Tag Archives: writers

GUEST POST: Three Tips on Querying Agents based on My Recent Experience

Querying (Miriam)As a delighted new client of the lovely Linda Epstein, I am thrilled to share three quick tips on landing a sweet agent.

Tip 1: Don’t send your manuscript out before it’s ready.

Duh. Even before I sent out my first query, I could have told you that this was The Most Important Thing. But I’d worked on the first draft of my manuscript for what felt like sooooo long. I thought I’d do a quick pass, clean it up, and be ready to query agents within two months—so that’s exactly what I did. And, hooray! Two agents requested a full!…

THEN I woke up in the middle of the night with the horrible realization that the last third of my manuscript WAS IN THE WRONG ORDER.

So, yeah, those two agents did not make offers.

I revised again, and I sent it out again, with much more success.

Tip 2: Put effort into selecting your agents.

I did some serious research. I looked up agents in the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents, on QueryTracker, on Publisher’s Marketplace, etc. I looked for agents who were actively seeking the kind of story mine was: YA, strong female protagonist, historical fiction, etc.

When I thought agents might be a good fit, I internet-stalked the hell out of them. I read their blogs, followed them on Twitter, and perused their agency’s websites. I looked for clues that they might connect with my story on a deeper level than just categorically. That cut my initial list in half.

Then I queried, and half of those agents requested a full or partial.

Tip 3: Commiserate with other writers.

Querying agents is hard. Rejections came quicker than requests. After a few rejections, I started to wonder if the story I’d been working on for the past forever was any good.

The best remedy for despair is connecting with other writers: writers who have queried successfully, those who are going through the process simultaneously, and those who someday hope to. Read every blog on the querying process ever written. I got some of the best advice and most heartening stories from writers I’ve never met.

Good luck!

Headshot MiriamMiriam McNamara has her MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is currently deeply involved with a historical fiction manuscript featuring double lives, star-crossed romance, and lady pirates. She lives in Asheville, NC.


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GUEST POST: The Guilty Writer

Jenny Kaczorowski

Jenny Kaczorowski

So I ran into a friend at the grocery store around 5:30 p.m. and she was like, “Oh my god! Why are you here?” But it wasn’t a question. “I have to be here now,” she said. “But you? You can grocery shop any time.” Because, you know, I don’t have a JOB job.

Like I just sit around all day, Facebooking and watching my toenails grow? I totally do not watch my toenails grow.

I do feel guilty about not having a highly structured day gig, but it’s not like I don’t get it. Not so long ago, I worked all day and went to grad school at night while raising a couple of kids somewhere between research, writing, and reading from an endless stack of enthralling freshman comp essays.

I didn’t tell her that, though. Instead, I just turned red and mumbled something self-deprecating so she’d feel better knowing that I DO REALIZE, ON A CELLULAR LEVEL, just what a lazy, lucky sombitch I really am.

I’m no longer teaching and I’m no longer covering heated island politics or salacious small-town scandals. It was a choice I made so I could write fiction and raise my kids with less guilt. Except now that the wee one is the full-day kindergarten type, I have weird guilt about actually using my writing time for writing. Don’t get me wrong, I DO IT, but I feel almost apologetic about it.

The guilt builds when I wonder if I should be volunteering more at the school or coaching an AYSO team or at least getting a better handle on when people like me ought to be at Publix.

And there’s the guilt-oozing fact that I’m not generating much (okay, any) income right now. My family’s down with it, but I’m hyper aware that my people have given up things they’d like to do or have just so I can spend a few years (possibly 10, but definitely no more than 20 or 30) chasing my dream.

Guilt isn’t going to get me any closer to seeing my first book in print, though. I mean, people believe in me. They’ve given up things for me and they’ve taken chances on me (thank you, Linda). The least I can do is protect my writing time from evil outside forces, like the PTA. Plus, I want to remind my kids that I have personal goals for success outside my job as their laundress.

During my JOB job days, did I leave during class to fold the whites real quick before they got wrinkly? Did I take off in the middle of deadline day to go work lunch hour at the kids’ school? Did I alter office hours to accommodate Shark Week programming? Hell no!* I couldn’t. I was working.

And I’m still working. Jesus, I have my dream job! Time to get better at treating it as such. Time to stop giving so much brain space to futile guilt.

Writers, what’s your brand of guilt?

*Except for the Shark Week part.

Headshot RhondaSeveral years ago, R.L. Saunders quit her job as an English teacher, sold her house, dropped out of her Ph.D. program, and moved to an island. In Key West, she spent a couple of years teaching, then had a boatload of fun as associate editor and columnist for an island newspaper. Now she writes full-time under a palm tree, sipping rum from a coconut. Living real life in the middle of everybody else’s vacation is a constant challenge.


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True Story Flash Fiction Contest: When a Lot of Nothing Happens

Silhouette-policeofficerEarly yesterday morning,  I was still in bed in my pajamas, and my teenaged kids were still in their pajamas, and my son tentatively knocked on my bedroom door.

“Mom,” he said, “there’s a police officer outside the house.”

Curious, I went downstairs to see what was happening outside. I live in a very quiet, suburban neighborhood, where a lot of nothing happens. But what my son meant was that there was a police officer at our front door! My heart started beating faster as I opened the door.

“Can I help you?” I said.

I hadn’t heard a siren and the light wasn’t flashing on the top of his car. What was wrong? Did something happen with one of the neighbors?

He said, “I found this on the sidewalk in Sea Cliff and it has your name on it.”

Oh shit. What did I do? What was he handing me?

“Did you write this check?” he said.

A check? Did I write a bad check?

I took the check he was handing me and looked down at it.  I had indeed written this and given it to somebody the day before.

“Um, yes,” I said. (As you can see, first thing in the morning I’m  loquacious and bodacious in my verbal skills!)

I felt the blood pounding in my ears as I looked back down at the check.

“They must have dropped it,” he said.

I don’t know why, but I blushed as I looked up at the tall uniformed police officer.

“You drove from Sea Cliff all the way to my house, to give me a check that you found on the sidewalk?” I said.

He said,  “I thought it was the easiest way to get it back to you.”


“Um, thanks.” I said (still astounding everyone with my verbal skills).

“No problem,” he said, “Have a nice day.”

And he turned and went back to his police car. I closed the door and faced the group of pajama’d teenagers who were now clustered behind me, trying to hear what was going on.

“He drove from Sea Cliff to our house, to give me a check I had written to somebody yesterday, which they had apparently dropped on the sidewalk.”

There was a moment of silence as we all just stood there taking it in.

Ok, writers and kibbitzers and know-it-alls: How would you have written this true story? E-mail me your version by noon Friday (EDT), July 19th and the “winner” will have the pleasure of having their story posted on my blog on Monday! Must be 400 words or less and please include a 3 sentence bio with your entry. (E-mail entries only. Don’t send me a story in “comments.”)

Thanks to all the people who played with me! The contest is now closed.

Check back on Monday, July 22nd to see who won! 


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