"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Saturday, April 30, 2016


In 2011, I had the pleasure of interviewing mystery author Wayne Zurl. Retiring from police business has given him a unique voice for his Sam Jenkins mystery series. Being hired by the TV show TOUR OF DUTY in the 1980s only added to his writing talent.
He has also guest posted on this blog. Check out his great article "Perfect is Boring":
To learn more about Zurl and his work: http://www.waynezurlbooks.net/

Friday, April 29, 2016


I briefly mentioned Linda Yezak as an editor in my letter "E" post earlier this month. However, she is also a talented author.

A number of years ago, my youngest daughter was in the hospital again after numerous visits there and medications. I was extremely tired, frustrated, and feeling abandoned by God. I bought a copy of her book Give the Lady a Ride. Through the course of reading this tale my spirits were lifted. I was reminded of a beautiful Truth and Gift from God. And I thank Yezak for serving as an ambassador for Christ through her writing.

If you ever have the chance to read one of her books, hire her as an editor, or speak with her at a conference - take it! Here is a portion of an interview with her from several years ago:

When working on a manuscript do you complete an outline first or just start writing? I always just start writing, but after a few chapters, I begin sketching out a loose outline–which makes me a Hybrid in the SOTP/Outline debate. I’m not an outliner, other than what I carry in my head and jot on various slips of paper, but I do try to keep a structure template in mind. Larry Brooks’s is my favorite (found in his Story Structure Demystified). It extends James Scott Bell’s a bit, but Jim’s is great too (Plot and Structure, one of Writers Digest's “Write Great Fiction” series). I’d never survive Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method–far too in-depth of an outline for me.

What do you do when you have writer's block? I try writing something else for a while–anything else. I have tons of “first scenes” in a computer file waiting for me to develop them into novels. Often, writer’s block strikes when something’s not quite right with the manuscript, and your inner editor won’t let you continue until you fix it. If you can’t get your muse and your editor to agree on how to fix the problem, you get stymied. Separation from the WIP usually helps, but to stop writing only makes the problem worse. The longer you put off writing, the easier it is to simply not do it. So I don’t recommend not writing, just write something different for a while.

What is your writing and editing process like and how do you balance being both an editor and an author?  I’m a morning person, but since my husband doesn’t go to work until the afternoon, I’ve learned there’s no point getting too engrossed in anything until he’s out the door. Generally, I wake up at four, answer my emails and do some networking and promoting after my Bible study, write whatever blog posts are required, then wake him up around seven or eight. Once he’s settled into his day, I edit works for my clients and save my own writing and editing for when he’s gone. I don’t set much in the line of goals, although I like to hit at least 1500 words a day. Problem with getting up so early is that I crash pretty early, too. Around six, I’m tuckered out. I usually drift to the bedroom around seven to read awhile, then fall asleep by eight or eight-thirty. No one will ever accuse me of being the life of the party!

Advice for writers? Study the craft. Always strive to improve.

To learn more about Linda Yezak, visit: http://lindayezak.com/

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X-ray Interviewing

Becoming a successful interviewer is like learning to take an X-ray. You must look beneath the surface to what lies below - to what your subject doesn't know, or want, to share. Your goal is to remain unbiased while discovering the most interesting truth to share with others.
Here are some tricks to help you create a clear picture:
  1. Sample a wide selection of current magazines and journals. You are learning what type of interviews and truths interest both you and other readers.
  2. Read online to experience a variety of new storytelling forms - you want to find the style that works for you
  3. Read on topics outside your discipline, such as architecture, astronomy, economics or photography. You are stretching your mind and your abilities.
  4. Read other articles in search of under-developed stories. This helps you decide on what topics or individuals you want to focus.
  5. Research as much as possible about your chosen topic or individual to help you find focus and form questions.
  6. Listen to the voice of the subject - what makes them unique.
  7. Write the best article you can complete - every time.
What have been some of your favorite interview subjects?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


New York Times best-selling author Wally Lamb was such a joy to meet. Here is a small portion of that interview:

I understand you have a new book coming out. Can you tell me about it?  I’m working with a new compnay called Metabook for this one. They will produce my new story, I’ll Take You There, as an electronic book with audio, video, and some cool other features. Readers who are familiar with my Christmas novella, Wishin’ and Hopin’, will recognize many of the charactres but whereas that was a comic story, this one takes a more serious turn. No release date yet, but sometime in 2016.

Have you published anything besides books – articles, short stories, poetry, etc?  Yes, all of the above. My first book wasn’t fiction; it was a poetry text for high school students called Always Begin Where You Are. I’ve also edited two anthologies of autobiographical essays by my students at York Prison, Couldn’t Keep It To Myself (2003) and I’ll Fly Away (2007.) 

What have you done for promotion, marketing?  That’s usually handled by the marketing and publicity people at the publishing house, but when I have a new book that’s come out, I do extensive touring, press, interviews, etc. Again, that’s all set up by the publisher.

Where do you live and work - and do these places make an appearance in your writing?  Rural Northeastern Connecticut is our home base, but my wife and I also have a small apartment in New York City. Two of our sons live in New Orleans. All three of these places have been put to use as settings in my work. Several of my novels are set in a fictional town called Three Rivers, which is based loosely on my hometown, which was Norwich, Conneecticut. 

What are your thoughts on blogging, and other forms of social media?  I don’t blog (no time) but I have two Facebook pages, one personal and also a “fan” page. I also have a website (wallylamb.net) and a Twitter account. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Just as in any other form of writing, feature articles (written after the interview) need effective verbs.

1) Avoid passivity - It's better to make the subject of your sentence do something, rather than let something be done to it. "The owl hooted" is stronger than "An owl's hoot was heard." The first is active, the second passive.

2) Be precise - never settle for the first verb that pops into your mind if there's a better one available. Look for verbs that are closer to your meaning. Don't use "shout" if you really mean "bellow" or "roar" or "shriek". Use your thesaurus and familiarize yourself with synonyms.

3) Use the abstract - "The wind blew through the trees" tells the reader something, but not enough. Was it a soft breeze? Try imagery. "The wind whispered through the trees." Or maybe it was a heavy wind. "The wind thrashed the trees." You are giving the reader clues here.

Remember to be selective with your verb choices. Choose the ones that will create the strongest connection for the reader, without interfering with the story.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

United Press International

Anyone with a background in journalism has spent an indefinite amount of time studying a stylebook such as the United Press International Stylebook.

Stylebooks are a fact of life for writers in mass media. Newspapers, magazines, advertising agencies, and public relations firms all conform to similar guidelines for copy (text).  If you've never studied any of them, they are an agreed upon list or manual of rules to be followed by writers with the ultimate goal of consistency.

In short, it's a set of rules for writers about word usage - common spellings, abbreviations, acronyms, and more.

I mention this today because these manuals offer valuable information for all writers, not just journalists. One of my favorite quotes comes from the United Press International Stylebook. In a description of its purpose, the book defines STYLE as the "intangible ingredient that distinguishes outstanding writing from mediocrity."

Have you ever studied UPI or a similar stylebook? What do you think distinguishes outstanding writing from mediocrity?

Saturday, April 23, 2016


Best-selling author Adriana Trigiani is beloved by millions of readers around the world for her hilarious and heartwarming portrayal of families. Raised in a small coal-mining town in Virginia in a big Italian family, she chose her hometown for the setting and title of her debut novel, the critically acclaimed bestseller Big Stone Gap.

Now, thirteen years and fifteen books later, Trigiani has directed the movie based on that first book.

Many readers don’t realize she started as an award-winning playwright, television writer, and documentary filmmaker long before starting that first book. Those skills began her career writing for The Cosby Show, A Different World, and other popular comedies.

Here is a portion of that interview:

How has your life changed since you became a full-time writer? Well, I’ve been a full-time writer since 1989. First in television and film, and now in books, with a couple projects per year in film and television still. I started out writing plays for the theater, and I have a feeling that someday I will do something in that arena again. I’m very excited to be working on young adult novels. I love writing about the journey of women. I never know what subject will pique my interest. One of the reasons I love living in New York is that I’m exposed to great stories every day.

Are any of your other books being made into movies? I wrote the screenplay for LUCIA, LUCIA for producer Julie Durk. I would love to make Rococo into a movie.

Are you a member of any writing or critique groups, clubs/organizations? I'm in a mother-daughter book club.

What advice do you have for new authors? Be persistent. Be focused. Be yourself.

How many books have you published, and how did you make the transition to that from screenwriting?  As a playwright, I have found it very natural to write for film and television- novels, however, are wonderful because I write exactly what I want to write-and revel in it. 

      What lesson or tips would you share with authors trying to get published in today’s market? Write what you like- and then find like-minded people who want to get in business with you and publish your work. 

      To learn more: http://adrianatrigiani.com/

Friday, April 22, 2016

Scott Eagan

Scott Eagan - Opened Greyhaus Literary Agency in 2003 with three goals in mind: to remain a small agency focusing only on Romance and Women's Fiction, to provide educational opportunities for writers in these genres while making efforts to enhance those genres, and to assist with increasing communications between the professional publishing community and the writers. Being a small agency focused on a small number of genres allows him the chance to work closer with his writers and keep up with the every-changing trends in romance and women's fiction. To learn more, check the website: http://www.greyhausagency.com/ and his blog: http://scotteagan.blogspot.com/

Here is a sample of that interview:

What genres do you usually represent and what made you choose those? Greyhaus Literary Agency only accepts traditional print romance and women's fiction. This was for two reasons. The first is that the romance line makes up over 55% of the fiction market. In other words, supply and demand. The second is that I really do enjoy these stories. Both are stories about people. These are character and relationship stories.

Any tips for authors who want to pitch? Pitch only when your project is 100% ready to go. Treat it like a job interview and be 100% professional.

What do you think is the most important quality it takes to be a successful author?  Professionalism, a sense of knowing where they stand in the publishing world, and a desire to learn and grow as a writer.

What do you find to be the hardest lesson for writers to learn or accept?  Rejection, and criticism. Look, you are not going to sell your first book. It may take time so deal with it. This is a business where overnight success happens only to a few out there!

Thursday, April 21, 2016


Andy Ross – Opened his own agency in 2008, and represents books in a wide range of subjects including: narrative non-fiction, science, journalism, history, current events, as well as literary and commercial fiction, and young adult fiction. For non-fiction he looks for writing with a strong voice, robust story arc, and tells a big story about culture and society by authors with the authority to write about their subject. No vampires or trolls. He is a member of the Association of Author Representatives (AAR). You can learn more on his website: www.andyrossagency.com and blog: www.andyrossagency.wordpress.com

Here is a portion of that interview:





Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Q. Jones

In 1998 I worked for my college newspaper, and had the opportunity to interview award-winning actor, director, and writer L.Q. Jones.

As a Beaumont, Texas college student in the 1940s, he was studying pre-law before he headed to the West Coast. There, he began a career in film and television, now spanning more than five decades.

Born Justice Ellis McQueen, he adopted the name of his character – L.Q. Jones - in his first film which “Battle Cry”.

Jones has appeared in more than 90 movies on the big screen, more than 30 television movies, and more than 40 television shows, making him one of the most widely sought-after character actors in Hollywood.

While he is probably most recognized for his roles in Casino, The Mask of Zorro, The Wild Bunch, and A Prairie Home Companion, Jones has appeared in war movies, westerns, musicals, action films, dramas, and more. He even sang with Elvis in Love Me Tender and Flaming Star.

Jones has earned three Emmy nominations and won a Hugo for Best Science Fiction Film for A Boy and His Dog, which Jones wrote, produced, and directed.

I absolutely loved talking with him – he has a strong personality that commands attention. One of the things I remember most about that interview though was how he kept calling me “Tiger”. He was extremely good-natured, willing to answer questions, and loved by many of the students attending Lamar University during his visit that year.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Beth Phelan - joined the Bent Agency in September 2013. She is actively building her client list and is looking for complex fiction that pulls you in immediately, characters that you wish were your real friends, and plot lines that drag you away from reality to a world you never want to leave. Her favorite stories are told with humor and sprinkled with surprises. Beth is looking for YA and MG fiction, and adult commercial and literary fiction, suspense/thriller/mystery, cookbooks and humor/pop culture. She does not represent sports books, history, reference books, poetry, screenplays, or self-help. For more info: http://www.thebentagency.com/agent_beth_phelan.php

Here is a sample of that interview:

        What genres do you usually represent and what made you choose those? I represent YA, MG, and some adult fiction (thrillers, romance, literary and general) as well. I want to represent what I like to read, so these came naturally.
What would be a dream client? Someone professional, collaborative, courteous and humble.
What are your query pet peeves? Mass emails, especially when I can see the email address of every other agent who’s received it. I’m also never happy to see an email that doesn’t have an actual query letter. 
If you had to pinpoint one key that differentiates good writing from the bad, what would it be? Less is more. I think good writing should give you just what you need to paint the picture—nothing more. Too much detail can end up being a distraction. I like to sink into a story and forget that I’m reading at all.
What do you think is the most important quality it takes to be a successful author? Perseverance. It’s not an easy endeavor

Monday, April 18, 2016


In 1968, Tim O'Brien was drafted into the Army at the age of 21. In February 1969, he arrived in Vietnam. After returning home, O'Brien became a reporter for The Washington Post and in 1973, he published his debut novel If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home.

This American novelist continued depictions of the Vietnam War era both through fiction and nonfiction. His books include the National Book Award-winning "Going After Cacciato" (1978), the Pulitzer Prize finalist "The Things They Carried" (1990), his more recent novel, "July, July" (2002).

His books appear on numerous high school and college reading lists. Critics have hailed him as the author of rare works that have helped to define Vietnam and the experiences of war.

Tim O’Brien continues his contributions to military personnel, their families, and students through his writing and in traveling to speak with them when possible.

Here is a portion of that 2013 interview:

How many of your books have been related to Vietnam? Three were related directly, but all of them contain something about that era of a country divided, riots in the street, great contention among families, the whole musical revolution, women’s revolution, and civil rights revolution… an era.

You wrote some of these works 10 and even 20 years after your own experience. Did it take you that long to deal with what you saw before you could share? I think distance and objectivity was necessary, in my case, to write a book that would last. I needed to distance myself, to allow my imagination to reorganize and reinterpret material that was so close to me that it was difficult to separate what would be important for the story, what a reader would need and what they would not. In the end, stories have to be about squeezing the heart.

How do you think your books are beneficial to people who had no personal or “hands on experience” such as students in school today who are reading one of your works? I always try to tell a good story. A book is a unified thing, a work of art, shape, harmony, pace, and it’s entertaining, with swells of emotion, happiness, laughter, sadness, meaningfulness. That’s how life is. It’s not all one thing, and that means finding the right proportions for a book and trying to make it feel unified like a single artistic whole such as with a finished painting. By telling a story, you have this magical thing that happens. Some readers may be lying in bed at night, and the story just grips them. It’s not just something foreign or distant, removed from their experience. It becomes very personal, almost like dreaming. The real magic in getting someone to identify with something as foreign as a war might be is through a story of human beings, idiosyncratic, different voices struggling with a common problem like how to survive.

What do you hope is the most important quality or lesson that people take from your work? Story. It’s one thing to watch a newscast, or read a newspaper or a magazine article, where things are fairly abstract. In fact, the word war itself has a kind of abstraction to it that conjures up visions of bombs and bullets and so on. My goal is to try to capture the heart, stomach, and back of the throat readers who can participate in the story. They are not just observing it. The comments that mean the most to me are basically when people tell my own story back to me. That means they remembered it, it’s become part of who they are, and the detail of recollections is often astonishing. They often remember details I’ve forgotten. That’s what matters to me in the end. Whether it’s some high school kid, housewife, or even an executive in New York lying in bed at night, they are all in my story and if they finish, that means they liked it enough to keep going.

Where is the best place for people to find out more about you? I would think the library or internet, is the easiest place to learn more. I don’t have a website. A woman runs one on me, but I don’t think it’s very up to date. Every now and then she writes me and asks questions. But, someone told me that if you google my name and write novel, you’ll get ten thousand things you can look up. I would never do that. It would be too embarrassing. It’s like listening to yourself on a tape. It gives me the willies. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016


Amy Newmark was a writer, speaker, Wall Street analyst and business executive in the worlds of finance and telecommunications for more than 30 years. Today she is publisher, editor-in-chief and coauthor of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. Since 2008, when Amy, her husband, and an investor group bought the company from its founders, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, she has published more than 100 new books, doubling the number of Chicken Soup for the Soul titles in print today.
As publisher, Amy is credited with revitalizing the Chicken Soup for the Soul brand. She redesigned the look of the book covers and interiors, and changed the format of the title so that the books can cover topics of interest to today’s readers. This has led to national bestsellers such as Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven, and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels Among Us. The number of stories submitted for Chicken Soup for the Soul books has soared as a result, with most books attracting four or five thousand submissions for only 101 slots.
By compiling inspirational and aspirational true stories curated from ordinary people who have had extraordinary experiences, Amy has kept the 21-year-old Chicken Soup for the Soul brand fresh and relevant, and still part of the social zeitgeist. Reading stories from each book has also made a difference in her own life. “I’ve learned how to have better personal relationships, how to focus on what's important, how to stay thin and fit, how to look for the positive in every situation, and how to put in perspective the daily ups and downs of life,” Amy says.
Amy graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University where she majored in Portuguese and minored in French. During her junior and senior years, she researched and wrote a thesis about popular, spoken-word poetry in Brazil, which involved living in Brazil for several months, traveling throughout its impoverished northeast region, and meeting with poets and writers to collect their stories. She is delighted to have come full circle in her writing career—from collecting poetry “from the people” in Brazil as a 20-year-old to, three decades later, collecting stories and poems “from the people” for Chicken Soup for the Soul.
She has a national syndicated newspaper column and is a frequent radio guest, passing along the real-life lessons and useful tips she has picked up from reading and editing thousands of Chicken Soup for the Soul stories.
Her story Maverick with a Mission will be available for purchase in October. You can view the announcement on Amazon here.

Here is a portion of the interview:

How many titles do you publish per year? It varies but it’s never less than one a month on average. Some years we publish a lot more. And then I complain I have no life, but of course I’m the one who came up with all those titles!

How many submissions do you receive per book? We average a few thousand submissions for each book, sometimes even five or six thousand! We read every submission.

Who comes up with the themes? We get together a few times a year and talk about what’s going on out there in the world, what people are talking about, what sub-themes we see in the stories we are reading for our current topics, and then we come up with our new topics for the coming year. Most of the books are my inventions, ultimately, along with the titles.

I noticed editors or partnerships change for each title, how does this work? I have started inviting experts in different fields to co-host books with me, either as foreword writers or as coauthors. When they are coauthors, we work together on choosing the final 101 stories and develop the themes of the book together.

Friday, April 15, 2016


Jill Marr  is an acquiring agent at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency with a B.A. in English from San Diego State University. She is interested in commercial fiction, with emphasis on mysteries, thrillers, horror, and historical. Jill is also looking for nonfiction by authors getting their work published regularly in magazines, who have a realistic sense of the market, and their audience. Self-help, inspirational, cookbooks, memoir, health & nutrition, pop culture, humor and music welcome. She is not interested in: YA, children's, sci-fi, romance or unicorns. For more information: http://www.dijkstraagency.com/meet-the-agents.html#jill-marr

Here is a portion of that interview:

What genres do you usually represent and what made you choose those? Agents are lucky because we typically represent genres that we love to read. I love mysteries and thrillers so I was immediately able to dive into that genre. I am a good reader of it and can advice, editorially on it well.  Here’s a bit more on what I take from my mini-bio: "Jill is interested in commercial and book club fiction, with an emphasis on mysteries and thrillers, women’s fiction and historical. She is also looking for non-fiction across the board by authors with a fresh, new message and a solid platform."

What are your query pet peeves? If I had to narrow it down to one pet peeve, this week it would be the “canned” query. Lately I’ve been receiving query letters from what appears to be a company that pops an author’s project into their cookie cutter template. It screams “I’m not creative,” which is not a good thing to scream when you are basically applying for a job that demands creativity.

If you had to pinpoint one key that differentiates good writing from the bad, what would it be? I am a sucker for a good voice in writing, something that stands out on the page. 

What lesson or tips would you share with authors trying to get published in today’s market? Join a writer’s group and don’t work in a vacuum. You are doing something very wrong if an agent is the first person to read your book. And don’t take your family’s word for it—they love you and they have to live with you. Of course they’re going to tell you your book is awesome.   

Thursday, April 14, 2016


Elizabeth Ludwig is an award-winning author whose work has been featured on Novel Journey, the Christian Authors Network, and The Christian Pulse. Her first novel, Where the Truth Lies, which she co-authored with Janelle Mowery, earned her the 2008 IWA Writer of the Year honors. This book was followed in 2009 by “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” part of a Christmas anthology collection called Christmas Homecoming, also from Barbour Publishing.

In 2010, her first full-length historical novel Love Finds You in Calico, California earned Four Stars from the Romantic Times. Books two and three of Elizabeth’s mystery series, Died in the Wool (Barbour Publishing) and Inn Plain Sight (Spyglass Lane), respectively, released in 2011.

In 2012 Elizabeth’s newest historical series from Bethany House Publishers became available. No Safe Harbor, the first book in the Edge of Freedom Series, released in October, with two more books following: Dark Road Home August 2013 and the third of the series in 2014.

Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and teacher, and often attends conferences and seminars, where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Her popular literary blog, The Borrowed Book, enjoyed a wide readership in its first full year, with more than 17,000 visitors in 2011. Along with her husband and two children, Elizabeth makes her home in the great state of Texas.

Here is a small portion of that interview:

What do you like most about writing and being a published author? I still get a thrill every time my publisher sends me a new book cover or when the postman drops off a carton of new books. I’m amazed sometimes to think that something that sprang from my imagination is bringing enjoyment to someone else! I love that.

What do you like least? More than anything else, writing—and promoting my writing—is work! I wish I didn’t have to think about sales numbers or marketing plans, but you know what? It’s all part of the business.

Where can readers find you? Website, blog – address: I’ve actually made quite a home for myself out in cyber space. Readers can find me at: Website: www.elizabethludwig.com and http://www.elizabethludwig.net/  Blog: www.theborrowedbook.blogspot.com.  I’m also on Facebook and on Twitter. Stop on by! I’d love to have you visit.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Jessica Kirkland joined The Blythe Daniel Agency, Inc. as Marketing and Literary Agent in 2012, where she is the primary fiction acquisition agent. Jessica has a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communications, and a minor in Marketing, which has helped lead to the successful sales and positioning of her authors. Jessica writes on her own website www.iliveloud.net where she encourages people to make their moments count. Jessica is acquiring and representing adult fiction, young adult fiction, and some non-fiction. Find out more at: http://www.theblythedanielagency.com/jessica-kirckland-joins-as-marketing-literary-agent/

Here is a sample of that interview:

.        I see you represent both adult and young adult fiction, but one of your passions is helping children form a relationship with Jesus. Would you ever considerrepresenting a children’s author? I represent non-fiction and fiction (both YA and adult). I do represent Middle grade, but no picture books at this time. Children's books are some of my favorite things to write, but unfortunately, the market doesn't want them right now. For the moment, I will continue to write my own, but to sign a children's author now is not a wise professional investment. 
     I noticed you blog on www.iliveloud.net. Have you ever written or do you plan to write in other formats? Glad that you asked. I do enjoy blogging— I write letters to the broken on my blog as well as ways to Live Loud (or make life count). It's fun. I am also working on a YA novel as well as a non-fiction book that will go in an e-book bundle this spring. Of course I have the two book apps, The Sounds of Night and The Lonely Stable that are available in the app store for children ages 2-7. I always have something cooking. 
     What are your query pet peeves? I only have one pet peeve and it has nothing to do with queries. I can't stand hearing authors talk about "dating agents." Or authors that act like they are throwing the agent a bone if we end up working with them. I can spot arrogance a mile away and I will shut down in 2 seconds in a pitch like that. We work so hard for our clients, and any talk that cheapens the agent/author relationship is annoying. 
Any tips for authors who want to pitch? Pitching is simply a conversation. Know your story and be able to tell my why you are unique and why you think I am a fit for you and vice-versa. Authors who do their homework are the ones who stand out. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Jerry Craven

Jerry Craven is the Press Director and editor for the Lamar University Press in Beaumont, Texas. He is also the author of more than twenty-five books, Press Director of Ink Brush Press, and Editor-in-Chief of Amarillo Bay. In addition to those responsibilities, he is a member of the writing faculty at Lamar University and a member of The Texas Institute of Letters, SFWA,  TACWT, and CCTE. You can learn more at: http://www.jerrycraven.com/

Here is a portion of that interview:

With all of the demands on your time as a writer, instructor, editor, and Press Director, why did you decide to help form a University Press? Setting up a press for Lamar University was Dr. Jim Sanderson’s idea. He observed the success of my own small literary Ink Brush Press, and he suggested I take that press to Lamar University. But I wanted to keep Ink Brush, so my counter suggestion was for me to set up a press at Lamar based on the IBP model, that is, for the Lamar press to make use of all the latest in technology for book production and distribution. We knew it would be a hard sell to university administrators given the recent closings of university presses because of the expense of maintaining them and the fact that Lamar was at the time in the midst of a financial crisis. Still, we figured we had in Ink Brush Press good evidence for our being able to open a press that would promote the university by publishing good books without being a drain on resources. Dr. Steve Zani, then Head of the English Department, liked the proposal that Dr Sanderson and I came up with, and he, Sanderson, and I went to the dean of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Brenda Nichols. She liked our idea for a university press, made some useful suggestions for making our proposal more effective, and suggested we take it to the university provost, Dr. Steve Doblin. He was also enthused about the idea for a new kind of press. One of the things he said was, “Even in times of financial exigency, the university still needs to move forward, and this press would be such a move and would cost very little.” Within weeks he had approved the project, and I began soliciting manuscripts.

What are some of the advantages of publishing with a UP instead of traditional or self publishing? If by “traditional” you mean the large East coast publishers, then the answer is simple: most such presses are effectively closed to literary books, for they do not sell. Self publishing is certainly an option for many writers, but self-published books strike many readers as books produced by vanity presses. There is a significant difference between self publishing and publishing with a vanity press. A vanity press is one that will publish any book regardless of quality if the author is willing to pay for getting into print. But many readers think of self publishing as a route for amateur writers to get into print without having anyone vetting the quality of their books. University presses do serve as a means to winnow out the poorly written self-published books that these days appear in such huge numbers in bookstores such as Amazon, so many readers are much more likely to pick up books from university press over self-published books.  Most writers who care about their reputations as literary artists will avoid both self publishing and publishing through vanity presses.

I understand LUP only accepts submissions in June. Why? The editorial staff of Lamar University is made up of volunteers, and most of them are university professors in various Texas universities; some are Lamar graduate students. June is the least busy time for many university professors, so I chose that month. Experience with Ink Brush Press told me that if the press had a year-round open submissions policy, we would get so many manuscripts from around the country that we would be doing little other than evaluating submissions. Thus, the one-month open window. We get most of our submissions from the members of the editorial staff recommending manuscripts they have read, and now that we have some 30 books out, some of our writers now recommend manuscripts that we examine for publication.

What type of manuscripts will LUP consider? We are interested in well-written books in many genres. We like fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, history, memoirs, and we are open to other kinds of books. Our catalog of books includes so many books of creative writing–fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction—that our emerging reputation is that we are a literary press, which is quite unusual among university presses. Most will either publish none of the creative writing genres or will limit such publication to only a few books yearly.

For more information: http://www.lamar.edu/literary-press/

Sunday, April 10, 2016


For the last 10 days I've been sharing tips on interviewing, and reminiscing about favorite interview subjects. I've even mentioned how some of them have inspired me personally. One such instance led me to write a western short story that was originally published by Rope and Wire. You can now download that story here.

If you are planning to conduct your own interview, here are some thoughts to consider:

There are two basic types of interviews:
1) Formal - a planned/scheduled time with prepared questions.
2) Informal - thought questions - spur of the moment.

1) Set your appointmet.
2) Complete background work - research.
3) Outline your questions - for examples see the post here.
    You might also read here.

1) Notepad - paper is usually best because electronics can malfunction.
2) Recorder - get their permission to record at the beginning of the recording - it's just good manners.
3) Photography - have a way to take a picture of your subject or arrange to get one from them.

When you interview someone, please be aware of your rapport and dress - having conversations with sources is the key to most stories.
1) Your ability to make people comfortable with you is the difference between mediocre reporting/research and good story telling.
2) It may be something as trifling as your appearance that determines whether you will have a successful interview.
     a) Be on time.
     b) Be prepared.
     c) Be friendly.
     d) Be open-minded.
     e) Take notes - assume the recorder isn't working.
     f) Dress appropriately.
     g) Look your subject in the eye.
     h) Leave the door open for future visits - "May I contact you again?"
     i) Listen with a "grain of salt" - not all interviewees are honest or unbiased.
     j) Verify/Verify/Verify

After the interview:
1) Organize your notes immediately - especially if you used shorthand. Fill in any blanks while the information is fresh in your mind.
2) Check accuracy - spelling, dates, statistics, and quotes.

Saturday, April 9, 2016


Many of us struggle to find that balance of job, family and writing time. Author Jody Hedlund is no different, unless you realize the depth of her commitment to all three endeavors. The award-winning historical romance novelist is a stay-at-home mother who home schools all five of her children while maintaining a full time writing career.

She now writes for both adult and YA. Her fifteenth book will release in September 2016.

Here is a small portion of that interview: 

As a homeschooling mom of five children, how do you manage to find time to write? It’s definitely not easy to manage my busy household of five children and squeeze in time for writing. But fortunately my husband is very helpful and pitches in to help wherever possible. We really work together as a team to support each other in our pursuits and work. For example, when he's home he often takes over the household responsibilities, runs kids to activities, and pitches in with homeschooling so that I can have concentrated blocks of time to write. We've also simplified our home life and outside commitments as much as possible. We expect our children to shoulder responsibilities around the home. In fact, my three oldest kids are each responsible for cooking one evening meal a week! And last but certainly not least, I rely upon my mom for lots of help too. She helps homeschool, cook meals, and even takes my youngest two children to choir.

What do you think is the most important quality it takes to be a successful author? One of the key qualities in becoming a successful author is learning to be an enthralling and captivating storyteller. Writers can (and should!) work on improving their techniques—how to write good dialog, how to write tightly, how to develop their characters, etc. But first and foremost, I think readers are looking for stories that blow them away. At least as a reader, that’s what I long for!

What advice do you have for anyone interested in writing and pursuing publication? Write a couple of books first and unleash your creativity. Then start reading books that explain how to write. Study techniques, practice them, and keep writing. When you begin reaching a level in your writing where you think you’re ready to start querying, get a critique partner to read your work, vamp up your online presence, and immerse yourself in the writing industry.

Where can readers find you?
I hang out on Facebook here: Author Jody Hedlund
I also love to chat on Twitter: @JodyHedlund
My home base is at my website: jodyhedlund.com
Or you're welcome to email me at: jodyhedlund@jodyhedlund.com

Hedlund also has a great blog which offers loads of advice for aspiring and struggling writers. While she does not post as frequently as she once did, there is still a lot of useful information at: http://www.jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/

Friday, April 8, 2016


Another agent I enjoyed meeting was Rachelle Gardener

Gardner joined Books and Such Literary Agency in January 2012 with twelve years in previous agent and publishing positions. Rachelle has ghostwritten eight published books. She represents books for the Christian and the general market, and is accepting queries for both. Rachelle is looking for fiction in Women’s, Mystery, Suspense/Thriller, Family Saga, Historical, Legal, Literary, Mainstream, Romance, and in nonfiction Memoirs, Home Life, Current Affairs, Health & Diet, Narrative Nonfiction, Popular Culture, Self-Help, and Women’s Issues. She does not want devotionals, fantasy, sci-fi, children’s, or YA. For more details: http://www.rachellegardner.com/

Here is a sample of that interview:

I see you represent books for the Christian market (CBA) as well as for the general market, and that you are now accepting queries for both adult fiction, and nonfiction. Would you ever consider representing a children’s author? Children’s publishing is a specialized subset of the publishing world – there is so much to know that is specific to children’s books. I prefer to focus on the areas in which I already specialize. I have no plans to expand that to include kids’ books.

What are your query pet peeves? I feel like it’s disrespectful and insulting when writers send a query without having learned the first thing about the craft of writing or the business of publishing. If you don’t take it seriously, nobody in publishing will take you seriously. 

Any tips for authors who want to pitch? You have to get some objective feedback on your project and your pitch before bringing it to publishing professionals. It’s impossible to be objective about your own work, so you need help in identifying what makes your book interesting, what’s the hook, what would make someone interested in hearing more. Every writer thinks their own book is endlessly fascinating, but they need help in getting someone else as interested as they are.

Have you ever advised an author self publish instead of traditional? If so, why?  I'm constantly in discussion with my clients about their projects, and which ones might be best suited for self-publishing. Many authors these days are doing both. Sometimes I'll advise they self-pub a project in which their current publisher isn't interested. Other times they might self-publish a shorter work that will help them promote an upcoming release. The possible reasons are endless.

What lesson or tips would you share with authors trying to get published in today’s market? I wouldn’t recommend “writing to the market” but I definitely think you need to find where your passion meets the market. Find the genre or category you want to write in, the one that floats your boat, that also has some sales potential. As an artist, you can write whatever you want, no restrictions. But the moment your desire goes beyond simply “writing” and expands to include “selling,” you must think of the market. You’re now straddling the worlds of art and commerce, and you’d better be comfortable in both.