Once again I’m sharing some insights on constructing successful query letters. This week the focus is on clarity in your query, both in terms of your line-level writing and also in terms of conveying the meat of your story in a clear, concise way. Too often the important plot elements get bogged down in explanation, backstory, too much world-building, etc., so it’s important to really hone the focus of your pitch before querying. The most important things to convey in your query are the protagonist’s main goal, what’s keeping him/her from achieving it, and what’s at stake if he or she doesn’t succeed. If an agent can’t see this clearly, it will likely lead to a pass. To review the actual query letter and my critique, please visit the KT Literary blog!

One thing I’m asked most often by new writers, aspiring writers, and folks who are simply curious about my process is this: “How do you find time to write?” Sure I have three children and an amazing job. Sure the reading for that does take up a good bit of my day. But my answer is always the same – I make time. It’s really that simple.

With the New Year upon us many of us have resolutions to lose weight, save more, do that thing we’ve always wanted to do. And I think it’s important to be reminded that when things are important to us, we don’t find time for them (we never will), we make time. Carve out an hour to sit down and draft that book you’ve always wanted to write. Make time to catch up with people who are important to you. Prioritize the things that are important so life can be as fulfilling as possible.

Each week at KT Literary, one of the agents or myself takes on a query critique for writers who’ve volunteered for assistance. This week, I addressed the issue of tackling dual POV projects in the clearest way possible. Here’s the link if you’re looking for insight on how best to do this. If you’d like to have your query critiqued, please send it to AboutMyQuery@ktliterary.com, and we’ll get back to you shortly!

I’ve been on the writing roller coaster for quite some time now, having started the draft of my very first book in Spring of 2010. After a cross-country move and a third kid, I picked things back up in 2013 and since then have enjoyed the highs of signing with an agent, the lows of deciding to part ways and realizing just how brutal the query trenches can be, getting into Pitchwars in 2015 (with that very first book no less, though there were a few written in between!), not getting an agent with that project, winning reputable contests with a couple different manuscripts, but still finding that perfect agent match to be quite the elusive beast. I’ve had dozens of manuscript requests, a healthy smattering of revise and resubmits, and more rejections than I care to admit. But that’s all part of the game. And that’s what I’m talking about today.

Controlling what you can. Your writing.

I’ve been at this long enough to know that sometimes it feels like The Day will never come. Whether you’re waiting for an offer of representation or an offer from a publisher on your project, it often feels like the stars are aligning for everyone else and the Universe has somehow misplaced the memo about the hard work you’ve done to level up your writing and hone your craft. And those thoughts can drag you down into the depths of despair (ok, being a little melodramatic here, but some days it really DOES feel that way!).

That’s when you have to shift your focus to the ONE THING you can control. Your writing. All along this path to publication, and even after your babies are out in the world, there will be ups and downs. Your revisions aren’t quite there yet and there will be no offer of rep. Your agent moves to a new agency and has to trim his/her list, leaving you behind. Your editor leaves and your project is suddenly homeless. Your sales aren’t strong and a particular house may not want your next project. At every turn, there’s the possibility for setbacks.

One of my dearest CPs always says to me, this is a lifestyle choice. You have to take the good and the bad and focus on what you can control. Put your heart on the page and tell the best story you can. And keep doing that until YOUR stars align. Eventually, they will.

I’m now officially a literary agency assistant at KT Literary. I’ll be supporting the agents, assisting with office operations, and lending a hand with queries and manuscripts as well. I’m thrilled to be a part of such a solid, generous, industry-savvy group!

I was one of the fortunate folks chosen to participate in PitchWars 2015, the well-known contest hosted by the lovely Brenda Drake. Through the contest I met awesome writerly friends and my amazing, insightful mentor, Elly Blake, and her enthusiasm for my project carried me through one of the lower points on my writing rollercoaster. She helped me polish my project, cheered me on, and continues to do so today! (If you write MG you should DEFINITELY sub to her!!) I don’t have the time to dedicate to mentoring for the 2016 contest, but I still want to pay it forward and help out a handful of PitchWars hopefuls this year!

I currently intern for an awesome literary agent – reading her query slush, assessing manuscripts for potential representation, helping prepare client manuscripts for submission, and providing insight on revise and resubmits as well. I’m a regular critique partner for a number of agented writers and even some of the 2016 PitchWars mentors. I’m also a member of The Winged Pen, a fantastic group of writers at various stages on the journey. As a group we provide regular feedback giveaways and writing advice, which you should definitely check out. All this to say, your work will be safe with me. I’d love to help you hone and polish your query and opening to help improve your chances of being chosen for this amazing contest. I mean, did you see that 2016 agent list? Wowsa!

To be considered, please comment on this post with the genre and category of your project (ex YA Contemp), a quick sentence about your premise (nothin’ fancy here, just curious!), your name, and your Twitter handle/email, and I’ll choose 5 of those who comment for a query and first 10 page critique. The comment window will close at 5pm EST tonight (6/24). I’m looking forward to reading your work!

Several years ago I met a slew of writers through an online writing conference called WriteOnCon. We bonded and decided to band together, initially starting a facebook group. Well, that group has evolved-some have gone on to secure book deals, agents, and all of us have reaped the benefits of group support.

We’ve also decided to share our knowledge, writing tips, and love of books with others by launching our new site – The Winged Pen. Come visit us today and enter to win a copy of OUT OF ABATION Book 1: THE WOODEN PRINCE by John Claude Bemis! Be sure to subscribe so you can reap the benefits of all that writerly knowledge, too!

I’m happy to announce that I’ve been offered a position as a literary agency intern. It feels like a big achievement, and one I’ve been interested in for several years now. The right opportunity came about and it’s turned out to be a good fit for me for a lot of reasons. I just had to share this next new step in my bookish journey. Here’s to helping find gems in the slush!

So, I wasn’t sold on writing one of these, but I decided that I really want folks to know about my approach to this whole writing game. I’m all in, and I love getting feedback on my work.

There’s always more to learn – in writing and in life. I approach things with the open mind of a child but the dedication of a seasoned writing vet. I’ve been writing seriously since 2009, have written 4 complete middle grade manuscripts, one complete YA manuscript and myriad picture books. My middle grade manuscript, LAIMA MONTROVE WANTS TO BE A WITCH, was a finalist for the Eldin Memorial Fellowship this past spring, and I’ve been a member of the SCBWI off and on (as funds allow – you know, living the starving-artist dream right now!).

My projects are typically dark, whimsical fantasy and atmospheric horror for middle grade. I love playing with words and I love being creeped out – always have. I spent a lot of time in my imagination as a kid, and I’ve found some things just don’t change.

As a mentee I’ll be committed to improving my manuscript and will be open and willing to put in the effort to make it shine. I’m looking forward to the challenge!

Today’s the first time I’ve heard of the 777 challenge, which instructs you to go to the 7th page of your WIP, to the 7th line, and take the next 7 lines to share. A fellow writer, Suzanne Warr, tagged me and I have chosen to accept! So, here it goes. This is an excerpt from my witchy MG manuscript. Hope you enjoy!


“That look never gets us anywhere good.” Finn shook his head. “Last time I saw it you dragged me through the fence into the orchard, ‘It’ll be fun, Finn, I promise.’ And we ended up getting caught. I thought Mr. Silverman was going to call the cops on us for sure.”

“You wanted to go!” Laima said as the screen door to her house creaked open. She couldn’t admit that she probably wouldn’t have gone alone. Being alone was almost as bad as being cooped up in the house under her mother’s watchful eye. Being alone meant having time to think. And having time to think meant remembering Petra.


And now I’m going to have to tag some other folks, I suppose! Happy Friday!