Friday, August 31, 2007


Welcome to the sixth day of the conference.

To enter the rooms, click on the links.

Conference Rules (please read first before entering rooms)

How The Conference Works

Did you miss a day?

Panel: Meet the Agent - Tee C. Royal - Literary agent, Tamala Murray - Literary agent

Panel Discussion: Motivation - Dyanne Davis, Nikki Arana, J. S. Hawley, Dara Girard, Stefanie Worth, Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo, Rhonda Jackson Joseph, Andrea Jackson, Marilynn Griffith, DeRon Smith

Workshop: Submitting - Host: Dyanne Davis

Workshop: The Naked Writer - Host: G. Miki Hayden

**Please remember to post your questions by 4pm central time.**



Prayer Room



Day 4

Day 3



Don't forget to win a prize you have to leave a comment in one of the rooms. This includes you lurkers, can't win if you don't post.

*I suggest you write your comment in word then cut and paste that way you don't lose it.

If you have any problems, send an email to


Panel: Meet the Agent


Tee C. Royal - Literary agent, Tamala Murray - Literary agent

Panel Discussion: Motivation


Dyanne Davis, Nikki Arana, J. S. Hawley, Dara Girard, Stefanie Worth, Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo, Rhonda Jackson Joseph, Andrea Jackson, Marilynn Griffith, DeRon Smith

Workshop: Submitting

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Dyanne Davis and so far I have eight published romances under that name. I am now also using my initials in my newly released vampire series. F. D. Davis . I have done numerous workshops and have a local cable show, The art of Writing. I started the show and give workshops because when I first began I made a ton of mistakes. There were a lot of things I didn't know. My intent is to help any and all writers with things that I think are important to them. Believe me I have not learned it all yet and as I continue to learn I will continue to share. Some of the information I'm going to give have come from other sources and other than things that I found on Writers Digest website (links) I have obtained permission for sharing. (copyright and all that.) LOL.

Read through and any questions we can discuss them. Remember no question is a stupid question. If I don't know the answer I will do my best to get it for you. I hope you enjoy the workshop and find it helpful.

Terms that Every Writer Should Know

Acceptance: Even after a contract is signed between author and publisher, the editor still has to "accept" the final version of the manuscript. After acceptance, the publisher can proceed with publication and release the author's agreed upon advance.

Advance: The amount of money the publisher pays the author up-front upon acceptance of the manuscript for publication. Typically, the book's sales must "earn out" the advance before the author is paid any additional monies.

Agent: The author's representative in business dealings with the publisher.

ARC: Advance Review Copy of your book. Distributed to reviewers before book is released.

Author's Voice: The unique use of words, phrases, and writing techniques that places an author's "stamp" on their work. It is recognizable to the reader, even if they don't know who the author is. Prime example of author's "voice" vs. "style": Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Similar style, but very different author voices.

Back Cover Copy: The few paragraphs "blurbed" on the back of a book to give the reader a quick sketch of what the book's about.

Characterization: The author's ability to populate their stories with unique, individual people who are living and breathing to the reader. When two people have a conversation in a novel, the reader should be able to know who is saying what, without the name tags, based on how well the author has developed the character.

Conflict: The driving force of most fiction. Plot without conflict is nothing more than a "journal" of events.

Distributor: Large company that warehouses books from the publishers and distributes them to the booksellers.

Editor: The representative of the publishing house who evaluates your work, and can make decisions on purchasing it. The editor stays with the author through the publication process, recommending revisions, giving final approval over the manuscript before acceptance.

Galleys: The line-edited, copy-edited version of your manuscript before it goes to print. Last chance for minor corrections, but no major overhauls should occur at this point.

Goal: Your character's most desired objective.

Hook: A device for grabbing reader's attention.

IRIS: The color photo-quality image of the book's cover art, spine and back cover copy.

Joint Accounting: The process where a publisher combines the sales of different books by one author in a royalty statement, requiring each book's advance to "earn out" before any additional royalties are paid on any other book

Manuscript: The typed version of your book.

Motivation: The reason your character is struggling so hard to achieve his or her goal.

Pacing: The speed at which the writer moves the reader through the story. Long passages of narrative slow pacing, while dialogue exchanges speed pacing. Note: The pacing of the book is not the same as the time covered in the story.

Partial: A set number of chapters (typically 3) requested by the publisher to evaluate a proposal.

POV: Point of View- whose head are you in during the scene? Most novels today are written in 3rd person (he saw, she did) vs. 1st person (I saw, I did) and most are in past tense (he did, she was) vs. present tense (he does, she is).

Print Run: The number of copies of the book the publisher will print for distribution. Typically a first-time author's print run is pre-determined according to the publisher's expectations for the book, while a more established author will have previous sales records to help determine the run.

Proposal: A package put together for the editor, including a synopsis of your book, plus a partial of the actual manuscript. Generally, first-time authors will only sell on complete manuscript, while subsequent sales are made on proposal.

Publisher: Company that purchases manuscript, prints it, and offers it for sale to the public.

Query: A brief (1 page) letter to an editor, pitching yourself and your manuscript. Should read something like a "back cover blurb" to succinctly grasp the essence of your work and make the editor want to read the synopsis.

Reserves: The amount of money the publisher "holds back" from an author's royalties, based on the assumption that booksellers will strip and return unsold books.

Rights: In a contract, typically the publisher is "buying" the ability to control the author's work for a set amount of time and for set purposes. Some contracts include rights for a number of years, for publication in various forums including print, print on demand, e-publishing. Some even include film rights, meaning the publisher has purchased the ability to negotiate with a Hollywood producer to film your story on your behalf, for a pre-determined percentage

Royalties: The money the author makes on a book. Typically, an agreed upon percentage of the cover price, based on book sales.

Scene: The key moments showing the characters progression through their story.

Sequel: A transition to link scenes, gives character the opportunity to react to what just happened and to prepare for what will happen in the next scene.

Synopsis: A brief (1 page per 10,000 ms. words) description of the plot of your book. Should be written in present tense, with as few character names as possible, should cover the turning points in your book and should include no dialogue. Designed to engage the editor's interest in your story, the synopsis should resolve all plot questions and must never leave an editor "hanging."

Tag: A device used by the author to let the reader know which character is speaking.

Turning Point: The times in your book when your characters change direction. The plot builds, your characters act or react to what is going on, and something occurs to send them in an unforeseen direction, bringing the reader along with them.

The Art of Writing

Writing Basics

What is a Synopsis?

Syn·op.sis - A brief outline or general view, as of a subject or written work; an abstract or a summary. [Late Latin, from Greek sunopsis, general view]

I. Synopsis ~

A. How to write a synopsis

Make sure your synopsis explains everything about your story. This isn't the place to 'leave them wanting more. The synopsis should be exciting and fast-paced to hold the editor/agent's interest. Tell the synopsis as if you were relating the story to a friend. Give an overview of the story, leaving out all the unimportant details.

Questions to ask and answer: Who are the characters?

What do they want and why can't they have it? Those are points to include no matter the genre.
If there's humor in the book, keep some of it for the synopsis. Use your "voice". The most important aspect of any synopsis is to show the characters' conflicts, external and internal. An editor wants to know if the conflict is strong enough to carry an entire novel.

Put the two characters and their internal conflicts right up front as a set-up. Then follow with their external conflict. Boil your book down to the characters, conflicts and motivations. If you're describing too much of what happens, rather than why, you're going to lose a busy editor's interest.

Internal conflict:

Start the first one or two paragraphs with a hook blurb. Then focus on the emotional conflict of your

Hero/Heroine. Don't include secondary characters unless absolute necessary, and just a brief mention at that. Keep it as brief as possible. Read the back covers of some of your favorite novels for your hook blurb.

Try to open with a hook sentence. Use active verbs and try to use words like "must" instead of "wants to" if a character MUST do something it's more compelling. Try to keep it in your own voice also. You're giving an overall view of what your story is about. Brief, catchy, and attention getting.

B. What's the proper synopsis length?

The length of the synopsis depends on what your targeted publishing house requires. Check before sending.

II. Submissions - First Impressions Do Last

A. Proper Manuscript format
1" Margins all the way around
Double spaced
25 lines per page
Easily read font - most common are Times New Roman 12 pt font & Courier New 12 pt font
Header with name, address, phone number, email address, website and page number
Chapters start midway down page

B. Word Counts

1. Is there a standard way to count words?
There are basically two methods: the page count method and the computer generated word count.

2. Computer word count:
On MS Word: Click Tools. Then Word Count.
On Word Perfect: Click File, Properties, Information Tab.

3. Page count method:
Once you have 25 lines per page (see below), each page should roughly contain 250 words.
Count the number of pages you have, multiply that by 250 and you'll have your word count

4. How do I get 25 lines per page?
ON MS WORD: Click Format. Click Paragraph. Click the Index/Spacing Tab. Under
spacing: Click on the Line Spacing drop down box. Select Multiple. A number will appear in
the box next to the drop down box. Highlight the number and input 1.9. Click OK. Then you'll have 25 lines per page.

2. Writing the query

1. How important are query letters?

The query letter opens the door. You want to sound like you know what you're talking about. Make sure the agent/editor WANTS something like yours. Make sure your query letter- in one sentence if possible- grabs the editor's attention. If you can't write a coherent, professional and catchy query, you may lose the editor/agent's interest before they even get around to looking at your story.

2. Who and How to Query?

Most publishers and agents have guidelines available for contact. You can find them at the RWA website for ones that are approved. Now you can goggle almost anyone so if you don't find what you're looking for on RWA site goggle the house you're looking for. Sometimes publishing houses have samples or tips available.

If you don't have an agent, make sure the publisher accepts unagented queries.

3. What Should I Include With My Query?

The query should be set up as follows:
HOOK -- your one-sentence log-line.
BLURB -- the condensed version of a back cover blurb
MARKET -- the tone, sub genre, length of your manuscript and what readership it might
appeal to
YOU -- one paragraph bio.

Different agents and editors prefer different methods. Some prefer just a letter, others prefer a short synopsis with the letter. Still others will accept sample chapters. If you're unsure based on their guidelines, call their office and double-check.

The necessities to include: the book you're pitching, maybe how long you've been writing and writing and affiliations.

If you don't have writing credentials, mention what you do for a living if it's pertinent to the
book Your "pitch" paragraph should include the major characters (hero and heroine), their goal,motivation and the conflict.

If you've won a contest or have experience relevant to your book, include that in a query, too. RWA membership is helpful.

Paragraph 1. The hook. A statement that catches the eye and intrigues the reader.

Paragraph 2. Three to five lines that summarize the story.

Paragraph 3. What it is, genre or subgenre, word count, the
audience it will appeal to.

Paragraph 4. Any biographical information that pertains to your novel. A line or two mentioning any contests, etc. you've won. Another line saying that you've enclosed a SASE, self addressed stamped postcard.

Most editors would also prefer a letter that has been addressed to them personally, not "to whom it may concern." Never give them a reason to put the page down.

No matter what, never make negative comments about other books in your comparison. This is a definite turn-off to most editors or agents. End the query with an offer to send your proposal to them at their request. Do not include comments made by friends or family about your manuscript. Keep it professional at all times. the title of the manuscript, its length, if it's finished, and what subgenre it falls into (historical, paranormal, The second paragraph should explain ( in only a few:) In the last paragraph, include any writing related credits you have. Have you been published in any other way? Newsletters? Magazines? Newspapers? Also include any respected writing organizations you are involved with (RWA for example) and any work you've done for it/them.

Close your letter with a thank you. And always include a SASE.

3. Examples of queries
Dear Editor/Agent:

I am seeking representation for my completed romance all about the art of writing, which is approximately 95,000 words and is ready for submission.

My first published work, The Color of trouble has garnered excellent reviews including The Emma Award. My second book the Wedding gown was chosen as a book club pick for black expressions, a subsidiary of Doubleday book club. I am currently a member of two critique groups, and the current president of the Windy City chapter of RWA. Please visit my website www.Dyannedavis. com for indications regarding my willingness to promote my work and actively participate in the marketing process.

Upon your request, I would be delighted to provide you with the partial or full manuscript for your consideration. I would like to thank you for your time and have enclosed a sase for your reply.


Dyanne Davis

Example from my agent's website on things that can help improve the quality of your manuscript.


"Sailing you one port closer to your dreams"

How To Improve Your Manuscript Submission


Use double-spacing and one-inch margins on all four sides. A 12-point Courier font is preferred by most editors.

Header: Your manuscript needs a header on each page. It should include the title, the author's name and the page number. (Note: If you prefer, the page number can be inserted at the bottom of the page.)

Because editors prefer to receive manuscripts that aren't bound, think what would happen if your 300-page manuscript fell off an editor's desk and lay scattered all over the floor. If there were no page numbers on the manuscript, the editor might reject it because you weren't professional enough to put page numbers on it.

Make sure your entire book flows smoothly. Try to eliminate any scattered thoughts. Avoid overuse of flashbacks.

A slow-moving beginning turns off agents and editors. Write a beginning hook to suck the reader in. Use action rather than narrative.

Sometimes there's too much information thrown into the first three chapters which bogs
down an otherwise great manuscript. The information in the first few chapters must be necessary to the story. The correct pacing is essential.

A rushed ending. As a writer comes to the end of the manuscript, it's easy to finish fast. The danger may be that the ending comes much too soon. The pacing at the end of the manuscript has to match the rest of the book.

The climax is resolved too easily. Be sure to tie up all loose ends that have drifted throughout your story.

Double-check for grammatical errors, such as misspelled or repeated words and sentence structure.

Using unusual words more than once in your entire manuscript. A reader will remember them and be pulled out of the story if you repeat them.


The improper use of the word -- its. It's is NOT possessive. It's means: It is. (A contraction) Never, never is an apostrophe used in its to show possession.

Correct: Its paw. Its nose. Its leg. Its house.

Incorrect: It's paw. It's nose. It's leg. It's house. You are saying: It is paw. It is nose. It is leg. It is house.
* * *
Commas: A compound sentence is made up of two independent sentences (they stand alone). Each contain a subject (noun or pronoun) and a predicate (a verb). Use a comma when they are joined by and, but, or, or nor.

Correct: We (subject) went (predicate) to the store, and we (subject) bought (predicate) a loaf of bread.

Exception: You do not need a comma if the sentence is short.

A simple sentence is made up of an independent clause and a dependent clause. A dependent clause contains only a verb (no subject) and is dependent on the independent clause (see above) in the sentence for the subject. The independent clause stands alone. (It would make a separate sentence if used by itself.)

Correct: We (subject) went (predicate) to the store and bought (predicate) a loaf of bread. (Notice how the dependent clause depends on the independent clause for the subject of the sentence.)

Exception: If the author wishes to separate or accentuate the dependent clause, it is perfectly fine to add a comma. Also, if you is understood in what looks like a dependent clause, a comma is needed.
* * *
The 2001 rule for use of the word: too.
Correct: We went to the circus too.
Incorrect: We went to the circus, too.
* * *
Toward is preferred over towards.
* * *
Sentences beginning with if, when, although, before, after, where, etc., must have a comma at the end of the clause.
Correct: When we go to Florida, we will go swimming.
Correct: Before we go to the movie, we'll have dinner somewhere nice.
Correct: If he goes, I'm staying home.
Incorrect: When the time comes I'll probably change my mind.
* * *
Overuse of the word: that
Read, and then read again, all sentences which contain the word "that." Many, many times "that" can be omitted, or the word "which" can be substituted. Sometimes, however, "that" is necessary and must remain in the sentence.

That not needed: I'm certain that you understand everything I'm trying to say.
Better way: I'm certain you understand everything I'm trying to say.
NOTE: Only by reading the sentence out loud and concentrating on it, will you be able to delete all unnecessary usage of the word, that. HINT: Use the "find" for locating all of the times you used "that" in your manuscript.
* * *
Contractions: Sprinkle contractions throughout your manuscript in dialog, inner monologue and narrative. You will notice how the words flow better immediately. NOTE: We talk using contractions, therefore, your characters should too.
Too stiff: "I am going to leave now," she said. "And when I come back, you had better have all your work finished. If you do not, then we will not go to the movie."
Better way: "I'm going to leave now," she said. "And when I come back, you'd better have all your work finished. If you don't, then we won't go to the movie." (Sounds natural.)
* * *
Name Dropping: Be sure not to keep repeating a character's name over and over in a paragraph or even on a page. When more than one character appears in a scene, it's sometimes necessary to repeat names.
Bad: Susan jumped off the sofa and lunged for the phone. Susan caught it on the second ring. It had to be Harry calling. Susan couldn't wait to tell him her exciting news.
Better: Susan jumped off the sofa and lunged for the phone. She caught it on the second ring. It had to be Harry calling. She couldn't wait to tell him her exciting news.
NOTE: The above examples are very basic. Read different pages of your manuscript and see how many times you use the character's name. Then substitute she/he in place of the proper name. You'll be amazed at how much better it flows.
* * *

There is no room for bad dialogue in a good manuscript. Example:
"Hi, how are you today?"
"I'm fine. How are you?"
"Better today. I was sick yesterday."
"That's too bad. I'm glad you're better.
"I've gotta go now. Bye."
NOTE: The above is conversation, not dialogue.
Dialogue's only purpose is to move the story along. If it doesn't, and it sounds like conversation, DELETE IT. Try not to have a character answer a question directly. It's better to answer a question with a question or to refer to something else.
* * *
Purple Prose: Being redundant. Incorrect sentence structure. These are all bad.
Using too many adjectives and adverbs. Strong writing demands strong nouns and verbs. A verb can be either active or passive. Always choose "active" voice whenever possible.
A noun is put to best use when it paints a definite picture of what you're trying to say.
Example: The black and white spotted (all adjectives) dog jumped to his seat on the big, red, noisy (all adjectives) truck.
Better: The Dalmatian jumped to his seat on the fire truck.
Note how the use of the word, "Dalmatian," paints a vivid picture in your mind. You know instantly what the writer is trying to show you.
* * *
Use past tense, unless you're writing literary fiction.
* * *
Viewpoints: It's difficult to develop your characters when you use 1st person viewpoint because you can't get inside any of their heads except the character telling the story. Consider this before starting to write in this viewpoint.

3rd person viewpoint is better. However, beginning writers have a tendency to jump around into everyone's viewpoint. If you're a best selling author, you can rewrite all the rules. If you're not, the best way to develop your characters is stay in one or two viewpoints throughout your manuscript.

A "camera" viewpoint does not allow you to develop your characters either. It's very distracting to be in the main character's head, and all of a sudden, you realize the writer, without warning, has tossed you inside someone else's head. Sometimes it's even a secondary character. And the biggest "no-no" of all is when the writer gets inside everyone's head that appears in the scene.
Pick one viewpoint and stick with it. Your writing will be stronger, and your characters will breathe. Change viewpoints only when it's important to the story. It is common for the hero and heroine's viewpoints to be used in romance books.

NOTE: The opinions in this section are those of 3 Seas Literary Agency. Another agent or editor may disagree with some or all of them.

Workshop: The Naked Writer


The Naked Writer is actually the title of my book that came out last year. The book has little to do with the business of writing, except that to engage in this business (that is, to sell), we must write well—and correctly. The book covers grammar, punctuation, and other essential writing style issues, and is both meant to be read and to be referred to, frequently. The excerpt below relates to writing in an economical style.

Yet because today is about the business of writing per se, I’ve added an article (not from this book) that explains how to query agents by email. Read through article one, please, and then, the second piece is for dessert. Bon appetite.--gmh

A Penny a Word—You Pay

GMH: What common style mistake bugs you the most?

Phyllis Grann, vice-chair, Random House, New York: The use of unnecessary words.

Writers being paid by the word say that instead of “bang,” they might write “bang, bang, bang” for gunshots. That’s really a joke—sort of. While often the length of a story or article is fixed by guidelines, and a flat fee is paid, sometimes writers do get paid by the word, even today. But any writer imagining that adding unnecessary words to a piece is a good idea isn’t the writer who is going to sell the story or article. And that’s the long of way of saying that the best writing is economical writing. How many words should the story or article be? As many as telling the story takes, but not a single word more.

Instead of being paid a penny a word, five cents a word, or a dollar a word—and all these are legitimate current pay scales, to be sure—imagine that you will have to pay for every word you put on the page. Use what you need, but be a little bit parsimonious in your word use. Like every good householder or starving artist, consider your budget.

Keep in mind, too, that most publishers aren’t looking for a first book that runs 160,000 words, because they have to account for printing costs, paper prices, and the storage charge for maintaining inventory in a warehouse somewhere. Thus the words allotted to a just hatched author won’t be unlimited.

And if you’re seeking to market pieces to a magazine or newspaper, start on the abbreviated side in that realm as well. Try placing a letter to the editor, then sell small fillers until the editors know your name and see that you have some command of the language along with a few ideas worth setting into type.

As for your short story lengths, make your short fiction reasonably short. An editor trying to fill a magazine with a variety of pieces for an issue isn’t really likely to buy a 10,000 word story—again, especially from an author whose name isn’t a draw.

So when counting words in a work, less may actually be more, but, really, use all the words that you need in order to write the piece optimally. As a matter of style, though, ditch the words not required to express the ideas, and be properly clear and rhythmical while you’re at it.

Here are some examples:

Extra words: But I wanted to get an idea of the lay of the land.

Trimmed: But I wanted to get the lay of the land.

As you write, as well as when you edit your own writing, you need to stay alert for words that aren’t required and to cull them out. This is still another automatic mental habit you want to form as a writer.

Extra words: “We are waiting for only two more people at our table, so why don't you have a seat?”

Trimmed: “We’re waiting for only two more, so please join us.”

Express the idea. And when writing fiction, express the idea as the character would. But rarely will you need to go on at great length.

Extra words: His headlights reflecting off the wet pavement made it difficult to spot all the potholes, and his unmarked department vehicle bounced uncomfortably along.

Trimmed: His unmarked vehicle bounced along the wet blacktop, making him curse.

One thing we want to think about when writing is how much description a bit of business actually deserves. How important, for instance, is the setting? How important are the details? If the setting and details aren’t important, then don’t include a lot of extras. We’re living in an age of impatient readers. Cut back on description; sketch in background material.

On the other hand, you might want to include very specific details, such as the name of a street or an area of the city, even the make of the car. Details help to fill in the picture and to add color, while not actually taking that many words. Do we think the writer who created the above knows Detroit? No. Specific details will make our readers trust us more.

Pithy but with detail: His unmarked DPD vehicle bounced over the wet blacktop alongside Kronk Recreation Center, making him curse.

Okay, two Detroiters—what did I say wrong? Email me at for your (small) prize. Only two! I’m going broke here.

Where’s the Beef?

In addition to being efficient in wording, let’s try packing both our articles and our fiction with interesting information. If you don’t have that, even in fiction, you don’t have anything. You have air. If you give us only air (a lot of nothing), at least give us blank pages where we can rest our eyes. Don’t bother us with the dinning nuisance of more words in an overly wordy universe.

Too gabby: I’m Finally Out of School—Now What? is designed to provide down-to-earth, helpful advice as you begin this next phase of your life. Many of the subjects we’ll cover are things most people out in the world take for granted, but you might not yet have encountered the reality of having to deal with such everyday circumstances.

Cut to the chase: I’m Finally Out of School—Now What? will cover many aspects of everyday life that people living on their own for the first time will need to understand.

Don’t equivocate

The best writing is forceful and direct, but often writers are so eager to pinpoint an exact concept—90 percent of this, but 10 percent of that—that they water down the sentence by equivocating.

Wishy washy: He had seemingly disappeared into thin air.

Direct: He had disappeared into thin air.

The reader knows he didn’t actually disappear into thin air, but that something untoward probably happened to him. Yes, I just equivocated by the use of the word “probably,” and that’s because he might have engineered his own disappearance. I’m not entirely against equivocation, you see, but I want to bring the consideration to mind.

Often we use extra words to waffle on one point or another. We might ask ourselves if we really should introduce that wiggle room for a statement, diminishing the strength of the idea and the sentence itself.

Here’s the bonus for reading the above. Don’t cheat, guys.

Want to Query by Email? Ahhh, Yes.

Seventy-five percent of all Americans are online. Some of us are online 75 percent of the time.

Many agents prefer to hear initially from authors via email. They like email inquiries for the same reason authors like them—ease of use. Agents who receive email queries can respond quickly while in the office. But usually they prefer to carry partials and full manuscripts home at night or to their summer beach house in the Hamptons (that’s a sort of joke based on a common misperception, since not all agents or editors earn enough money for those fabled long summer weekends).

Most writers prefer to query by way of email. Certainly it’s cheaper. Of course not all agents want email queries and something can be said about a paper query, which makes a nicer presentation, especially if you use a decent sheet of paper for the letter rather than the usual white bulk.

If you want to query by email, check the agent webpage first, or a listing in something like The Literary Marketplace to see if the agency will take an email pitch. (Try for information on agent preferences, too.) You should keep track of outgoing and incoming on these email queries and if you don’t get a response after a few weeks, try sending the query by way of snail mail. Or you can take the lack of reply as a signal that the agent has no interest. If that’s your approach, you don’t even have to track your responses. I know that sounds terrible, but, at the same time, if you aren’t good at the bookkeeping end, this is a legitimate way to do business when you’re sending more than a handful of email queries.

I’m friendly with an agent who doesn’t use email, and I must say, if I want to contact her quickly just to say a word or two, her not having email access is pretty inconvenient. If she were my agent, I wouldn’t care for that at all. Not that the agent’s use of email is a guarantee that any particular agent will answer you, even if you’ve signed with him. Agents ignore emails as well as phone calls when they feel like it. However, if they do respond, email is simply easier, and that’s why some authors will only sign with an author’s rep who feels comfortable with email communication, and who takes initial email queries.

However, someone pointed out to me that just because an agent doesn’t take an email query doesn’t mean she doesn’t use email to communicate with her actual clients, so at some point during your conversation with an agent, after a snail mail initial contact, you might ask. Or, in fact, some snail mail inquiries will be responded to by email—so include your email address.

And be aware that numerous agencies actually refuse snail mail queries—they’ll say so on their websites, if that’s the case.

Another thing you can do with email queries is to ask for a “read receipt” so that you at least know if the agent opened the email and looked. I personally don’t respond to “read receipts,” but that’s because I generally answer my email pretty speedily and don’t want to be bothered first acknowledging receipt.

Another benefit of email queries is that many times replies will come very quickly—that very day, possibly. Even an offer of representation can come within a day or two if the agent is really interested and will take the manuscript in electronic form. Someone told me, in fact, that in getting his book deal with a mainstream publisher, he never printed out a single page of paper. Not only did his agent respond electronically, so did the editor.

Sometimes if the agent or publisher will accept a submission of the actual writing by email, he/she will ask for a PDF file—that is, a file created by Adobe Acrobat. What you can do is go to and get your file turned into a PDF file as a free offer. Otherwise, you can buy the program outright, which is a bit expensive, or lease the program on a yearly basis.

Actually, more and more agents have been requesting emailed files of partials and many prefer PDF files, since they can’t be changed, and this sort of assures the story won’t be “stolen” (which it won’t be, anyway). Another reason for this format is that the editor may want to read on a PDA or laptop, and she may prefer reading in PDF.
You can also go to a search engine and ask for "free conversion to PDF" to find other software that converts files unto PDF.

Other than that, if you’re asked to cut and paste some of your writing into the email, you might want to save your word processing document as plain text and then cut and paste from there to avoid format oddities. Another way to approach this cut and paste problem is to switch off the html setting on your email. Save the email as a draft. Open it again and make corrections. Strange things can happen to email as it transmits and you want to make the material as readable as possible.

One agent tells me she answers all her email queries, but that if a spam blocker is on, she won’t take another step to get her response through to the author. What should you do if you’re the author with the aggressive spam blocker on your email? Set up an email address with Yahoo or Hotmail and do all your agent mailing from that address. That should work.

For a free PDF program, go to

G. Miki Hayden teaches at the Writer’s Digest online school. She’s an award winning fiction writer who has been praised by the NYTimes. Miki writes about writing in The Naked Writer and a prior well-received book, Writing the Mystery.


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Thursday, August 30, 2007


Welcome to the fifth day of the conference.

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How The Conference Works

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Panel Discussion: Self Publishing - Shani Greene-Dowdell, Anna Dennis, Alethea M Pascascio, Barbara Williams, Evelyn Palfrey, Rose Beavers, Dara Girard, Carmen Leal, Rhonda Jackson Joseph, Linda Beed

Do you have a self published book?

**Please remember to post your questions by 4pm central time.**



Prayer Room


Day 4

Day 3



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Fabulous 40
Patricia W
Sean Young
Sherryle Jackson
Linda Wattley
The write stuff

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1 one year subscriptions Hope for Women magazine
LaTara Ham-Ying

2 copies of
Veil of Fire
Marlo Schalesky

The Pastors' Wife Does Cry" (2) Christian Memoir
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A Hole in My Heart (2) Christian/teens and adults
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Reclaiming Nick
Susan May Warren

Happily Ever After
Susan May Warren

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Linda F. Beed

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Be Encouraged
Lynn Emery

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The Father's Voice(2)
Joanna Bradford

First Mates(2)

Reluctant Burglar
Jill Nelson

Reluctant Runaway
Jill Nelson

Panel Discussion: Self Publishing

Shani Greene-Dowdell, Anna Dennis, Alethea M Pascascio, Barbara Williams, Evelyn Palfrey, Rose Beavers, Dara Girard, Carmen Leal, Rhonda Jackson Joseph, Linda Beed

Do you have a self published book?

Tell us about your self published book.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Welcome to the fourth day of the conference.

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Panel Discussion: Inspirational Writing - CBA vs ABA - Dee Stewart, Nikki Arana, Marilynn Griffith, Susan May Warren, Marlo Schalesky, Shelia Lipsey, Cecelia Dowdy, Stacy Hawkins Adams, Tia McCollors

Panel: Meet the Editor - Joylynn M. Jossel - Executive Editor Urban Christian
Karen Ball - Senior Acquisitions Editor, FictionB&H Publishing Group

Workshop: The Spiritual Thread: Bondage or Blessing? - Host: Susan May Warren

Workshop: Children’s Writing: The Basics

Workshop: Tips for Pleasing an Editor

**Please remember to post your questions by 4pm central time.**



Prayer Room





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Discussion: Inspirational Writing


Dee Stewart, Nikki Arana, Marilynn Griffith, Susan May Warren, Marlo Schalesky, Shelia Lipsey, Cecelia Dowdy, Stacy Hawkins Adams, Tia McCollors

PANEL: Meet the Editor


Joylynn M. Jossel - Executive Editor Urban Christian
Karen Ball - Senior Acquisitions Editor, Fiction B&H Publishing Group

WORKSHOP: Weaving in a Spiritual thread

Dear Susan,

“Wow you've done it again! That book was fantastic. You have a way of developing believable characters that suck you into the story as if you where there. I can relate to your characters like a really "good" Sunday sermon. I don't know why or how, but your books have stirred in me a new sense of faith. Your messages have hit home and I am seeking my place with God, and how I fit into the picture in his eyes.” From Reader Melissa E.

I love those kind of letters! People often ask me what I write – my answer (because I’m all over the place in genre!) is - I write Novels with a Christian World View. But inside, I’m really wanting to say – I write 4 dimensional stories. I believe that with Christian fiction, because it deals with not only the physical and emotional sides of a character, but also the spiritual side, we are getting a “full-bodied” view of a character. More than that, however, we also get a glimpse inside the “4th” dimension – the Great Plot, which is God at work to draw people to Himself. I strive to write the deeper story, the one that changes lives.

But I don’t want the spiritual plot to be so thick that it strangles my reader. I want it to intrigue, to draw my reader deeper, to allow them to look at the issues and wrestle with them without feeling as though they are told what to believe and think. If the spiritual thread is so thickly woven that they find themselves entangled, even strangling, then the book isn’t a fiction story – but a non-fiction dissertation.

But each writer is different, just as each Christian is different. So, how do we weave in a spiritual thread that enhances the story, and blesses the reader?

1. First, you want to define your thickness of yarn…What kind of spiritual depth are you going to put into your story? What are comfortable reading, yourself? Are you the kind of reader who enjoys seeing the spiritual epiphany drawn out for you? Or would you rather read an allegory, and discuss the deeper meaning over a venti decaf latte?

Consider the different degrees of “spirituality” offered by today’s hottest CBA authors:

Ted Dekker – His themes – ie, the inner struggle between light and darkness, or even a study of the book of Romans -- are embedded in his plots without even mentioning scripture. But they allegory can’t be missed, and thus, the message that much more profound.

Brock and Bodie Theone – Writer’s of Biblical fiction (as well as historical fiction) tell stories of Christians caught in dark times, and their characters lead by example.

Francine Rivers -- Who doesn’t want to be like Hadassah? (Mark of the Lion series?) More than that, her books, sprinkled with scripture, are about people just like us, who struggle, and win. She helps us see the trust through the eyes of her characters.

Dee Henderson – Master writer Dee draws us in with her thematic plots, the angst of her heroic-yet-flawed characters, and allows us to see hwo scripture, in the hands of saved friends, works to redeem.

Frank Peretti – He’s a master of taking us “behind the veil” to the spiritual battles waging around us, letting us decide which side we want to be on.

My personal bent – I believe scripture is the catalyst that changes people. I like to weave in one particular verse that I hinge the entire story on, and let it redeem the mind and hearts of my characters.

So, now you know what kind of story you want to write – now, how tight is your weave and where do you start working it into your story?

Obviously, as in all stories, you want to start with a story question – and the same thing goes for the spiritual thread. Whether is it a story about a man fighting his own demons of sin (Dekker: Three), or a woman facing her husband’s career as a pastor (Rivers: Shofar Blew), your character will begin in a place of spiritual unrest. Defining that for the reader, through metaphor, or dialogue or situation will give you a place to go, spiritually.

2. But how do you discover your character’s spiritual darkness? I begin with a simple interview. Ask your character what the major catalysts for change were in his/her life, and how did that mold his spiritual thinking? Did he/she have any God moments as a child? What was his/her darkest moment in their lives and how has that affected their worldview today? What now keeps them from walking with God? The key is to discover where they are spiritually.

3. Then, you need to ask them what holds them back from a relationship with God? Try and boil it down to one sentence.

i.e. in my book Happily Ever After, my heroine, Mona needed to trust God and forgive herself (accept God’s forgiveness). My hero, Joe needed to forgive his father.

Ie, in Francine River’s book, Redeeming Love – Angel needed to accept God’s unconditional love and forgiveness, and then see Hosea as God’s instrument to love her.

Once you’ve discovered their spiritual state, and what they need, then you can move onto their journey.

Your character is most likely beginning in a place of reluctant contentment spiritually. They may not like their worldview, but it’s all they have. However, in stories, as in life, God will bring someone to their darkest moment so that His light shines brightest. He wants people to reach up and grab a hold of him, and this is what your character should do. Your job is to plot their spiritual demise. The point is to bring them to their darkest moment, when they want to give up and they have no where else to turn.

I’ve used, for years, what I call, the D’s. (For more information on the “D’s” pick up “Getting into character” by Brandilyn Collins)

Desire – What is your character’s spiritual desire? Or need?

Distancing – What has caused this need?

Denial – What deepens their need?

Destruction – What brings them to a place where they are despondent.

Desolation – Based on their spiritual needs, what breaks them?

Delight – Using scripture, or some other verse, metaphor, hymn, song, conversation, etc what can restore them with a Biblical truth?

Let’s see how this works in a secular book, and how the story might have been adapted for the Christian market.

In The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, the heroine is overwhelmed with her upcoming wedding. She’s afraid, and she doesn’t know why. Her mother’s friends, the Ya Yas, know why and they kidnap her to help her sort through it. It’s all very traumatic for her, and at one point during the unraveling of history, she wants to give up. She calls her fiancé and calls off the wedding. However, the Ya Yas persist, and through her father and the Ya Yas, faith in marriage and relationships is restored. And finally her relationship with her mother is restored. If this was a “Novel with a Christian World view”, at the darkest moment, she would have realized that only a relationship with God won’t fail her, that He will give her the strength to mend the broken past. She might still need the support of the Ya Yas and her father, (and in the end, there is a sort of “spiritual” commitment), but this is how you’d incorporate the spiritual nature into your story. (Now, before I get a lot of letters – I loved the book, I’m just using it as an example!)

Now that we know our character’s spiritual journey, how do we weave in the truth to help them find their way? Here are some hints I’ve discovered:

a. Stick to one central color (truth). One verse, or one passage, one song, one line from the song. Don’t do the buckshot method of sowing the seeds…pick your ammo and aim well. Some possible ways of communicating the theme/truth/message:

songs (hymns or other songs)
sayings (quotes they read, hear….could be anywhere – graffiti, on a menu, on a bus, on the radio…)
a wise friend, relative, pastor. Even something someone says in passing. (a fisherman? A store clerk? In Happily Ever After, I used the director of a group home)
Confrontation – an argument with another character that surfaces a truth, an accusation, or a dilemma.
A memory, jogged by a memento.
A letter, or journal entry.
I’ve also used landscape, weather, even animals to convey a truth. (Karen Kingsbury used an eagle in A Time to Dance.)

b. Be consistent with the weave: Make sure you show your character’s ability to change.

Ie, in Happily Ever After, Joe WANTS to forgive his father for the crimes of the past, but he’s not sure if it is worth it. I give him a glimpse of the “fruit” of forgiveness by having him go fishing with his brother, and seeing the simple joy he can have in that.

Ie, in Redeeming Love, the heroine, Angel, wants to love her husband, Hosea, and each time she runs away from him, it is a little bit harder.

How can you show your character is willing to change?

1. Show their Desire for change. Simply an awareness of emptiness. Perhaps a longing, something he sees in another person, or where he was and fell from.

2. Apply Pressure Points that show his spiritual emptiness, through friends, memories, failures.

--ie, in HEA Joe, gets a letter from his father and wishes he could have their old relationship. He begins to enjoy his brother’s company, and his brother’s example of forgiveness causes him to be ashamed of his own behavior. Also, he falls for the heroine, but because of his walls and spiritual fears, is unable to commit to her, despite his deepest desire.

The epiphany – How do we weave in the epiphany, or “Ah Ha!” moment? There are many kinds of epiphanies -- Gradual “light” turning on, naturally, over time. A series of small changes lead to the big change until they finally stand in a place where their destructive behavior might be repeated and they see their change (or have someone see the change for them).

The “Big Bang!” method. Suddenly, the character is at his/her lowest point, and things they’ve seen/heard/learn along the journey flood back to them and they get it. Have them make a change of behavior in that moment, a different decision than they would normally make.
The Reader Ah-ha Method. This is where the character’s don’t realize their change, but we as the reader see it. (Often in an allegory). At the end, often the character does something that they would have never done in the beginning, to illustrate this change.

The Oh No, am I like HIM? Method. In this scenario, the hero/heroine sees themselves in reality and how much they are like the villain, or someone he despises. This jolts them into change.

Some tricks of the trade –

Don’t make the change too easy. Have them fight it. (C’mon, how many of us embrace our faults?)

Don’t use too many devices, (and don’t use coincidences!) Have something pop out at them when they are reading, or listening to a song. Instead of having something jolt them, have them embrace understanding from something they hear.

Let the reader see the change…validate their changed life through a changed behavior, decision, words.

But what if I’m halfway into a book and I’ve lost my spiritual thread? To keep the fabric of your spiritual story from unraveling, simply stop in every few chapters and start your chapter with a question to your character – what do you think God is doing in your life? How do you feel about God? What has been happening around you that makes you uncomfortable spiritually?

You might even have to take another look at your theme – is your character leading you to a new place where you might have to tighten your spiritual plotline? Refine it further? Maybe (like in real life!) your character is going to learn something you didn’t expect! Be flexible and go with the story. Trying to keep a story too tightly inside the “confines” of your theme can make it seem contrived and even unrealistic.

Writing the spiritual thread for a story will deepen your story, allow your readers to participate in the character’s spiritual journey, and hopefully, they’ll walk away with a deeper understanding how God might work in their lives, also.

Exercises to consider:

Pick a character, from a current wip, or from a favorite book or movie and

Write a spiritual journal for him
Do a “D” chart
jot down an idea for an epiphany moment (and tell the technique used)

Susan May Warren is the award-winning, best-selling author of novels and novellas with Tyndale, Barbour and Steeple Hill, including Happily Ever After, a Christy award finalist in 2004, and In Sheep’s Clothing in 2006, and Everything’s Coming up Josey, a 2007 Christy Award Finalist. She won the ACRW/ACFW Book of the Year award in the suspense/romance category in 2003 and 2004, and the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award in 2006, and 2007. Susan currently has over 500,000 books in print. A seasoned women’s events speaker and writing teacher, she’s taught at the American Christian Fiction Writer’s conference for the past three years on topics ranging from incorporating spiritual threads into story to plotting, to the 2006 Beginning Writer’s Track. She also runs a fiction editing service, training writers how to tell a great story. After serving for eight years with her husband and four children as missionaries in Khabarovsk, Far East Russia she now writes full-time while her husband runs a hotel on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota. Visit her online at:


Fon James
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Final Draft
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Call It What You Want
Rhonda Jackson Joseph

Backroom Confessions (2) Drama/Contemp
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Sex on the Second Floor (2) Erotica
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The ins and outs of the fashion industry- from a fashion insider
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Where Souls Collide
Stefanie Worth

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The Aura of Love
Kathy J Marsh

In HOT Pursuit, If you stop chasing him; maybe he'll start chasing you!(3)
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Can I Get An Amen Again
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Purple Heart
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PDF of Treasures Antique Store
Regan Taylor

WORKSHOP: Children’s Writing: The Basics

Children’s Writing: The Basics

A Workshop by G. Francis Johnson

Hello fellow children’s writers!

My name is Gail Johnson (the name you see above is my pen name). I was born in Derby, England in 1955 – the same year that Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California and that the board game Scrabble debuted. Maybe that’s why I find writing for children so natural. I have written for Highlights for Children and was a finalist for the 2002 SCBWI/Judy Blume Contemporary Novel Grant for my middle grade story, Isabelle’s Garden. In Fall 2004, my first picture book, Has Anybody Lost A Glove?, was published by Boyds Mills Press.

I live with my two sons in Abingdon, Maryland, where I continue to write stories for children to love.


Children’s writing is one of the most rewarding forms of writing. A well-written children’s story will stay with the reader into adulthood and be passed on from generation to generation. Many think that if they can write adults, they can write for children easily. That all one need do is “dumb-down” the language for a child to understand. Fortunately, writing for children is more complex (children are smart!) and requires not only writing skill but also thorough knowledge how such stories are constructed.

Two things I’ll mention at the outset that can improve your children’s writing:

Read children’s books – I cannot emphasize this enough especially for new children’s book writers. It’s amazing how many people who write for children will say that they never read children’s books yet this is the best way to study how successful children’s books are constructed. I know of one workshop where the participants are required to read 100 picture books (not as bad as it sounds since picture books are usually less than 1000 words). The workshop leader does this because she realizes the importance of understanding how picture books work.
Observe children – This may be easier for some than for others. When my children were younger it was easy because I could watch them and their friends any time I wanted. Now I have to be more creative. The easiest way is to go to a park or attend a child’s birthday party. When I worked in the church nursery on Sundays I got an intimate look at kids’ behavior. However you do it this is a wonderful way to hear children’s dialogue and possibly get an idea for your next story.

Types of Children’s Books

Children’s books have different categories and characteristics based on age group and reading level. In some instances the age groups overlap.

Board Books: These are, for many children, their first introduction to books. They are made for the very young, age 6 months – 2 years, and are made of sturdy cardboard to make it easy to turn the pages and to protect them from damage. Board books are very simple in concept and have very few (25-50) or no words. They are tough to sell to publishers who usually create them in-house as tie-ins to TV shows, movies or existing works.

Picture Books: Usually when writers think of doing a children’s book, this is the kind of book to which they gravitate. A picture book (PB), as the name implies, is primarily made up of pictures; vivid images that help children aged 4-8 understand the words in the story. For that reason, your story must offer at least 12-14 picture “opportunities” otherwise it won’t work as a PB. A PB is one of the most challenging children’s books to write because you must tell your complete story, with a solid beginning, middle and ending, in 1,000 words or less (usually more like 500-800). There are exceptions to this rule, for instance, the picture storybook (1,200- 2,000 words) which is for a slightly older age group and generally harder to sell. By the way, if you have a rhyming picture book make sure the rhyme is solid and flows smoothly. Read rhyming PB’s to see what I mean. Also, contrary to popular belief, unless you are self-publishing you do not need to find an illustrator; the publisher will choose the one they feel is best for your story. If you are an accomplished illustrator, you can submit illustrations with your story however, it’s best to submit only one or the other initially.

Easy Readers: These books are for children just beginning to read. They are usually 2,500 to 5,000 words made up of short sentences with simple vocabularies and simple (yet involving) plots. They often have pictures, but less than a PB.

Early Chapter Books: These introduce children aged 7-10 to books divided into chapters. Word counts vary considerably—5,000 to 25,000 words (usually 15,000 or less). The subjects often focus on family, school, and humor (think Captain Underpants).

Middle Grade Novels: For children aged 8-12, this is considered the “Golden Age of Reading.” These books require a strong hero or heroine that children can identify with who is able to solve they own conflicts. Middle Grade novels are often historical. Word counts are variable; the story dictates the length.

Young Adult Novels: These books are generally as long as adult novels but with subjects of interest to teens. These days YA books are quite edgy dealing with serious subjects matter. Again, your protagonist should be someone teens can relate to.

Magazine Articles – Toddlers 10-50 words; Preschoolers 100-800 words; Grade school 400-2,300 words, Teens 750-2,500 words. Articles and stories are short and lively; non-fiction is tightly focused. You should read a few copies of the magazine you’re interested in publishing in to get an idea of its editorial focus. Check their writing guidelines (either online or write for them).

I’ve highlighted mainly fiction here but any of the guidelines above can apply to non-fiction as well. In fact, there is a very lively market for non-fiction books and articles so you may want to consider taking this route to publication.

Critique Groups

When I sent my manuscript for Has Anybody Lost A Glove? for Lee & Low’s New Voices Award, I thought it was ready—it wasn’t. What helped me tremendously was my online critique group. They were able to point out areas of weakness in my story that I was unable to see. I give them a lot of credit with helping to make my story publishable. Not every critique group will be that effective. When seeking a critique group it’s nice to have a mix of published and non-published authors, however, the main thing is that you get feedback that is substantive not shallow.


I often get the question from aspiring children’s writers, “Do I need an agent?” Well, that depends. I, and many other authors I know, was able to get published without an agent. Many publishers will accept unsolicited manuscripts; you discover this by studying their writing guidelines (to be discussed below). Other publishers, mainly the larger houses (Random House, Scholastic, etc.) may only accept submissions from agents or published authors. In my opinion, if you can submit to publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts, especially at the outset, do so to avoid paying a percentage to an agent. Once you’re more established and have more books under your belt, it may behoove you to acquire an agent who can help target your submissions and negotiate your contracts.

Choosing the Right Publisher

This to me is one of the most important decisions you can make with regard to your writing. If you do not have an agent it’s up to you to decide which publisher is best for your manuscript. You don’t want to send your middle grade novel to a publisher that only does non-fiction or submit your edgy YA to a house that only does picture books. I credit my thorough research of publishers with selling my book to the first house I submitted to. There are various ways in which you can determine where to send your manuscript.

Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market

The Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market (CWIM) is published annually and is probably the most comprehensive guide not only for publishers’ guidelines and contacts but for great advice for the aspiring children’s writer. Its only drawback is that because it is published annually it doesn’t reflect changes that occur during the year in the highly volatile world of publishing.

Publishers Catalogs/Websites

Catalogs and websites are probably the best way to see what types of books a particular house publishes. The information included here is usually up-to-date and reliable. You will often find the publishers submission guidelines on their website but not always. In some cases you’ll need to send a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) for their guidelines and/or catalog.

Publisher’s Weekly

Twice a year (Spring and Fall), Publisher’s Weekly has issues that focus on children’s writing and lists upcoming titles being released that season. This is another useful way to see what types of books are being released by a particular publisher.

Other Sources

Go to the library and look for books like yours to see who publishes them; also, search Amazon. Not only will you find out who’s publishing what but you’ll find out how many other books are out there like yours which will give you an idea of likelihood of your story’s being picked up.

Preparing Your Manuscript for Submission

Once you’ve determined that your manuscript is ready to face the world don’t ruin your chances by sending a sloppy submission. In general, your manuscript should be on plain, white paper, 1 – 1 ½ inch margins all around, double-spaced, in a readable font (12 pt., Times Roman or Courier). Include your name and contact information in the upper left corner and your approximate word count in the upper right corner on the first page. In the middle of the first page type the title and author’s name. For a comprehensive guide to manuscript format go to

For virtually all submissions you will need a cover letter. Keep it clear and concise. Avoid hyping your book or yourself. Editors only want a brief description of your story and relevant information about you. Again, a great guide to cover letters can be found here:

For longer works and non-fiction you’ll usually need to submit a query letter before you send your manuscript. This is merely a way to find out if the publisher wants to see your work. It saves the publisher time by giving them a brief summary that hopefully will pique their interest for more. Here’s a guide for writing query letters:

I generally send all my submissions in a 9x11 envelope with a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE). Make sure you include enough postage for the size of your manuscript. Some authors include a postcard where the person who receives the manuscript can indicate that it was received and when and just pop it back to you in the mail. This way would know that your manuscript has reached its destination.

Exclusive vs. Multiple Submissions

Depending on the publisher, it can often take months to find out if they want—or don’t want—your story. (Glove took six months and my latest rejection took longer than that.) To shorten the waiting period, some writers do multiple submissions, that is, sending their manuscript to more than one publisher at a time. Before you do this, be certain to check the publishers’ guidelines; some do not accept multiple submissions. They don’t want to deal with the possibility having to compete with another publisher for your story. Those that do accept multiple submissions prefer to be notified; you would include this information in your cover letter.

Additional Resources

Here are a few resources to help you along in your writing journey. This list is by no means exhaustive but it will get you started on finding more resources of your own.

Writer’s organizations

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) –

National Writers Union –

Author’s Guild –


SCBWI annual conferences (see website above)

Chautauqua & Highlights Foundation workshops –

Kindling Words (for published authors only) –

Yahoo Groups

Children’s Writers

African American Children’s Writers & Illustrators

Young Adult Writers

The Purple Crayon

It’s been a pleasure providing you with information and resources to help you with your children’s writing. I pray that you will be blessed with good fortune on your writing journey. Feel free to contact me with any questions or for advice. Yours in peace and love.



© 2007 Gail F. Johnson

WORKSHOP: Tips for Pleasing an Editor

1-Understand an editor's life and priorities-- Do you realize every editor at Harlequin is responsible for around 35 authors? They do not each have a secretary. All the editors in one line share one editorial assistant. Editors are responsible for:

reading proposals from their authors
reading submitted and contracted manuscripts from their authors
going through all the stages that are involved the production of a finished novel: revisions, line edits, copy edits, and galley proofs (or AAs)
Writing back cover blurb
collecting art information for the cover and following the cover art production schedule
attending meetings, conferences and keeping their desks neat
and their very last priority, reading through their slush pile of unsolicited manuscripts.

As you can see, the life of an editor is packed with details and a multitude of deadlines for many authors. Now if you are going to send a person this busy something to read, what do you think she would be most likely to read first:

an envelope with the query letter?
a thin manila envelope?
a very thick Priority Mail envelope that shouts long and unsolicited manuscript?

Well if it were me, an editor with a whole lot of things to do and very little extra time at my desk, I'd choose the envelope with the query letter. Wouldn't you?

So if you want a quick answer as to whether the editor's interested in your project, just send a query and the first page of your manuscript or just the premise of your proposal. That is all she really needs to see. My second choice would be the thin manila envelope, containing the query letter, the first page of my proposal, and the first scene of my manuscript. That's all an editor really needs to see to decide if she wants to read your whole manuscript. Now if you prefer to send the whole manuscript to the slush pile, that is permissible. But you will wait a lot longer, months longer, to receive an answer.

AND believe me, if you don't catch an editor's attention within the first three pages or the first scene, you will not hear good news from her. So sending more is really counterproductive. You need to send the right stuff to the right person in the right way to meet with success. That is what I am going to be teaching you in this workshop.

2-Craft a proposal that has what the editor is looking for
Immediate interest-something's happening! who, what, when, where, how, why

For teaching purposes, I am going to start with the first few pages of my historical DORRITT first in my "Texas Star of Destiny" series for Avon Inspire which I will turn in later this year. It will debut in October 2008.

Chapter One

"Belle Vista Plantation (WHERE)

New Orleans, August 1821 (WHEN)

"You wish to marry well? By that, Jewell, you mean marry a wealthy man?" Dorritt Mott sat in her stepfather's lavish parlor, the heavy afternoon heat weighing her down. (WHO, WHERE, WHAT, HOW)

"There can be no other meaning, sister." Fanning herself, her younger half-sister took another promenade around the parlor. (WHO, WHERE, WHAT, HOW)

Dorritt ignored her mother's shocked disapproval. She sensed that today was the climax of months of planning by her stepfather." (WHO, WHY)

I've included a five W's in parentheses. And I've chosen to begin with dialogue, I hope provocative dialogue, character -revealing dialogue—something crucial is happening in that stifling parlor. WHERE, WHEN and WHO are easy to locate. To me, HOW deals with the condition of the characters and the setting—i.e., the heat, their emotion and activity. The WHY is what is the underlying tension, something's about to change, something's in question, something's pending.

Suggested Exercise: Check your first paragraph or two and make certain that they always include these 5 W's. AND NOTHING MORE!

Beginning writers ALWAYS tell the reader TOO MUCH. The rule is: Only give the reader, especially an editor, the 5 W's and keep them guessing!


3-Include Three ESSENTIALS:


In Dianne Castell's "Up Close and Personal" from March 2007 RWR featuring a Audrey LaFehr of Kensington Publishing: (on page 37) and I quote:

"Question 8) What aspects of a new writer's work really catch your eye? I know it's been said a million times before, but it is the voice that catches my eye or ear if you well. It's a voice that intrigues me and appeals to me, a voice I want to listen to from the start, and more and more as the pages go on. It's a voice that's appropriate to the genre and matches the type of story being told, whether that's a taut and weighty thriller, a soft and lyrical literary novel, fun and sassy contemporary fiction, or an intense and emotional romance. It's a consistent and insistent voice, where you feel the author's intention quite clearly and powerfully, but you don't "see" the author herself behind that narrative voice. Sorry voice is intangible and very hard to describe. I did my best!"

Frankly I think she did a very good job. Voice is the very hardest thing to learn or distinguish for the new writer because it's just developing. The only way you develop your voice is by writing A LOT. And sometimes we confuse it with a character voice, two very different things. My suggestions:

· Keep a journal and periodically read aloud from it. Write about your life, your characters, what you are trying to write, etc.

· Try to decide which genre or sub genre reflects or correlates to your natural voice. I write in three sub genres of inspirational novels: romance, romantic suspense, and historical saga. Each one of them is written in my voice for that sub genre. But evidently, my voice is strongest in the last one, historical sagas. I realized this due to contests. Occasionally, one of my contemporary novels will final in a contest. But only my historicals rise to place in many contests and my 1996 Golden Heart finalist manuscript was historical and my first RITA nomination was with my historical CHLOE in 2006.

So you need to ask yourself what you want to write the most, and enjoy writing most, and what receives the most positive response from readers and contest judges. For nine years, I was unable to sell anything to anyone in NYC. It took Wendy McCurdy. Senior Editor at Bantam, in 1994 to tell me at a conference that I was writing for the inspirational market. She could hear it, but I was clueless! As soon as I investigated and changed markets, I sold. That's how important voice is.

Suggested Exercise for finding your voice--Rewrite your first chapter in first person. This will bring out your voice and your characters' distinctive voices. The story will suddenly become much more personal, much more yours. It will also show up any Point of View errors and clumsy constructions. Today, why don't you try writing at least the first page of your manuscript in first person.

And ask yourself:

Is my voice distinctive?
Does my voice fit what I am writing?
Is my sub genre clear from my first page?

According to Dwight Swain, readers read for emotion. We want to have boring and mundane lives but to read exciting, emotion-packed fiction. If you are skimming, not delving deeply enough into the portrayal of the emotions of your characters and doing that in every scene, you will not be acquired. If you are writing the easy scenes with your fun and undemanding secondary characters and skipping the hard, emotional, heart-wrenching scenes that nearly destroy your hero and heroine or lift them to heaven, you will not be acquired.

According to Susan Naomi Horton in her classic article "Making Them Tick: Motivation and Emotional Intensity" reprinted by many RWA chapter newsletters in the mid-90s, emotional intensity is necessary to sell and it is created by:

thematic continuity
strong motivation
meaningful conflict (More about these later.)

There are five ways to portray emotion in prose, and here they are from the least effective to the most effective:

just saying what emotion a character is feeling, (Mary was sad.)
revealing it through dialogue, (Hey, Mary, you look sad.)
revealing it through interior monologue (or the character's thoughts underlined), (I'm so sad, Mary thought. Does Bill really love me?) Note present tense.
through the characters actions, (Mary sat down and cried.)
and finally the most effective, through the character's physical reactions to some stimulus. (When Mary saw her boyfriend kiss Thelma, she realized that she'd stopped breathing. She gasped and turned away. Please don't let them see me.) Oh sorry, I got carried away—just the first 2 sentences!

I recommend highly two online workshops by Margie Lawson, PhD—Empowering Character Emotion and EDITS revision system. Whole books have been written on this topic so this is all that I have to say about it—DO IT.

Here is the rest of page 1 and page 2 of Dorritt. Read and pick out all the words, phrases, sentences—and figure out all the ways I have portrayed emotion in this passage. No one is dying here, but there is a lot going on in that lavish parlor. Of course, since it's the beginning, I am just setting up the characters and their emotions. I'm launching them and as the chapter progresses Dorritt will finally hit the high emotional point near the end of the first chapter, the chapter's climax.

"Dorritt's tambour embroidery frame and stand sat in front of her at hand level. Placing tiny artful stitches helped her conceal how her heart skipped and jumped. How would it all play out today? Dorritt looked up at Jewell. "Don't you think love is necessary to marry well?"

Jewell made a sound of dismissal. "These odd humors, your peculiar comments all come from books. You read too much, Dorritt. Father always says so and mother agrees." Jewell's high-waisted white dress swayed with her wandering.

"Then it must be so." The heat of the afternoon was squeezing Dorritt like a sodden tourniquet. She put down her needle and pinched the bridge of her nose. Over the past months, she had stood back and read the signs of her stepfather's devious manipulation of facts and circumstances. Did Jewell have any idea what might end? Begin today?

With a handkerchief, Mother blotted her perspiring face. "Please, Jewell, you must sit down and relax, compose yourself."

"Why hasn't André come yet?" Jewell attacked the lush Boston fern which sat on the stand by the French doors. She pulled off a frond and began stripping it. "He told me he would be asking my father's permission today."

There is many a slip between the cup and lip. "Perhaps he has been delayed." Dorritt set another tiny stitch with the rigid concentration.

Would her stepfather manage to work his conjuring once more, bend reality to his selfish and greedy will? And more important, could Dorritt use it in her favor? Her hands stuttered and she had to pull the needle back out.

The sound of an approaching horse drew Jewell to the French doors that led to the garden. "I can't see the rider. He has already dismounted under the porte-cochere. That doesn't look like André's horse," she added fretfully and tossed the mangled fern frond back into the pot.


Readers keep reading for only one reason. They keep turning pages to find the answer to some question or to find out what the character is hinting at, what is going to happen next. They won't read on because you write beautiful prose. And the most discriminating reader of all is the editor you're hoping will acquire you. Every chapter has a hook at the beginning and a hook at the end. And so does every scene. Many people take a lot of time working on their first sentences in an attempt to hook the reader immediately. Sometimes we can come up with a winning first sentence and sometimes we can't. But you will do just as well if you can plant a hook in the first paragraph or two. An editor will at least read the first couple of paragraphs, so just get a good one in there and then keep it going. Plant little hints that someone has a hidden agenda, something big's coming, that secrets will be revealed--some time in the upcoming page. That's a way to keep the reader (editor) stuck to your pages.

Suggested Exercise for emotions and hooks
Go through my first two pages of Dorritt and highlight all the emotions portrayed and all the hooks I've planted. Then look at your first two paragraphs, highlight them for both hooks and emotion, improve them

Remember make them laugh, make them cry, make them wonder.

I hope this exercise is helpful. Please feel free to comment here or on my webstie:

Suggested Writer Resources:


Christopher Vogler's THE WRITER'S JOURNEY



Online Workshops by Margie Lawson, PhD—Empowering Character Emotion, EDITS revision system

Kathy Jacobsen's A NOVEL APPROACH (Conflict Grid, etc.)
$25 for PDF file (220 pages) HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!

HEA (Happily Ever After) Café for archived lessons on query, synopsis and beginnings and more!

Lyn Cote

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Welcome to the third day of the conference.

To enter the rooms, click on the links.

Conference Rules (please read first before entering rooms)

How The Conference Works

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Question/Answer Session

Panel: Meet the Romance Author - Dyanne Davis, Shelia Goss, J. S. Hawley, Dara Girard, Ayn Hunt, Roberta DeCaprio, Devon Vaughn Archer, Rhonda Jackson Joseph, Andrea Jackson

Panel: Meet the Christian Author - Marilynn Griffith, Nikki Arana, Michelle Larks, Susan May Warren, Marlo Schalesky, Jill Nelson, Cecelia Dowdy, Linda Beed, Stacy Hawkins Adams, Joanna McGee Bradford

Panel: Meet the Mainstream Author - R. Barri Flowers, Bettye Griffin, Marissa Monteilh, Margo Candela, Karen Duvall

Panel: Meet the Erotica Author - Zane, Celine Chatillon, Andrea Blackstone, Deatri King-Bey, Koko Brown

Discussion: What makes you throw a book against the wall?

Discussion: Do you have a site for readers?

Workshop: & the Digital Age of Self-Publishing - Host: Edwardo Jackson

**Please remember to post your questions by 4pm central time.**



Prayer Room




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