Friday, September 30, 2011

What A Week!!

Not only have I joined the great folks over at Project Mayhem,

BUT... I'm also a first round judge for Middle Grade fiction for the 2011 Cybils Awards!

This blogging life is FUN.

(P.s. The Don had words about all this over at Middle Grade Mafioso...)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Writing the Wartime Experience

Driving in my car without my kids is when I get to listen to National Public Radio. (The kids are less fans of talk and usually request music.)

On September 22, Talk of the Nation did a program about the Missouri Warrior Writers Project. "The project has developed a series of workshops and a competition to give veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq the chance to tell their stories. At the conclusion, their poetry, fiction and nonfiction will be considered for publication in an anthology, and three winners will be chosen from an open call for submissions among active duty and veteran military personnel."

I am not a veteran, and I don't know if any veterans read this blog. (But if they do, they should go ahead and enter the contest!)

Neal Conan, the host of the programe, interviewed Mark Bowden, the author of Black Hawk Down, and one of the judges for the contest. During an interchange, Bowden said something that really stuck with me: "I always tell my students that to learn to write is - ought to be an ambition in and of itself. Some people may manage to make a career writing. Most of my students probably won't, but I want them to take something away from the class that they can use that will help them throughout their lives."

It's taken me a good many years to understand that learning to write is an ambition in and of itself. And that learning to write involves writing many words, reading many books, and practicing till your fingers bleed (okay, I'm nothing if not melodramatic!).

Here's the information about the Missouri Warrior Writers Project. And a question: How have YOU learned to write?

Friday, September 23, 2011


I have been sadly neglectful of this blog, the Mothership--as the Don over at Middle Grade Mafioso has been working me to the bone and forcing me to go on Twitter etc.

A Day in The Don's Office

(In fact, Don Vito now spends his days glued to the Twitter feed, giving it the same attention he normally gives to his antipasti.)

As a result of all this hard work, I will have a couple of exciting blog-related announcements next week. (Hope that whets your interest!)

In the meantime, I highly enjoyed this piece "How to Find Your Story and Craft a Pitch in 10 Easy Steps (and You Can Even Do It Drunk!)" over at Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents blog. You can also enter to win a copy of the author's novel!

Have a good weekend. TGIF!

Friday, September 16, 2011

I'm With the Mafiosi This Morning...

Yup. Just to be wild and wilfully different, Friday's regular post is actually on Middle Grade Mafioso.

The mafiosi are pondering what makes a bestseller. Please do the triple jump over to join us...

Phillips Idowu winning the gold medal in the men's triple jump
European Championships in Barcelona. (Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How do I LOVE "The Shark?" Let me count the ways...

The Shark. A.k.a. agent extraordinaire, Janet Reid of Fine Print Literary. She slices through the perilous waters of publishing and, if you aren't reading her blogs--Janet Reid, Literary Agent and Query Shark--you should be. They're mandatory.

I love her on a number of fronts, beyond the query advice. She represents amazing writers like Bill Cameron, Gary Corby, Sean Ferrell, and Patrick Lee. She runs frequent "100 word story contests." (In her latest, I got the accolade of Coffee. Nose. Keyboard. Yes these guys cracked me up. If I can't win, then I shall at least strive for funny.) She drinks Scotch and stalks Jack Reacher. And she ain't short of an opinion or twenty.

Now, those of you out there querying know that increasing numbers of agents are adopting a "no response means no" policy. For writers, it's a royal pain in the arse. I'd much rather have a polite "not for me" than have to wonder if the query ever reached its intended recipient.

Well, recently Janet put the record straight. Huge all round.

(The bad karma excuse is a doozie. Because of it, I've decided that if I want to be a more successful parent I'm just going to stop saying no to my kids. I mean, no is soooo negative. And the karma it brings with it is so hellish. So there, kids. Go fer broke! I'll be seeing you in Nirvana!)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Give me your best writing joke!

One of my favorite quotes about being a writer comes from the illustrious Margaret Atwood:

It takes a certain amount of nerve to be a writer.

It also helps to have a healthy sense of humor. Here's my writing joke for the day. (Feel free to e-mail me something funny related to writing/publishing/books, and I'll add it to the post as the day progresses. We could all do with a good laugh!)

A screenwriter comes home to a burned down house. His sobbing and slightly-singed wife is standing outside. “What happened, honey?”the screenwriter asks.

“Oh, John, it was terrible,” she weeps. “I was cooking, the phone rang. It was your agent. Because I was on the phone, I didn’t notice the stove was on fire. It went up in second. Everything is gone. I nearly didn’t make it out of the house. Poor Fluffy is--”

“Wait, wait. Back up a minute,” the screenwriter says. “My agent called?”

(I found this on this blog. Enjoy!)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Need Pitch Practice? Check out this great blog I found

Yes folks, I am now officially a blogosphere bottom feeder, spending my days trawling about searching for tasty morsels excellent blogs.

What a yummy blog!

Check out this blog I recently found. If you are skipping off to a conference with every intention to pitch, you need to read this first.

Friday, September 2, 2011

September: Submission Stories

September. The waning days of summer. (Usually very nice in Oregon, as we await the start of our winter rains.) Plus, the one word which brings joy to every parents' heart: SCHOOL.

What was that you say you heard? A champagne cork popping? You imaginative soul, you.

Anyway, I would like to greet this new month with a brief rundown of what has turned out to be a very exciting month of August. There was, of course, the Willamette Writers conference and all its good energy, followed by the heady days of WriteOnCon. Which spilled over into Queryland, where I now have four agents reading my complete manuscript.

Yes, you read that right. Four, quatre, quattro, fier, and whatever the number four is in all other languages. (Shi or yon in Japanese.)

I don't usually blog about the ups and downs of querying. Rejections are shared only with my wife and my good Scottish friend, Glen Livet. But now I have increasing confidence in the fact that four industry veterans see some promise in my story. I am trying to settle in to that period of waiting (and trying not to check my e-mail every four seconds.) Now that the manuscript's in a queue on someone's e-reader there's really not much else I can do except focus on my WIP, which is about 2/3s complete. It's all very strange and discombobulating.

I must say one other thing, and that's to give a huge shout-out to my very good friend, Matthew MacNish. My fortunes have risen ever since Matt featured my query on his blog and perused it with his eagle eye. Almost two dozen of his followers chimed in, and the current query incarnation is vastly improved because of all their input.

So, as September slides along, please cross your fingers for me. I totally believe in the power of positive thinking and the collective energy of the blogging community. (And as soon as I have any good news, y'all will be the first to know. I promise.)