WRITERLY WISDOM: Patricia Hope

 

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Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Six years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week we learn about the ten things to keep in mind when writing query letters…

 

TEN THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN WRITING A QUERY LETTER
By Patricia Hope

 

There are as many ways to write a query letter as there are editors to read them. After a lifetime of reading and writing them, I think most editors would agree writers should follow a few common-sense guidelines if they want their query letter to be read and responded to in a positive way.

A writer feasts or starves on ideas, said Robert J Hastings in his book How I Write. So do editors. That’s not to say they don’t get lots of ideas but good ideas are often turned down because the writer didn’t spend enough time presenting his idea. The following list is 10 of the things I’ve learned about writing query letters after decades of writing and selling articles, both for print and online publications. As a former newspaper editor, I’ve read my share of queries, as well. It would take many blogs to give you examples of what some writers have said to make editors say no, but hopefully, this list will help you get more yeses.

 

Do your homework.

 

Read the publications’ guidelines, if available, and follow them to the letter. If no guidelines are available, read several issues of the publication so you will know what style of writing it uses and what subject matter it covers. When I queried The Writer a few years ago on the idea of writing about my own writing critique group, I had been reading the magazine for more than 20 years, yet, I carefully read and re-read their guidelines.

 

Begin with Why.

 

Every good writer knows you must have the “who, what, where, when and why” to tell a good story. But first, “Why do you want to write this story? Why did you choose this publication?” Be honest in evaluating why this story matters to you and your potential readers. My “why” for the writing group piece was because we had been together 30 years and we had all reached success as writers.

 

Keep the query to one page.

 

An editor sifting through hundreds of letters and emails will be grateful. That’s basically four or maybe five paragraphs. The first two paragraphs should say why you think your idea is good for this publication and who is involved, what they are doing or have done, where all this takes place, and when it happened or will happen. The why should become obvious as you explain what your article is about.

 

Don’t be cutesy or sloppy.

 

No colored paper or flashing emails. Be as straightforward and professional as you can be, whether sending a query by snail mail or email, be sure you check and re-check, things like grammar, spelling, capitalization, formatting, tenses, everything. Your query Letter is a prelude of what your article will be. It’s your salesman with his foot in the door. Don’t blow the only opportunity you might have with this publication by being sloppy.

 

Never address the query to “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.”

 

Know the editor’s name and the correct spelling. It’s your job. This information should be on the masthead of the publication but if you can’t find it any other way, call the company and and get the spelling of both first and last names.

 

Do enough research to know where your finished piece is going.

 

 

Try to think of what your story opening would be. Something made you want to write about this idea. What makes your angle unique? My opening that got me an assignment from Ford Times about Dollywood, in Sevierville, TN began with, “It’s as country as a Tennessee Barn Dance and as colorful as a July Fourth fireworks display. It’s as down home as grits and gravy and as gauche as rhinestone-studded boots. It’s Dollywood . . . superstar Dolly Parton’s way of bringing something home.”

 

Share the meat of the story but don’t say everything.

 

In my query to The Writer, I went on to say, “You name it and we’ve written it. . . . We’ve won hundreds of contest awards, two members have columns that have run more than 25 years, one member has published a historical novel and one member has two novels for children. One has a play that was produced by a major university . . . . All have been included in anthologies . . . . five have taught creative writing classes, four have worked as newspaper editors . . .” What I saved was how we achieved all of this and the influence our critique group had on our success.

 

Be careful about adjectives and adverbs.

 

Don’t say “I have this wonderful article” or “I think your magazine is the best one I’ve ever read.” If your idea is a good one, it will stand on its own, without the sugar-coating.

 

Be truthful.

 
Don’t say you can get an interview with Justin Beiber if you have never met him. Don’t promise things you can’t deliver and don’t agree to deadlines you can’t keep. The editor will respect your honesty more that broken promises.

 

Save the last paragraph in your letter to tell about you.

 

List your credits and say if you are an expert in a particular field as it relates to your article. If you have not been published don’t say anything, and especially, don’t play on sympathy, i.e., “I’ve never written anything but if you give me a chance I know I could.” Remember, even club newsletters, church bulletins, and local newspaper guest columns can lend credibility to your writing.

So, go, and cultivate your ideas, then pick no fewer than five publications where you think an idea will fit and begin your query letter writing. Choose the publication first where your article idea is most likely to sell. Keep these ten steps in mind as you submit your queries. Don’t be discouraged if you get a rejection, just go to the next editor on your list and keep submitting. If an editor says something personal in his rejection, take it seriously, especially if he invites you to send him something else. Keep your query letters going and it won’t be long until the assignments will fill your inbox and/or mailbox. Happy writing!

 

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Award-winning writer Patricia A. Hope has published widely in anthologies, magazines, newspapers, and literary journals including the online literary journal Maypop and a short story in Muscadine Lines. Her articles have appeared in Tennessee Women of Vision and Courage, A Tapestry of Voices, Rocking Chair and Afternoon Tales, The Writer, Blue Ridge Country, An Encyclopedia of East Tennessee, These Are Our Voices, An Appalachian Studies Teacher’s Manual, and numerous more. She has written extensively for area newspapers including the Knoxville News-Sentinel and The Oak Ridger. She is Past Chairman of the Tennessee Writers Alliance (TWA) and Editor of the first TWA anthology, A Tennessee Landscape, People, and Places. She is the Past President of the East TN Chapter of Society of Professional Journalists, winner of the American Cancer Society’s statewide Best Media Coverage Award and winner of a Tennessee Press Association Award. She co-founded and served as Executive Director of Tennessee Mountain Writers, Inc.(TMW), a non-profit writing organization. Because of her work with TMW, earlier this year she was recognized by the Arts Council of Oak Ridge (ACOR) as one of its “arts champions.” She lives in Oak Ridge, TN.

 

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY: Writing By Moonlight

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I find myself to be a creature of habit. I take comfort in knowing the ebb and flow of my days don’t typically change. It allows me to block out time throughout my day for my writing. I just wish my actual writing would follow the same smooth process that my day to day activities do.

Most of the time I’m walking around during the day with different stories floating around in my head. Plots and dialogue from multiple stories dance around each other like fireflies in the moonlight. Captivated, I too find myself flitting from one thought to another as I test out my ideas before committing them to paper or screen.

Sometimes I even let that ol’ moon challenge me to search out the very best within myself, dragging it out of the shadows and into the light. I like to think of my ideas as creatures of the night, snug in their dens during the day…just waiting to come out and play when the moon is full.

There is a certain kind of freedom to writing at night. All around me others are settling in for the evening and yet there I will sit at my computer…wide awake and eager to see where the moonlight will take me.

Sometimes the journey is like a crazy maze where I start and stop…going down one dimly lit path, only to come to a dead end. I’ll turn around and search out the moon’s brilliance once again until I discover the path most satisfying for a creature of the night like myself.

Then there are times when everything is crystal clear under the moonlight. Every nook and cranny of my brain is illuminated by the night, leading me on the straight and narrow path to my journey’s end. Those are the nights when I feel the most productive. Those are the moments when I can bask in the moonlight and KNOW I am a writer.

No doubts.

No darkness.

Just me…my writing…and the moonlight…

 

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donna

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

BOOK NOOK REVIEWS: Aaron Zenz

 

hiccupotamus

 

Title: The Hiccupotamus
Author/Illustrator: Aaron Zenz
Publisher: Scholastic
Ages: 4-8

 

Synopsis:

 
There was a hippopotamus
Who hiccupped quite-a-lotamus
And every time he got’emus
He’d fall upon his bottomus

 

Why you should read it:

 

All I can say is everything about this picture book is cute! Cute illustrations, cute rhyme, cute premise. Who hasn’t struggled with a bout of hiccups that just wouldn’t go away? Oh how I laughed as I eagerly turned the pages to see what would happen next. What a delightful addition to any home library!

Like-o-meter Rating scale**: 5 out of 5…grab it!

**Rating scale**

5 out of 5…grab it!

4 out of 5…think about it.

3 out of 5…take or leave it.

2 out of 5…maybe not for you.

1 out of 5…forget about it!

 

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donna

 

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

 

FLASH FICTION TUESDAY: Some Bunny Loves You

 

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Katie felt the edges of that familiar dream drifting away as she opened her eyes to bright sunlight filtering through the closed curtains. It always began the same. Sam walking in from a hard day in the fields, smelling of sweat and outdoors. Katie reaching out to give him a kiss but his image just disappears, leaving her cold and crying.

She lay in bed for a moment longer and wished she could follow Sam to where he hid during the daylight hours. What she wouldn’t give to have one more moment to look into those grey eyes. One more moment to fill herself up with his scent. To snuggle her cheek against his flannel shirt right next to the steady drumming of a heart that had loved her since they were in middle school.

But Sam took that love with him when he died, leaving a razor sharp hole in the middle of her soul where her heart once was. Six months gone by and Katie still had a hard time dragging herself out of bed. The sharp sound of the doorbell startled her out of her gloomy thoughts and Katie quickly threw on some old sweats before running downstairs.

Moments later she was setting a large cardboard box on the bed. Staring at it in shock for a moment, Katie slowly reached out a trembling hand to grasp the envelope with her name written out in Sam’s bold handwriting.

How is this possible?

The bunny on the front of the Easter card made her smile, even as silent tears began to role down her face. Sam lived for springtime on the farm. His deep timbered voice drifted through her mind as she read his words written inside…

 

“Hello Babe,

By the time you get this card, I’ll be waiting on the other side for you. You know I would have stayed if I could, but I thought this little guy would help you through our first spring apart. Never forget, sweetheart, that some bunny loves you!

Sam”

 

Peeking inside, she couldn’t help but smile through the tears as she gently removed the small bundle of fur. Twitching whiskers nuzzled her neck as she cuddled the rabbit closer to her. It smelled of springtime…Sam’s favorite time of the year. Taking a deep breath, Katie carried her gift to the window and pulled back the curtains. She could just make out a splattering of violets peeking through the green of the front yard. No one ever said losing a loved one would be easy, but Sam’s last gift of love gave her something to hold onto until they met again…

 

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donna

 

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: An Easter Tradition

 

EASTER

 

My sister will probably laugh when she sees this picture. She will probably THINK she knows the tale I will tell today. Maybe she will be correct. And maybe she will learn a thing or two.

Card-giving is a billion dollar business. Today there are cards for every conceivable situation so finding one that says just what the sender wants it to say is kinda like shooting fish in a barrel…odds are in your favor.

But when I was about 8 years old the card selection wasn’t that great. I didn’t have the money to buy something other than this card to give to my big sister for Easter. I didn’t even take the time to sign it and truth be told, Janet kept the card…only to return the SAME card back to me the following year. She says she did it simply because she really didn’t like the card in the first place and was just trying to get rid of it.

Maybe that’s true. Then again, maybe she was just starting an Easter tradition that has stood the test of time. Year after year, decade after decade, this card has traveled back and forth from my hands to hers. In between traveling between our homes, it’s tucked somewhere safe until it is time to take it out again and send it on it’s special journey back into another sister’s hands.

I can’t even tell you what it says on the inside but I CAN tell you what it whispers to me before I tuck it away for another year.

I am still here.

The sisterly bond has not been broken.

Love has endured despite births, deaths, marriage, divorce, illness, and all the other possibilities of the human condition to tax our minds and spirits. That little card has reminded me of this fact for FIFTY YEARS of passing from my hands to my sister’s. It is a symbol of the most cherished part of my childhood and I pray we will be allowed to carry on our Easter tradition for many more years to come…

 

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donna

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

 

WRITERLY WISDOM: Donna L Martin

 

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Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Six years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week we learn about the seven sins of procrastination…

 

The Seven Sins Of Procrastination
by Donna L Martin

 

Any one of these temptations could be a potential roadblock preventing a writer from reaching their publication goal. Take a look and see if any of them seem all too familiar.

 

TALKING IT TO DEATH

 

 
Ideas are all around us. Different people and events cross our paths every day and snap, we suddenly have a handful of ideas. Every one of them potentially able to carry us over the threshold from simply wishing we were authors to becoming the real thing. But instead of gluing our seats to the chair and actually using one of them, we mull things over and talk our ideas to death while we drown in a sea of indecision over which one to use first.

 

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

 

Contrary to popular belief, the only things a writer really needs to create a story are a writing instrument and something to write on. Sure, things like a top of the line computer system, antique writing desk, & pearl handled ink pens are all fine and dandy, but our ancestor the caveman still told a great story with just stone and ash. Don’t let your search for the perfect tools of the trade distract you from the task at hand which is to get your story written.

 

FINE TOOTH RESEARCH

 

Some stories like nonfiction require a lot of initial research before the actual writing can begin. Other stories like fiction, not so much. It’s one thing to gather the right amount of information in order to maintain your story’s believability and quite another to bury your idea under mounds of unnecessary research. Learn the difference.

 

CHANNEL SURFING

 

There will come a time in every writer’s career when they need a mental and sometimes physical break from actual writing. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact a writer will usually return with more clarity when their story is seen through a fresh pair of eyes. Just don’t let the time spent away from the writing to become an excuse for channel surfing. Television, social media, online games and the Internet in general are extremely tempting and it takes a dedicated writer to exercise some self-control when it comes to their “down” time.

 

FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL

 

This is where a writer decides on a story line and might even get off to a great start. The words fill up the pages and the dialogue flows sweet like wine. Then comes the reality check when the writer takes time to actually read what they have written and discovers they have been playing Plot Ping Pong…a nasty little game where a story’s main character zigzags through a great story idea with no clue of where they are actually going.

 

REVISION HELL

 

Very few writers stand on the mountain top and proclaim to love doing story revisions. Most consider them a necessary evil. But again, like fine tooth research, there is a difference between performing multiple revisions in order to mold your story into the finest creation you can and revising simply to avoid facing the fact your story is now ready to face the critics of the world.

 

HERE A CRITIQUE, THERE A CRITIQUE

 

Successful writers know they can’t travel the path to publication alone. Well, they can…but chances are they will not achieve their highest goals. Great stories are the result of a collective process where a manuscript goes through the hands of critique groups, agents, editors, and publishers before it makes it to book form. It may even pass through those same hands more than once. But when a writer continuously seeks the opinions of others simply because of a fear…be it fear of failure or fear of success…a potentially great story finds itself stuck in the never ending Critiqueland Loop until it passes out from exhaustion.

 
I have found there is a simple weapon in the fight against these sins of procrastination. I call it my SHIELD OF BELIEF. When I BELIEVE in the strength of my story idea, I will put my best writing foot forward. When I BELIEVE I have done the proper research to create the foundation of my story’s world, I can relax and let my story speak for itself. When I BELIEVE in the opinions of those I trust to be honest with me about my work, I can send my completed manuscript out into the world with the confidence it will one day find a proper home.

All I need to do is BELIEVE. What about YOU? Do you BELIEVE you were born to write or do you let the seven sins of procrastination prevent you from your true calling?

 

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donna

 

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY: Grab A Cape & Hero Up

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I don’t know of anyone who didn’t want to be some kind of super hero when they were a kid. Didn’t matter whether you were Wonder Woman or Superman. Running through the back yard with a sheet tied around your neck, you took on the bad guys and saved the day.

That’s what we need again. People who hero up and defend the written word for all the other young heroes yet to be. With many bookstores closing at a frightening pace and an ever increasing number of poorly written vanity press or thrown together self-published ebooks flooding the market today, who is willing to step in and make sure only the best stories are there for today’s young readers?

I’ve decided to start a campaign where I challenge all writers to think back to that time in their own childhood when they believed they could save the world and then grab a cape and hero up.

 

HERO UP FOR THE CHILD WITHIN YOU!

 

For the little boy or girl who hugged their first library book like it was some newly discovered treasure chest just waiting to be explored.

 

HERO UP FOR THE CHILD YOU MEET TODAY!

 

For the child sitting in front of you at a school visit, ready and eager to join you on some grand adventure to faraway lands.

 

HERO UP FOR THE CHILDREN OF THE FUTURE!

 

For those young minds yet to be who will need a hero like you to protect the magic and ensure there will be great stories waiting for them when the time comes.

Later this fall I plan to champion the hero cause by hosting the first annual STAR CATCHER CONTEST through #StoryCatcherPublishing. This contest created exclusively for the next generation of authors will be open to young writers, ages ten years to eighteen years old.. They will have the chance to submit their short stories in one of five different categories for the chance to be published in an anthology of twenty-five winners.

It doesn’t take much to save the world. Just the belief that somewhere deep inside you lies the ability to ignite a powerful love of reading in those who wait in the shadows, starving for a good story. Readers just waiting for someone like YOU to grab a cape and HERO UP!

 

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donna

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.