Category Archives: Non Fiction

Winner of Honor Your Father Contest!

How fun, although challenging, to host and judge an essay writing contest.  I want to thank everyone who participated and helped to promote this contest.  I enjoyed reading these essays and “getting to know” your dads.  I hope by writing and reflecting each of you experienced a new appreciation or warm welcomed memory of  “Dad.”

And the winner is…

Judy M. Miller

Congratulations, Judy!  Please enjoy Judy’s winning essay and my mini review which follows.


The Lessons of the Green Dad

By Judy M. Miller

We had one of the greenest, weed-free yards due to our ducks and the persistence of my father. Thanks to my father’s planning, each of my three brothers received a duckling via the Easter Bunny (I received a baby bunny that year, which lived to a ripe old age).

Dad was “green” decades before being green was a concept. As the ducklings grew into big bossy biting ducks, they became voracious insect and pest eaters. They also became the most prolific fertilizing machines in our small rural community.

My father followed in the wake of our ducks. His bright orange plastic child’s bucket served as his weed collector; it had to be emptied out repeatedly because of the success of the ducks fertilizer throughout our vast acreage. I would watch him, down on one knee, systematically digging out the dandelions, by the root, every spring and summer evening that he wasn’t traveling for work. He weeded with a wood-handled forked metal dandelion tool.

With his white fur-covered legs sticking out of his shorts, his business socks still on, and wearing white gym shoes, my father was an amusing site. I was not allowed to help, but I did observe and comment.

“Dad, why do you weed like this?”

“They won’t return, honey. You have to get them by the roots, see?” And he would show me the difference between weeding the right and wrong way. “You always do the best job. It pays off down the road.”

He never hurried. I did notice that there were fewer weeds as time went on.

I learned a lot from watching my father weed; something I carry today and pass along to my own children. Patience, perseverance, and doing something the right way has results.

And, yes, I weed like my father…


Judy’s essays and articles have appeared in parenting magazines. Her story, “Souls Speak”, is featured in A Cup of Comfort for Adoptive Families: Stories That Celebrate a Special Gift of Love. “Healing the Roots of Our Grafted Tree” is featured in the upcoming Pieces of Me: Who Do I Want to Be? (EMK Press, September, 2009). She blogs at The International Mom’s Blog and Grown in My Heart.

I chose Judy’s essay because she followed the guidelines given: kept under the word limit, included a title and author bio and used beautiful language in her own unique “voice.” The image of Judy’s dad stayed with me (especially the business socks and white gym shoes) and I loved that she learned such a valuable life lesson from watching her dad perform such a small daily task.  Congratulations, Judy!

Stayed tuned the rest of the week for the essays that received an honorable mention and remember to Honor Your Father in your own special way !

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Filed under books, contests, Creative Essays, emotion, Non Fiction, writing inspiration

Why he HAD to write this book

Joe Deyo, author of Checklists for the New Dad, tells what inspired him to write this book:

Why did the author write Checklists?

Checklists was actually born out of tragedy.  In 2005 a twenty-month old baby in the author’s community died from injuries delivered by the child’s mother.  Joe explains what happened to him as a result.  “I had what I can best describe as a very abnormal reaction to this tragedy. On one level it hurt so much since it happened in my own neighborhood.  And my own daughter was the same age as the victim at the time.  But on an even higher level I was impacted in a way I have never felt before.  I was devastated.  And in a way I have never felt before I felt God doing a work in me.  It was like a baseball bat had been laid to my heart and my mind totally out of the blue.  The exact calling that I felt impressed upon me was that ‘new fathers are thirsty.’  I initially struggled with the idea of quenching another man’s thirst.  I know that I cannot change the hearts and minds of men.  I can’t invent that water.  But I do believe that God is that water and that He can and does change the hearts and minds of men.  I believe that He has invited me to build a pipe that can help deliver the water to new fathers.  From this calling the motivation to build the Checklists pipe was born. I exist, and this book exists, to glorify God.”

Tell me about the author’s Father Outreach (FOR) contributions program.

A portion of all proceeds from the sale of Checklists is donated to  National Fatherhood Initiative ( and other carefully selected fatherhood and parenting organizations.  These organizations strive to build strong fathers and families through a variety of programs and resources.

Where can I learn more about Checklists and see some sample content?
The best place to learn more about Checklists and content is at Click on “About the Book” to see the    table of contents, sample chapter and other pages, testimonials, and the book cover.

Check out the essay writing contest, posted above, to see how you can win a copy of Checklists for the New Dad!

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Filed under Believe, books, contests, emotion, Non Fiction, Platform/Marketing, writing inspiration

A Daddy of a Contest!

ANNOUNCING:  Writers Inspired 1st Essay Writing Contest!

(This contest is CLOSED)

Mother’s Day is usually the “motherlode” holiday to celebrate parenting and all its up’s and down’s.  Moms get “chore coupons”, cards dotted with sequins and even homemade pinch pots made of clay.

But what about Dads and all they do? Father’s Day is sandwiched between graduation parties and 4th of July picnics. No coupons, no cards made in the classroom and certainly no fire-glazed pottery.

So, I decided, with the help of my author friend, Joe Deyo, to host a contest:


Write an essay describing the best memory you have of your father and how he shaped you into the adult you are today.  You can also write an inspirational essay of how the father of your child(ren) rocks as a “daddy.”  I’ll be judging the entries based on: beauty of language, power of author’s voice and overall emotion: make us LOVE your dad (or the dad of your children!)

$0 entry fee / 300 word count

Deadline: 12midnight, Friday, June 12

Include Title, Name, Email and brief bio

Send entries in the BODY of an email (attachments will NOT be opened) to mjcwriter”at”comcast”dot”net

Winner announced : Monday, June 15 checklists_cover

Winner will receive* an autographed copy of Joe Deyo’s Checklists for the New Dad and have their winning essay “published” on Writers Inspired (Author retains all rights)

*Must have US mailing address for shipment of book

Runners-up entries may be posted throughout the week leading up to Father’s Day

Good luck!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~   *  *  * ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And to help inspire you and thoughts of “Dad”, please enjoy this interview with the author of Checklists for the New Dad, Joe Deyo:

How did you find time to write a book while working full time in sales and still having time for your wife and children?  Did you have a writing schedule, or just sneak in sentences in the nooks and crannies of your day?

Every writer certainly has a different schedule and mix of priorities.  I have a full time day job as well as being a full time husband and father.  I knew when I set out to write a book that it couldn’t take away from those responsibilities.  So for me that meant going to bed a little earlier and getting up earlier to write.  Weekends included.  Mornings are also when I am the most energetic and creative so I usually do my best work between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m. while everyone else in the house is sleeping.  I am usually out of gas at the end of the day so that is personally not a good time for me to write or revise.  It works best for me to do a little bit every day rather than try to do a lot in one day.

Tell us about your speaking engagements. Did you use these first to build your platform as an author or did these come after the book release?

For me the speaking engagements came after the book release.  I always knew that speaking would be a big part of what I do.  But I chose to focus all of my energy on completing the book first and then speaking.

As a first time author, can you tell us about the process of finding an agent, then a publisher?  What tips can you offer other beginners?

Finding an agent and a publisher can be the hardest and most frustrating part of the book business.  There are lots of great books and websites to help in the process but here are my top five nuggets of advice:

1)     Before you even begin to solicit agents put together a killer book proposal.  This may be the most important writing you ever do.  Do your research on what makes a good one.  A good timeless article to start with is Writing a Winning Book Proposal by Michael Hyatt.  It is available as a PDF on the web at

2)     The difference maker for many projects is the author’s platform and marketing plan.  Don’t neglect this part of your book proposal.  It needs to be detailed, well thought out, and realistic.  Don’t count on Oprah.

3)     Research which agents might be a fit for your particular project.  Don’t blindly send a query to just any agent.  Two good tools to help you get started are Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents and Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide.

4)     Set aside some time and money to go meet an agent in person before you sign with them.  This is a huge partnership and you need to meet and be comfortable before doing business with each other.  Establishing that personal connection with the agent and their staff will help you down the road when you need some attention.

5)     If you decide to self-publish I recommend reading Aaron Shepard’s book Aiming at Amazon.

Lastly, I remember asking my agent early on what I could do as an author to be a great client for him.  His answer was, “Write a great book.”  That is as simple as it gets.

Are there any follow up books in progress on fatherhood or marriage?

For now I am really focused on maximizing the potential of the current release, Checklists for the New Dad.  This includes speaking engagements, article writing, media exposure, and other marketing efforts.  But like most writers I am always thinking about the next project and I have been putting some early notes together for it.  Stay tuned!

Can you share a favorite memory you have of your dad from your childhood, or a favorite memory of being a new dad, yourself?

Some of my fondest memories as a child growing up in rural Idaho are the fishing trips I took with my father and my grandfather.  We might not have said 20 words to each other in a two-hour trip but we were together having fun.  Now today I take my own kids fishing and we share the same connection—enjoying each other’s company, the outdoors, and a tug on the line.

Come Back tomorrow for more on Joe Deyo and the inspiration for his book: Checklists for the New Dad


Filed under Advice, Author Interviews, books, contests, Creative Essays, Inspiration, Markets, Non Fiction, Platform/Marketing, Voice, writers, writing inspiration

Summer (Book) Tours & Giveaways!

How fortunate I am to be in touch with the fine ladies at WOW! Women on Writing.  WOW! has kicked off a book blog tour and I am one of their lucky hosts!

So, get your calendars ready:  here’s the line up of fresh authors who will visit Writers Inspired this summer to dish on their newest books and the journey they took to get them published. (Plus, you’ll have a chance to win a copy of these books when commenting after their interviews)

Wednesday, May 20:

AllMenAreCrematedEqual,coverElizabeth Fournier, author of All Men Are Cremated Equal: My 77 Blind Dates.

Genre: Memoir (reads like Chick Lit)

Elizabeth chronicles her true life dating spree as a marriage-minded mortician in her mid-30’s. Set off by her broken engagement, she enlists everyone in sight to set her up on blind dates in a passionate quest to meet just one really great guy. Armed with a 10-point list of dating criteria, skintight jeans, and flash cards on Nascar, football, and micro-breweries, she spends one full year doing the blind meet and greet. Names are changed to protect the rejected as she humorously dishes dot-com hotties, compulsive bloggers, and tattooed graduates of the Gene Simmons School of Dating. Bridget Jones would be proud of her American cousin.

Find out more about Elizabeth by visiting her website:

and her blog: All Men Are Cremated Equal Blog.

Tuesday, May 26:

VioletRaines-cover Danette Haworth, author of Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction

Have you almost been struck by lightning? Eleven-year-old Violet Raines has, in more ways than one. And when she’s not dodging lightning or outrunning alligators, she’s trying to keep the prissy new girl from stealing her best friends.  

Visit Danette at her website at
and her blog:

Wednesday, June 3:

Lovefrombothsides.coverStephanie Riseley, author of Love From Both Sides: A True Story of Soul Survival and Sacred Sexuality.

Genre: Memoir

Synopsis: In this memoir, memorial, and celebration, Stephanie Riseley shares the deeply emotional and powerfully physical story of the continued relationship between her and her husband Dan after his sudden death. Exploring the ways in which love and forgiveness can transcend the boundaries of life and death, the book intends to change perceptions of the emotional and spiritual relationships two people can share. Problematic marriages and challenging relationships will take on positive new dimensions.

Stephanie’s website:

Wednesday, June 10:

Secret Keepers.cover

Mindy Friddle, author of Secret Keepers

Genre: Southern Fiction

Synopsis: At age seventy-two, Emma Hanley plans to escape small-town Palmetto, South Carolina, and travel the globe. But when her fickle husband dies in undignified circumstances, Emma finds herself juggling the needs of her adult children. Her once free-spirited daughter Dora turns to compulsive shopping and a controlling husband to forget her wayward past. Her son Bobby still lives with her, afflicted with an illness that robbed him of his childhood promise.

Mindy’s website:

Wednesday, August12:

FearlessConfessions.coverSue Williams Silverman, author of Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir

Genre: Writing

Synopsis: Everyone has a story to tell. Fearless Confessions is a guidebook for people who want to take possession of their lives by putting their experiences down on paper–or in a Web site or e-book. Enhanced with illustrative examples from many different writers as well as writing exercises, this guide helps writers navigate a range of issues from craft to ethics to marketing and will be useful to both beginners and more accomplished writers.

Sue Silverman’s website:


Filed under Advice, Author Interviews, books, characters, contests, Non Fiction, Novels, Platform/Marketing, writers, writing inspiration

“Life is too short to waste.”

“…Dreams are fulfilled only through action, not through endless planning to take action.”

David J. Schwartz, Trainer and Author


 Enough said.

 What will you take action on this week?

 Me? (My Professional Action List)


(My Personal Action List)

  • Swap out salt & pepper for cayenne, cumin and salt-free seasoning mixes
  • Go to gym 4x this week
  • Arm & ab workouts 3 x this week
  • Play outside with my boys
  • Plan our anniversary weekend


Filed under Advice, Deadlines, goals, Inspiration, Markets, Non Fiction, Platform/Marketing, Rest

Change is a sure thing

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor
the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

— Charles Darwin

With a new president in office, banks under scrutiny, universal healthcare on the horizon and a one-world currency being proposed, changes are a new way of life.


Are you thriving or just surviving amongst these changes?  Maybe you’ve been become proactive in your investments or scheduled all your wellness visits for the year. Perhaps you are hording gold or stocking up on canned food and bottled water.


Whatever changes you’re rooting for or resisting, there is much fodder for us writers. Develop an article on coupon clipping, growing your own veggies or how to think like a financial advisor. Write a rant on why you should be a citizen to qualify for health insurance.


If you’re a fiction writer, take the extreme route: imagine all the banks have tanked and we’re under Marshall Law.  There’s definitely a story there!


With changes all around us, we will respond in one way or another. And isn’t our job as writers to record this history in the making?

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Filed under Believe, Creative Essays, emotion, Fiction, Non Fiction, Perseverance, Writing prompts

Blog Tour: Author, George Singleton


As Irish luck would have it, today Writers Inspired is hosting author, George Singleton,  when on St. Paddy’s Day, anything can happen, especially from this man who is filled with wit and wisdom.

George Singleton‘s the author of four collections of short stories and two novels: These People Are Us (2001), The Half-Mammals of Dixie (2002), Why Dogs Chase Cars (2004), Novel (2005), Drowning in Gruel (2006), and Work Shirts for Madmen (2007).  He has published one book of advice: Pep Talks, Warnings, and Screeds (2008).  His stories have appeared in magazines such at The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Playboy, Book, Zoetrope, Glimmer Train, Georgia Review, Shenandoah, Southern Review, Ninth Letter, and North American Review, among others.  He’s had work anthologized in nine editions of New Stories from the South, plus Writers Harvest 2, A Dixie Christmas, They Write Among Us, 20 Over 40, Must Be This Tall to Ride, Love Is a Four-Letter Word, and Behind the Short Story: from First to Final Draft.    His nonfiction has appeared in the Oxford American, Best Food Writing 2005, Dog Is My Co-Pilot, and Paste.

Singleton lives in Dacusville, South Carolina. peptalkswarningsscreeds-742251

In Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds: Indispensable Wisdom and Cautionary Advice for Writers acclaimed Southern story writer and novelist George Singleton serves up everything you ever need to know to become a real writer (meaning one who actually writes), in bite-sized aphorisms. It’s Nietzsche’s Beyond Good & Evil meets Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. It’s cough syrup that tastes like chocolate cake. In other words, don’t expect to get better unless you get a good dose of it, maybe two.

Accompanied by more than fifty original full-color illustrations by novelist Daniel Wallace, these laugh-out-loud funny, candid, and surprisingly useful lessons will help you find your own writerly balance so you can continue to move forward.

Published by Writers Digest Books., $17.99
Publication Date: October 22, 2008
Non-Fiction, Writer’s Advice, Hardcover
ISBN# 9781582975658


So, lads and lassies, pull up a stool, grab a stein and ask away. George will respond to your questions and comments on novel writing, short story collections and especially, his newest book PepTalks, Warnings, & Screeds: Indispensable Wisdom and Cautionary Advice for Writers. One lucky winner will be chosen to receive a free copy of George’s latest book! (You must post before midnight on March 17 to win and have a US mailing address.)

Interview by: Mary Jo Campbell

MJC: In your fiction writing, do you work from an idea and just go with it, or do you use outlines? How does either method lend to your creative freedom and to your revision time?

GS: If I’m in between stories–if I finish up a story and mail it off on a Tuesday, and sit down to start another on Wednesday morning–I usually think, “Two characters, uncomfortable situation.”  Woman runs into her brother-in-law at the free clinic.  Boy is forced to take something to Show and Tell that he knows is a made-up story by his father.  Teenager is buying condoms at the local drugstore, and his girlfriend’s mother gets in line behind him.  And then I go with it.  More often than not I’ll have a first sentence roaming around in my skull, or a title.  I don’t work from outlines, because–just like in high school when a teacher said I needed an outline, so I wrote one out after writing the essay–it doesn’t seem fun, and takes away some spontaneity, and I wouldn’t stick to it in the first place.

Now, in the past, I have written stories where I kind of thought I saw the ending first, and worked toward it.  But that’s rare for me.  And of course there’s no right answer, but I would think that if someone writes a hundred stories and five novels using an outline and has had no luck publishing, she might want to ditch that approach.

MJC: You’ve been published is a wide variety of publications, from The Georgia Review to Playboy. I’m curious about your writing and marketing approach: do you write a short story and look for the appropriate market, or do you research what is needed and write to fit that need?  Do you feel that one approach is more limiting than the other?

GS: Good question.  When I started writing short stories about eight years into writing three unpublishable novels, I didn’t have a clue how to send them off.  No one taught me, and by this point I had a goofball MFA.  (I have a funny feeling my professors said, “Don’t tell George how to send off manuscripts–he’ll get rejected and go on a two decade drunk…)

Anyway, I wrote a story and sent it off to The New Yorker.  While that sat up there for a couple years, I wrote another story and sent it to Esquire.  While that sat up there for a year I wrote another story and sent it to The Atlantic Monthly, and I got a rejection within about 24 hours.  On and on.  The thing I did correctly, I think, was that I didn’t wait around to hear from one magazine before I sent to another.  Finally, Playboy, the Georgia Review, the Quarterly, and so on, started sending personal rejections with “Please send more.”

Well I sent more, by goodness.  And I finally wore those editors down.

Now, I do study up on magazines and journals.  And I understand that my fiction isn’t going to be a lot of people’s idea of a good time.  That’s all right.  Every editor should know his or her target audience, and what they want.  No sweat.  There are plenty of other journals out there.

Now, I do get frustrated.  Sometimes I think, Hasn’t the New Yorker published enough eastern Indian writers this year?  How many eastern Indians are subscribing to the New Yorker?  Where are the southern writers in this magazine?  Maybe the editors up there haven’t heard, but the American South kind of has a rich tradition of writers.

But that’s their choice, and it’s okay.  The house of fiction has many windows, as Henry James said.  I move onward.

MJC: How was writing Pep Talks (non-fiction) different from writing your short stories and novels?

GS:  Pep Talks was fun to write, and came to me in odd chunks.  I wrote down everything that I thought I knew, and it came to about three single-spaced pages.  I thought, I’ve been teaching this long and that’s all I have?  Good grief.  And then I got bombarded with anecdotes and aphorisms.  I kind of wrote that book at all hours of the day and night, whereas in fiction it’s pretty much from four-thirty or five in the morning until I have to go teach.

MJC: As a creative writing teacher, myself (middle school students), I’m always trying to find that balance of teaching skill and optimism while making these young writers aware of the competition and rejection they will face.  How do you balance the Pep Talks, Warnings and Screeds in your own classrooms? And what message (s) do you hope writers and teachers will take away from this book?

GS: I don’t know of anyone who talks about it–or thinks about it–but half of getting the students writing hard and taking criticism well, I think, is getting them to have a feeling of not wanting to disappoint their instructor and classmates.  Also, they can’t get caught up in petty jealousies.  When one of my students wins a national award, or gets published, everyone (at least outwardly) shows a Way to Go attitude.  In a way, if the piece has been through peer critique, then everyone in the room had success.  This might be in the Land of Optimistic No Ego, but it seems to happen more often than not.

What I want writing readers to get out of my books is this: If one writes pretty much daily, she will not get worse.  She will only get better as the years go by.  If I ran distance for a couple years, then took a few years off, then started back up, I won’t be at the same point I was at the end of the first two years.  If I run continually, even thorugh bad days of tendonitis, I will get better.  Same with writing.

MJC: You’ve written short fiction, novels, essays (Why Obama posted on Largehearted in 2008) and now a nonfiction book. Do you have any plans for screenplays, poetry or songwriting?  What are you working on now?

GS: I think one of those signs of the apocalypse has to do with my writing poetry.  Frogs and snakes falling out of the sky, and George Singleton writing poetry.  That ain’t going to happen.  I got in trouble in an interview one time for saying I’d never go back to writing novels, so maybe I shouldn’t say I’d never do screenplays or songwriting, but Las Vegas oddsmakers might give such a chance something like a million to one.

Right now I’m about a hundred pages into a novel called Side Notes for a New Grudge, about a third-rate comedian named Grudge Wright.  And I pretty much have a collection of linked stories about a guy named Stet Looper (who’s getting a low residency MA in Southern Culture Studies from a made-up college called Ole Miss-Taylor) ready–24 have been published–but with this economy, I’m going to wait it out.  Plus, last I heard, my fiction publisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) isn’t acquiring new books.  Imagine that.  “Hey, I have a hotdog stand, but I’m not going to buy any buns or weiners for a while…”)

George’s Upcoming events:

Reading at Clemson University’s Literary Festival, April 2, time TBA

Reading at  Editors conference at UNC-Greensboro, April 23, 7 PM, with Claudia Emerson

Teaching/Reading at writers@work conference, Park city Utah, June 22-26

Learn more about George Singleton:


Filed under Advice, books, contests, Fiction, Give Aways, Inspiration, Non Fiction

Blog Tour: Wendy Burt

Today we have a Q & A with Wendy Burt-Thomas. She is a full-time freelance writer, editor and copywriter with more than 1,000 published pieces. Her third book, “The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters” hit stores in January 2009.



“Query Queen,” Wendy Burt-Thomas, will be stopping by Writers Inspired today to answer your writing and publishing related questions.  Post a comment today which is relevant to the topic for a chance to win your copy of The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters.  (US postal addresses only, please.)

To learn more about Wendy or her three books, visit If you have a writing-related question, you can also post it on

1. Q: Can you tell us about your book?  querybook-copy

The book was a great fit for me because I’d been teaching “Breaking Into Freelance Writing” for about eight years. In the workshop, I covered a lot of what is in this book: writing query letters to get articles in magazines, to land an agent, or to get a book deal with a publisher. Since I’m a full-time freelance magazine writer and editor with two previous books, this was incredibly fun to write because it didn’t require tons of research. I was lucky enough to receive lots of great sample query letters from writers and authors that I use as “good” examples in the book. I wrote all the “bad” examples myself because I didn’t dare ask for contributions that I knew I’d be ripping apart!

In addition to the ins and outs of what makes a good query, the book covers things like why (or why not) to get an agent, where to find one and how to choose one; writing a synopsis or proposal; selling different rights to your work; other forms of correspondence; and what editors and agents look for in new writers.

It was really important to me that the book not be a dry, boring reference book, but rather an entertaining read (while still being chock full of information). I was thrilled that Writer’s Digest let me keep all the humor.

2. Q: Why are query letters so important?

Breaking into the publishing world is hard enough right now. Unless you have a serious “in” of some kind, you really need a great query letter to impress an agent or acquisitions editor. Essentially, your query letter is your first impression. If they like your idea (and voice and writing style and background), they’ll either request a proposal, sample chapters, or the entire manuscript. If they don’t like your query letter, you’ve got to pitch it to another agency/publisher. Unlike a manuscript, which can be edited or reworked if an editor thinks it has promise, you only get one shot with your query. Make it count!

I see a lot of authors who spend months (or years) finishing their book, only to rush through the process of crafting a good, solid query letter. What a waste! If agents/editors turn you down based on a bad query letter, you’ve blown your chance of getting them to read your manuscript. It could be the next bestseller, but they’ll never see it. My advice is to put as much effort into your query as you did your book. If it’s not fabulous, don’t send it until it is.

3. Q: You’re also a magazine editor. What is your biggest gripe regarding queries?

Queries that show that the writer obviously hasn’t read our publication. I’ll admit that I did this when I was a new writer too – submitted blindly to any publication whose name sounded even remotely related to my topic. One of the examples I use was when I submitted a parenting article to a magazine for senior citizens. Oops! A well-written query pitching an article that’s not a match for the magazine isn’t going to get you any further than a poorly written query.

4. Q: There’s an entire chapter in the book about agents. Do you think all new writers should get agents?

Probably 99% of new writers should get an agent. There are lots of reasons, but my top three are: 1) Many of the larger publishing houses won’t even look at unagented submissions now; 2) Agents can negotiate better rights and more money on your behalf; 3) Agents know the industry trends, changes and staff better than you ever could.

5. Q: You’ve been a mentor, coach or editor for many writers. What do you think is the most common reason that good writers don’t get published?

Poor marketing skills. I see so many writers that are either too afraid, too uniformed, or frankly, too lazy, to market their work. They think their job is done when the write “the end” but writing is only half of the process. I’ve always told people who took my class that there are tons of great writers in the world who will never get published. I’d rather be a good writer who eats lobster than a great writer who eats hot dogs. I make a living as a writer because I spend as much time marketing as I do writing.

6. Q: What are some of the biggest misconceptions that writers have about getting a book deal?

That they’ll be rich overnight, that they don’t need to promote their book once it’s published, that publishing houses will send them on world book tours, that people will recognize them at the airport. Still, you can make great money as an author if you’re prepared to put in the effort. If it wasn’t possible, there wouldn’t be so many full-time writers.

7. Q: What must-read books do you recommend to new writers?

Christina Katz (author of “Writer Mama”) has a new book out called “Get Known Before the Book Deal” – which is fabulous. Also, Stephen King’s “On Writing” and David Morrell’s “Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing.” Anything by Anne Lamott or my Dad, Steve Burt.

8. Q: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a full-time writer?

Seize every opportunity – especially when you first start writing. I remember telling someone about a really high-paying writing gig I got and he said, “Wow. You have the best luck!” I thought, “Luck has nothing to do with it! I’ve worked hard to get where I am.” Later that week I read this great quote: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” It’s absolutely true. And writing queries is only about luck in this sense. If you’re prepared with a good query and/or manuscript, when the opportunity comes along you’ll be successful.

9. What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Writing the “bad” query letters. I’ve read – and written! – so many horrible ones over the years that it was a little too easy to craft them. But misery loves company and we ALL love to read really bad query letters, right?

10. Q: What do you want readers to learn from your book?

I want them to understand that while writing a good query letter is important, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You can break it down into parts, learn from any first-round rejections, and read other good queries to help understand what works. I also want them to remember that writing is fun. Sometimes new writers get so caught up in the procedures that they lose their original voice in a query. Don’t bury your style under formalities and to-the-letter formatting.


Wendy’s credentials include more than 1,000 published articles, essays, short stories, greeting cards, reviews, columns and poems. She is a full-time freelance writer, editor, copywriter and PR consultant. Wendy taught “Breaking Into Freelance Writing” for eight years and her three books include:

* Oh, Solo Mia! The Hip Chick’s Guide to Fun for One (McGraw-Hill)

* Work It, Girl! 101 Tips for the Hip Working Chick (McGraw-Hill)

* The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters (January 2009, Writer’s Digest Books)


Filed under Author Interviews, books, contests, Get Published, Give Aways, Non Fiction, Queries, writing inspiration

Call for submissions – Women and their horse(s)

My friend and colleague, Verna Dreisbach, is collecting stories of women and their horses for an anthology.

 send-to-cheri-002Here is the website for the call for submissions.   



Seal Press, Berkeley CA
Editor, Verna Dreisbach

Dear Friends,

Here is an exciting opportunity for you to be published in a new story collection by Seal Press. Previous anthologies of this nature by Seal Press include Cat Women and Woman’s Best Friend. The expected date of publication will be spring 2010, giving ample time to collect, choose and edit stories.

I am looking for truly inspirational stories that speak from the heart and show the unique bond between a woman and her horse. Each story should be at least 1,000 words, but no more than 2,500 words in length. Please send double-spaced versions only, in 12 point font Times New Roman as a Word Document.  NO “first horse” stories please!

Should your story be selected for inclusion in the book, you will receive two complimentary copies of the book plus $100 for the right to use the story in the anthology. Your name will appear with the story as well as the option to include a high quality photograph of you and your horse. Please consider that photographs will be printed in black and white. Do not send photographs until asked to do so.

I am accepting submissions until January 15, 2009 (EXTENDED to March 31, 2009). Please be sure to include your contact information with your submission: name, address, phone numbers and e-mail address. Send stories to: You can read more about the progress of the book at

Due to the volume of submissions, only finalists will be notified.

I look forward to reading your stories and thank you in advance.

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Filed under contests, Non Fiction, writer markets

Facebook for writing prompts

I’m Mary Jo Campbell, and I am a Facebookaholic.


Anyone else relate?  It first started as a way to view pics from a grade school friend who moved to LA and wouldn’t be at our reunion back in October. Well, unbeknowst to me, you need to create your own profile before you can “friend” someone, and then they need to “accept” your friend request before you can view their profile and their pictures.  So, after my friend Nicole from grade school, I begin by looking up my brothers and sister, then my sisters-in-law, then my co-workers, my cousins, my former co-workers, writing buddies, and so on.  Now I speak in the 3rd person even when I’m not updating my profile. (If you’re a facebooker, you get it.)

As one to never let a bad habit or addiction go to waste, I think Facebook offers plenty of writing prompts:

  1. Unusual flair on someone’s page can certainly give you a story idea or two (or at least a silly greeting card verse!)
  2. News that friends of friends post can alert you to the local happenings of their neighborhood – possibly giving you to a new angle on an old topic?
  3. Names and faces from your past could definitely conjure up an essay idea or two.
  4. Posting as your alter-ego is good practice for getting into your fictional characters’ minds…

What else can Facebook do you for you?


Filed under Advice, characters, Creative Essays, emotion, Fun Stuff, Inspiration, Non Fiction, writers, writers block, Writing prompts