adams Media is currently looking for new book proposals. The good news is that they accept submissions directly from authors (including first time authors), as well as from literary agents, so don't be shy.