Tuesday, February 27, 2018

March Pass Or Pages Details

We are always thrilled when the stars align and we're able to bring you another Pass Or Pages contest. Getting agents' insights into what works and what doesn't in a submission is so valuable to writers. We learn something every round we feature, and we hope you do, too!

In March, we'll feature entries from Young Adult Science-fiction and Fantasy novels. Don't send us MG entries; we can tell the difference. Yes, historical fantasy is okay. As long as there is a speculative element and it's for Young Adults, we'll take it. Any other questions? Ask in the comments or on Twitter @OpAwesome6.

Here are the important dates for this round:
March 6th: Agent panel announcement
March 12th-14th: Entry window (via a form here on our blog)
March 26th-30th: Feedback reveals!

For a recap of the rules and links to previous rounds, click here.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Introducing Karis, the newest OA blogger!

Hello, hello, all you fabulous Operation Awesome readers! My name is Karis, and I’m the latest addition to the OA blogging fam! I am so happy to be here, and so, so excited to get to know a brand-new community of writers and readers on the Internet!

If you’re wondering, here’s a little about me: I’m a 20-something American/Canadian writer who was born in South Carolina, raised in Italy, schooled in Germany, Kentucky and New York City, and is currently back in the sunny (and unbearably hot) American South.

I feel like there was a lot in that sentence! Ha. Let’s break it down: first and foremost, I’m a writer. I’ve been writing since I had my first disappointment in a book’s ending and decided I, a seven-year-old, could do better. I feel like I’ve known pretty much from then that my goal and desire was to be a published, career writer.

These days, I work as a blogger (my personal blog is at www.karisrogerson.com) and freelance writer for various websites around the web — I’ve written for Seventeen.com, Bustle, Ravishly, and then bookish sites like LitReactor.com and YA Interrobang. My main topics of concern are mental health (I was diagnosed with depression years back and have since been very open about its ups and downs); young adult novels; and relationships...okay, fine, it’s mostly just recountings of the failed dates I’ve been on, but still! It’s very funny ;)

I’m also a novelist. I write young adult contemporary fiction, and I’m working on a massive revision and then will fling myself into the query trenches, wholeheartedly. YA novels are my deepest passion, and I aspire to be writing them for many years to come. I just...teenagers are the future, they’re bright and vibrant and hilarious, and also YA is just so much less cynical than adult fiction.

When I was four years old, my parents moved the family to Perugia, Italy, so they could work with evangelical churches there. We bounced around a bit and finally settled in Trieste, this little port town on the Adriatic that has got some of the best views, architecture, and weird culture around. This city has my heart. It’s also mildly famous for being the city where James Joyce began writing Ulysses…#NoBigDeal.

Because the Italian school system is so different from the American one, I attended an American boarding school in Germany for the last three years of high school. That was...man. So many stories! I lived in a dorm with 12 other teenage girls, and when I say there were shenanigans galore, I mean...come on, you stick 13 girls between the ages of 13-18 in one creaky house in the wilds of the Black Forest, what do you expect? We had fabulous times.

After four years of college in Kentucky, I moved to New York City to pursue a graduate program at NYU. I never finished that program, for financial and medical reasons. That’s a huge bummer, but one I’m working through my throwing myself fully into my novels and personal essays.

As for my role here, I’m going to be blogging about the writing journey, especially as it pertains to the query trenches; I’ve also set a goal of 100 rejections for 2018, so will do a regular update on that: what’s been rejected, what’s been accepted, and how many pints of ice cream I’ve devoured in the meantime ;)

If you’d like to connect with me on the Internet, your best bet is Twitter, where I’m @KarisRogerson, or Instagram, where I'm @karisselizabeth. Come say hi and let’s be buds!

A few quick fun facts about me include: I am obsessed with New York City and will claw my way back to that city eventually, and settle down so firmly they’ll bury me there. I broke my nose five days before my high school graduation, so I did graduate with a cast on my face, and I do still have a scar from that (on my knee). I speak 2.5 languages. Trampolines scare me so much I haven’t been on one in years. My middle name is Gertrude. I worked at the Sochi Olympics and met Al Roker. I have been to 23 countries (almost one country per year of life!). I’m deathly afraid of flying. Relatedly, I’ve been on something like 100 flights in my life.

Alright, so here’s the thing: all of those facts are true, except for one. It’s like a really extended version of “Two Truths and a Lie.” So leave a comment guessing at which factoid is false, and then tell me the weirdest thing about yourself!

Friday, February 23, 2018


It's that time of the week again! Post a comment (and comment on another OA post from this week), to be entered to win a query critique. Must comment by noon on Sunday, 02/25, EST. Check out the rest of the rules here.

Happy entering! 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

OA's New Feature: 'Dear OAbby' Advice Column

Operation Awesome wants to answer your questions about writing, finding an agent, the publication process, and more! Consider this new feature an advice column, with your questions and our answers (when we don't know the answers, we'll collaborate with other writers and publishing professionals to get those answers!).

Send an email to operationawesome6@gmail.com with 'Dear OAbby' Question in the subject line. Feel free to go as much into detail about your situation as you want; we may edit for space and clarity. Nothing is off-limits here - ask specifics, generalities, what-ifs, or theoreticals. We will keep the author's name, and any other identifying information, confidential.

Looking forward to answering your questions!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Meet Rebecca Ross in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

The Queen's Rising

1- What's your favorite breakfast dish?


2- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words

Loyal. Friendly. Easy going. Introspective. Empathetic.

3- How are constellations inspiring to you?

I love everything about the night sky. I feel like there are stories in the stars if we would only stop and take the time to admire them.

4- Would you share a picture with us of your book in an exciting location?

I don’t have a picture yet of my book in an exciting place, but I do have a picture of me with the first finished hardcopy I received. And if you couldn’t tell, I was pretty excited.
Meet Rebecca Ross in this Debut Author Spotlight

5- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

Since I am 3 weeks from launch, a few of my short-term goals are to experience the publication (which is so exciting but also a little nerve-wracking!), continue building my platform, have a good launch party and do my best on my second round of edits for Book 2 (which should be coming any week now!). Long term goals include finishing TQR series with the best books that I can produce, and continuing to improve my craft.

6- What is your favorite book (by someone else), and what do you love most about that book?

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta. I love how endearing her characters are! She is such a fantastic writer that I was wholly invested in not only Finnikin but with the secondary characters. They feel like real people to me, and I often miss being in their world.

7- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

I have to say my two younger sisters (the book is dedicated to them). They are the reason why this book even got published. I handed them the first draft to read three years ago, not sure if it was even good, and they absolutely loved it. And their enthusiasm about the book was the reason why I queried agents. My sisters have seen the book throughout its many drafts, but I think they simply love Brienna and her world.

8- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

I hope my readers will feel/relate to Brienna’s struggles to know where she belongs and who she wants to become. But there is also a particular scene (one of my favorites to write!) where I hope to catch my readers by complete surprise.

9- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

Working with my editor! She has truly helped me reach the next level with my writing. She has not only helped me draw out deeper emotions and conflicts within my characters, but also examine my pacing and my overall structure (elements I often struggle with!).
Meet Rebecca Ross in this Debut Author Spotlight

10- Would you share a picture with us of your book and your dog?

Of course! This is my dog, Sierra. She often sits beneath my desk when I write (as pictured). She’s very good about letting me know when it’s time to take a break from writing to go throw Frisbee in the yard.

11- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

Jourdain often responds with a, “Hmm.” Which Brienna learns is his manner of halfway agreeing with someone or his way of avoiding an answer.

12- https://diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks What's your favorite book with a diverse main character?

I love Laia and Elias from An Ember in the Ashes. I remember when I first picked Sabaa’s book up, I planned to read a few chapters. And before I knew it, I was halfway through, and I could not put it down! It is one of the best dual narratives I have ever read.

13- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

I think I have to go with Brienna. She has a devious side, but she is also trustworthy.

14- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to benefit hundreds of other authors or readers potentially?

Supporting diverse authors. Buying their books and spreading the word about their books are two things that help tear down the walls in publishing and give more readers stories and characters that represent them.

15- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

Beautiful covers always draw my attention. But beyond the cover…I typically open up to a random page and read a paragraph. If it grabs my interest with witty dialogue or lyrical writing, I will definitely buy the book!

16- How will you measure your publishing performance?

Oh dear. This is a tough question. I think the answer that carries the most weight here is the number of books sold. Publishing is a business, after all. But in my heart, I want to measure it by my readers. The people who have read my book and loved it, who have been encouraged or moved by my story. Because that is what I want at the end of that day.

17- What ignited your passion for writing?

Reading! As a girl, I was a voracious reader. And with each book that I read, the more I wanted to write my own. I honestly cannot remember a time when I did not want to be a writer. The first book I ever wrote was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast (I think I was around 6 when I wrote it and even took it upon myself to illustrate).
Meet Rebecca Ross in this Debut Author Spotlight

18- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I knew right away that I wanted an agent to guide me through the process and be in my corner, because publishing can be scary and confusing. I honestly did not understand all the inner workings of publishing when I first drafted TQR, and I felt as if I would have a really hard time as a self-published author (I had 0 network connections and no following). So when I got such an incredible agent, I trusted her to know which editors and imprints would be a good match for me.

19- What's the best book marketing strategy you've come across?

I think anything that utilizes social media is very helpful for marketing and promoting, whether it’s a blog tour or a giveaway or a cover reveal or a street team. An author might not even see all the engagement, or fully know how many people have seen their post(s), but social media is such a good way to connect with others and find readers who may love your book.

20- What is one question which you would like the readers of this interview to answer in the comments?

What would you like to see more of in YA Fantasy?

21- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Thank you again so much for this interview! I love to connect with readers, so don’t be shy to come find me on social media!

When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.
Growing up in the southern kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her. While some are born with a talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she chose knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true: she is left without a patron.
Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, she reluctantly accepts. But there is much more to his story, for there is a dangerous plot to overthrow the king of Maevana—the rival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved, some closer to Brienna than she realizes.
With war brewing, Brienna must choose which side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. Who will be that queen?

Rebecca Ross grew up in Georgia, where she continues to reside with her husband, lively dog and endless piles of books. She received her bachelor's degree in English from UGA and enjoys rainy days, endless cups of coffee and DIY projects. Rebecca writes fantasy for young adult readers. Her debut, THE QUEEN'S RISING, is the first book in a trilogy and came out February 6, 2018 from HarperTeen.

Visit her online at http://www.rebeccarossauthor.com

Instagram: @beccajross
Twitter: @_RebeccaRoss
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/rebeccajross/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaRossAuthor/
Tumblr: https://writerebeccaross.tumblr.com

The Queen's Rising

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Book Quiz!

I made a thing. And it was my first ever, so it is not perfect, but I hope you'll forgive me. And play along! Let me know in the comments what book you got, and if you've already read it.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Good-bye, #OAFlash Fiction & Hello, #QueryFriday

Sadly, not all blog features stick around forever, and that is why #OAFlash Fiction is going away. But! To take its place, comes #QueryFriday. To find out how you can get an outside opinion on your query, keep reading...


Queries are the first step in the journey to seeing your book published. As a professional letter to an agent or publisher, it is intended to interest them in your work. The end game of a query letter? To entice the agent/publisher to request MORE of your work. So stressful? Queries? Oh, yeah. But never fear, as Operation Awesome is here!

On #QueryFriday, one lucky commenter will be chosen for a query critique. Fresh, outside eyes are often helpful in pinpointing problematic areas within a query. Your critique will be respectful of your feelings, while trying to add just a bit more shine/clarification/strength to your query. And if your query is already pretty dang good-- we'll tell you!


1.) You must comment on the #QueryFriday post in order to enter, as well as comment on one other Operation Awesome blog post from that week. This will be checked, and failure to comment on another blog post will result in your entry being invalidated.

2.) In case of being the winner, please make it easy to contact you. If you are not comfortable with leaving your email in your comment, then please make sure that your blogging profile has your contact information listed.

3.) Entry comments will be accepted until Sunday 2/18, Noon, EST. The winner will be selected by a random number generator, and announced Sunday evening in the comments section.

4.) Your critiqued query will be returned to you via email, in an attached document, with notes in the margins, within 7 days.

5.) If you have won a query critique, you will not be eligible to win another until 3 months have passed. Critiques will not be done multiple times on the same query. If you enter again, it must be with a query on a new story.


Good luck! 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

What Do You Love About Writing?

The path to publication can be extremely frustrating, full of rejections, doubt, and uncertainty the whole way. It's great to take a step back every now and then to remind yourself why you write in the first place.

For me, I write because the characters chattering in my head need somewhere to go. Putting them on the page, expanding their world, and letting them come to life is the most magical thing I can do. When I'm not writing, my brain can get awfully crowded, and it's a relief to sit down with a blank Word doc and let my characters play.

I also love playing the 'what if' game. Writing lets me experience things that may never happen in real life, but can play out on the page. My characters can make terrible decisions, and I get to follow them through the accompanying consequences.

What do you love about writing that keeps you coming back to it, even when you're fed up with the publication process?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Meet Megan Bannen in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

The Bird and the Blade

The colors on this cover seemed an appropriate choice for today.

1- What song do you think is today's equivalent of "Everybody Hurts"?

I was a huge R.E.M. fan when I was a teen, although my teen years happened well before "Everybody Hurts". Today's equivalent? Hmm, maybe something Avett Brother-y? "No Hard Feelings"? And, hey, speaking of R.E.M. Carrie Fountain's 2018 novel, I'M NOT MISSING, is not only a fantastic book but a wonderful homage to R.E.M. I can't recommend it enough.

2- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words

Funny, unpretentious, anxiety-ridden, musical, kind.
Note: Funny, unpretentious, and kind are values I strive for, but I don't know how well I succeed. I definitely don't succeed at "musical" but that never stops me from bursting into song. I am, however, quite successful at being anxiety-ridden.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

In a recent interview with Trevor Noah on the Daily Show, Jason Reynolds talked about approaching his writing career as a service, that we, as writers, work in the service of kids. That resonates with me, and I think that idea is the same reason why I became a librarian, too. Books helped me grow up by showing me that the world was bigger than I imagined, and that I was not alone in it. As a librarian, I've been putting stories in kids' hands for a long time in the hope that they will find stories that do the same thing for them. Now, as a writer, I hope I'm offering a story that will move readers, expand their experience of the world, and inspire them to ask questions about who they are and what they think and where they fit in the world.

4- Would you share a picture with us of your book with your favorite fountain in Kansas City?

There are bajillion fountains in Kansas City, but my favorite is the one at Crown Center because you can play in it. Fountains should be played in, I think.

Meet Megan Bannen of Kansas City in this Debut Author Spotlight

5- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

My short term goal is to finish another YA book this year and maybe possibly a middle grade novel as well. My long term goals are to keep writing and improving my craft and (hopefully) selling. I don't ever need to be a bestseller or a household name, but I'd sure like to have a writing career ten, fifteen, twenty years from now.

6- What is your favorite book (by someone else), and what do you love most about that book?

One book? One?? There must be a twenty-way tie for my favorite book. So, off the top of my head, I'll go with I AM THE MESSENGER by Markus Zusak (or really any book by Markus Zusak. That guy could write the phone book, and I'd read it). Ed Kennedy (the protagonist) is unapologetically vulnerable and self-deprecating and yet he figures out that he has as much potential to act and do good in the world as any other human being. Most of us are not exactly born to greatness, but we can do great things. And that part at the end when WARNING: SPOILER Markus Zusak puts himself in the book to prove his point?? Brilliant. Just brilliant.

7- Can you enlighten us as to what makes KC BBQ legendary?

It's the sauce, people. The sauce. Not the rub. The sauce, in all it's smokey-spicey-vinegary-molassesy goodness. Quite frankly, I'd eat just about anything slathered in Gates barbeque sauce.

8- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

If there's one emotion I want the reader to experience while reading this book, it's longing. All three of the main characters in THE BIRD AND BLADE are longing for something they can't have (or think they can't have). In terms of a particular scene, I wrote the entire book because of the ending, so I definitely want the end to stand out in my readers' minds. More specifically, I hope that scene will inspire readers to question what it means to be brave and heroic, and to examine how we tend to privilege the male narrative (defeating others) over the female narrative (sacrifice and resilience).

9- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

I've written a blog post on this very topic! I have a Master of Arts in English, and I used to teach secondary language arts, and I've been a librarian for most of my professional career, but the one thing that truly taught me how to write was theater. I did theater all through high school, and I went to college on a theater scholarship. I learned the Aristotelean plot structure from theater. I learned character motivation from theater. I learned subtext from theater. I learned pacing from theater. Most importantly, I learned how to take criticism from theater. That last point? Pure gold. If you can learn how to listen to critique and use it to make your art better, you've learned the most important thing you need to know about doing any artform.

10- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

Khalaf rubs his bottom lip with his thumb when he's stressed out or trying to work through some difficult issue. Jinghua refers to it as "Khalaf's Thinking Face."

11- #WeNeedDiverseBooks What's your favorite book with a diverse main character?

Sorry, but I definitely cannot limit my response to just one title. As a librarian who works with kids and teens, I'm thrilled to see so many great #ownvoices books coming out this year, especially by my fellow 2018 debuts: LOVE, HATE AND OTHER FILTERS by Samira Ahmed, AMERICAN PANDA by Gloria Chao, A GIRL LIKE THAT by Tanaz Bhathena, A BLADE SO BLACK by L. L. McKinney, and PEASPROUT CHEN: FUTURE LEGEND OF SKATE AND SWORD by Henry Lien are just a few that come to mind, and they're all wonderful. Also, I can't wait to get my hands on Kati Gardner's BRAVE ENOUGH.

We know something about Gloria Chao and her awesome American Panda book around here. That interview was not too long ago!

12- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Timur Khan is a self-centered, irascible jerk and yet he loves both Khalaf and (by the end) Jinghua ferociously.

13- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

The author motivates me more than anything. I love to meet writers, to listen to them talk about what inspires them to write. It's that human connection that makes me want to buy a book and read it.

14- How will you measure your publishing performance?

This is going to sound so barftastic, but quite honestly, I'm already successful. Just getting this far? Success. When I first started writing THE BIRD AND THE BLADE, I didn't intend to publish it. Writing that book was the one thing I did for myself at a time in my life when my sense of self seemed like it was being erased by motherhood. It wasn't until draft four or five-three years later-when I finally thought, "Hey, this might be good enough to publish." If this book inspires readers to learn more about the Mongol empire and the Song Dynasty? Success. If this book leads readers to seek out novels set in times and places with which they're unfamiliar, especially those written by #ownvoices authors? Success. And if this book causes even one non-reader to love reading? Huge, glorious success.

15- What's the best book marketing strategy you've come across?

Well, here's my two cents, and since my book isn't out yet, I can't really speak to its efficacy. One of my husband's favorite phrases is "Love the art in yourself and not yourself in the art" (pretty sure Constantin Stanislavski first said those words) and I think that sums up what little marketing philosophy I have. The truth is that I have no control over the market or how readers are going to respond to anything I write. The only thing I can do is write the best book of which I'm capable. So, I plan to write the next book and the next, developing my craft, and focusing on the art rather than myself in the art. In short, I'm just going to be the most genuine person I know how to be and write the best book I can write, and hope that leads to book sales in a roundabout way.

16- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

What's the book that made a reader out of you and why? (For me, it was MY FRIEND THE MONSTER by Clyde Robert Bulla which I read when I was in the third grade, a book about a shy, awkward kid like me who found a friend in a monster.)

17- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Megan Bannen is a librarian and the author of The Bird and the Blade. In her spare time, she collects graduate degrees from Kansas colleges and universities. While most of her professional career has been spent in public libraries, she has also sold luggage, written grants, and taught English at home and abroad. She lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, their two sons, and a few too many pets with literary names.

Website: http://www.meganbannen.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MeganBannen
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/meganbannen
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/megan.bannen

The Bird and the Blade

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


I've had several conversations with my writing friends lately about how everyone's writing process is different. That's why there's so much writing advice out there. We're all trying to find our way, and when we find something that works for us, we want to share it with everyone else.

I've never been the type of writer who can switch between projects easily. Before I had an agent, that wasn't a big deal, because I was the only person who cared what I was writing and when. Now, though, I'm accountable to someone else. So in the fall, when my agent gave me revision notes on my manuscript, I dropped the WIP I had been working on all summer and threw myself into revisions.

But after the revisions were done, it was not as easy to throw myself back into the WIP. With the holidays and everything, I ended up taking a three month break from it. I wanted to get back to work. I just couldn't.

And then I noticed some of the writer people I follow on Twitter using a hashtag I hadn't seen before: #AHundredOrDie. I tried just stalking them for a little while to figure out what it was all about, but I eventually broke down and asked (human interaction! so stressful!). Beau (@INukeYou) started doing it in December to get out of a writing rut. Basically, the idea was to commit to writing at least a hundred words a day. The rationalization was that a hundred words was manageable no matter what kind of day he was having.

I agreed. A hundred words is nothing. I mean, the word count for the first two paragraphs I wrote for this post is over a hundred words. Over the next few days, a little over a hundred words at a time, I got through my writer's block and was able to make real progress in my WIP. Some days I only wrote a hundred words. Other days I wrote over a thousand. But I made sure I wrote every day. Having accountability buddies is a strategy many writers use, and this one was the perfect amount of casual commitment for me.

It helped (is helping!) me so much, and that is why I wanted to share it with you. Will it work for everyone? No writing advice does. But if you are feeling stuck, or feeling guilty for not writing, try to write a hundred words. We'll cheer you on at #AHundredOrDie.

Friday, February 9, 2018

We're Going to See Peter Rabbit!

Tomorrow. Today I'm working and once I get off of work, I just want to go home, and not wait in line at the movie theater to pay for over-priced popcorn. But once Saturday arrives, you will find me and my son excited to see the latest book-to-movie adaptation.

Though this version seems much saucier than Beatrix Potter's original imaginings, lol! But it looks like it promises quite a bit of fun, and I'm all for a good laugh. My anticipation over this movie had me doing some digging lately. Imagine my sadness to find that poor Beatrix's first fiancee (her editor) died before they could be married. =(

I also came upon a movie called Miss Potter, starring Renee Zellweger, that came out in 2006. I hope to rent it at the library next time I go. And I recently just purchased a book called The Tale of Hill Top Farm, that is a cozy mystery series starring the author. I am always all about talking animals, and an idyllic English setting.

So, anyone else seeing any movies this weekend? If you do, I hope your popcorn will be cheaper than mine!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Are You Ready to Query?

You've got your manuscript finished, beta-read, edited, and polished. You're confident it's ready to go. You want to try for traditional publication, so you know finding an agent is the next step. You've done some research, so you know you'll have to query to find the right agent. But that's not all you'll need. If you're getting ready to enter the query trenches, here's a checklist of things to do before you begin.

1) Prepare your list of agents. Make sure you do your research and develop a list of agents you'd want to work with if they decide they'd like to represent you. Check querytracker.com, Publisher's Marketplace, and of course, the agent/agency's own website for details. Double or triple-check each agent's submission guidelines to ensure you're sending exactly what they're asking for.

2) Write and polish your query letter. There are lots of resources out there for doing this, but you can't do better than reading every entry on queryshark.blogspot.com. When you've completed your query, give it to a couple of critique partners for input. Often, you'll be so close to your manuscript at this point that you won't be able to read your own query objectively.

3) Write and polish a synopsis. More and more agents are asking for these, and it makes sense to have one in your arsenal before you start querying. I suggest writing a long (5 page) and a short (2 page) synopsis so you can send whichever one is requested. Check out my posts here for plenty of tips on writing the synopsis, along with my 14 synopsis critiques!

4) Clean up your social media presence. Some agents will do their diligence on prospective clients before signing them, or even before requesting more pages. Make sure your Twitter, Facebook, and other social media accounts reflect what you want an agent to see in you.

5) Create a submission tracking system. querytracker.com is great for this, or you can create a chart or spreadsheet to keep track of who you've submitted to, when, and what the result was. You don't want to accidentally double-submit to someone, and being diligent about tracking is the best way to avoid this.

Best of luck to all of you, and QUERY ON!!!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Meet Amy Trueblood in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Nothing But Sky

OA is excited to have an alumna in the spotlight. Welcome, Amy Trueblood!

1- What ignited your passion for writing?

I've always loved to read. As a kid, I would try to find hidden away, quiet places where I could curl up with a good book. Even as I grew older, my interest in storytelling never wavered. Ideas and characters would pop into my head and finally one day I decided it was time to put them on paper.

2- The Charlaine Harris series The Southern Vampire Mysteries, also known as The True Blood Novels and The Sookie Stackhouse Novels; given your surname, do you love or hate those books and subsequent TV show?

Full disclosure: I've never read the books or seen the show. It didn't really bother me until the show started to get popular on HBO and then all these weird mentions started to pop up in my Twitter feed. I was at a writing conference a few years ago with Charlaine Harris and I wanted to mention my name to her for a laugh but she was surrounded by too many fans to talk to her.

3- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

My goal has always been to keep writing. There's a lot of self-doubt that pops up in this business. I hope I can keep that at bay and continue to craft stories I love and that publishers will continue to buy and share.

4- What is your favorite book (by someone else), and what do you love most about that book?

If you've read my blog you know I always mention one book that I've read over and over: Cassandra Clare's CITY OF BONES. I don't write fantasy (and really have no intention to) but Cassandra Clare is a master of all things writing. Her plotting, characters, worldbuilding, and dialogue are all brilliant. I feel like every time I read the book I learn something new about the craft of writing.

5- Does Bessie Coleman make an appearance in your book?

Yes, she does! I can't tell you when and where (as it's a spoiler) but she does make two appearances. I specifically did research on her so that I could make it plausible that she could show up in Grace's life. She also offers Grace a piece of advice that I think is very timely!

6- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

It may sound funny, but I think my biggest fan is my brother-in-law. He's a retired Navy pilot and he read every flying scene in the book (many times over) as my consultant/expert. Whenever I would send him a scene he would email me back VERY ENTHUSIASTIC comments. He even had a meeting with someone who was a friend of a friend of a friend in Hollywood and tried to pitch my book (LOL!)

7- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

I tend to write very flawed characters. What I adore about Grace is that she keeps making mistakes but doesn’t allow it to deter her. She gets knocked down a lot before she realizes there has to be a better way to accomplish her dream. Some may call her unlikeable, but I see a young woman on the verge of growing up who is struggling to find her way. There is one scene in particular that illustrates this about her character and I think readers will recognize it right away.
Meet Amy Trueblood in this Debut Author Spotlight
My image of Grace!
(illustration created by Linnea Gear)

8- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

Grace's Uncle Warren chews on several gross, old cigars throughout the entire book. At first I just wrote it as a character tic, but after a while I realized it was his way of dealing with his frustration/stress over Grace.

9- #WeNeedDiverseBooks What's your favorite book with a diverse main character?

In 2017 I read three diverse books I loved:

-When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
-Love, Hate and other Filters by Samira Ahmed
-Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

10- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

The storyline has to be unique. Whether it's the setting, characters, or the plot, I'm intrigued if an author shows me something way outside my own world and experience.

11- What's the best book marketing strategy you've come across?

Right now I'm really enjoying Instagram. I'm learning how to optimally share "stories" as well as how to post the most intriguing pictures. I am by no means a photographer, but I love trying to use lighting and design to put my book, and others, into a visually pleasing set-up.

12- What is one question (or discussion topic) which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

I'd like to talk about the need for more historical fiction in Young Adult. Many times the stories that can be told about our past are just as relevant today as they were a hundred years ago.

13- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Blurb: Grace Lafferty, an eighteen-year-old wing walker, thrills crowds with barrel rolls and loop-the-loops in hopes of making enough money to get to the 1922 World Aviation Expo. When one of her maneuvers saves a pilot's life, a film studio offers Grace a chance at a coveted Hollywood contract. But after a stunt goes wrong, Grace must decide whether her life is worth risking for one final trick.


A devotee of reading and writing from a very young age, Amy Trueblood grew up surrounded by books. As the youngest of five children, she spent most of her time trying to find a quiet place to curl up with her favorite stories. After stints working in entertainment and advertising, she began writing her first manuscript and never looked back.

Her debut novel, NOTHING BUT SKY is a Spring 2018 Junior Library Guild selection and will be published March 27, 2018 by Flux.

For more on Amy, check out her website, http://AmyTruebloodAuthor.com or follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr.

Nothing But Sky

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Last Chance: Apply to Write for Operation Awesome!

If you missed it last week, head's up: Operation Awesome is looking for a blogger to post every Monday. Details are here. Application deadline is today, February 6th. We hope to hear from you!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Flash Fiction Contest #37

If you live in a cold weather area, you'll have no problem imagining bone-chilling wind, snow, and icy streets. And if you live where it's warm most of the time (jealous), then have some fun brainstorming what it's like to wake up to frozen windshields in the morning. Deadline is Sunday 2/4, noon EST. Winner will be announced later that evening. Rules can be found here.

Have fun!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Synopsis Critique #14: YA High Fantasy

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of SENTERRA LEGENDS: ARMS OF DESTINY, a YA High Fantasy, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at operationawesome6@gmail.com, and I'll post one critique per week (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!


As [how old is he? Are there any other identifying characteristics you can include?] DYMER (does not know his own name)[you don’t need this unless it’s significant. Enough to say he’s an orphan] heads out to do the week's shopping for the orphanage [can you add something like, ‘the orphanage he’s lived in his whole life,’ or something else that gives the reader a character detail?], he runs into CIGMA, a girl who should not be alive [what does this mean?]. He learns that she is looking for her aunt and decides to help her escape her pursuers [who is pursuing her? Why?]. Meanwhile, DYWELF (one of the strongest magicians in the land) is mourning the son he lost ten years ago and runs into Dymer [while he and Cigma are escaping? What happens when they run into each other?]. Things come to a head when two powerful beings [who are they?] come for Dymer, and he is asked to run for cover by MATRON. Matron and Dywelf fend off the pursuers. [Four named characters is a LOT for the first paragraph. I’d include Dymer and Cigma, and leave the others out for now. You can describe Dywelf as ‘one of the strongest magicians in the land’ and leave out Matron for now, since the last part of this pargraph is pretty vague. Focus on what Dymer has to do, rather than what others are doing for him]

Thus begins Dymer’s journey through the world of Senterra, as he meets an Echo Beast [what is this? The reader won’t know] and learns of his own [real/true] name, before traversing through dangerous forests with Cigma as he helps her find her aunt [is her aunt someone significant?]. By chance, they run into Dywelf again at the castle of the CROW [no need to capitalize this one, but do explain why this family is significant. Below, we learn it’s an evil family. Include that here] family but do not get a chance to speak with him. They rescue SAMSON [who is this?] from the clutches of the evil Crow family and eventually manage to find Cigma's aunt, who turns out to be Dymer's orphanage matron [had Dymer and Cigma ever met before this?]. Samson is revealed to be an Imbued Tortengof, a highly sought-after humanoid [sought after by who? Why?].

Matron [I’d identify her as ‘the matron’ or ‘Cigma’s aunt.’ There are enough named characters in the synopsis already] informs them that Cigma and she herself are both being hunted [why?]. Faced with the difficult decision of where to look for sanctuary, they decide to venture towards Authet, the central city-state where all spellcasters [are they spellcasters? If so, tell the reader earlier] are sorted into different houses based on their latent abilities. Dymer is made to lie [about what?] and take on the family name FAOSSTIN, [instead of using the name, just say ‘take on the family name of…’] one of the three crown families in the land. All this while, LEPAUG (an other-worldly being) and TOGRIN BALMUNG (Chief Tracker) [rephrase this as ‘All this while, an other-worldly being [and describe it] and the Chief Tracker…’] are hunting them down and closing in.

As all three are sorted into the house Sylwenbard [instead of naming it, say they’re all sorted into the same house], Matron urges them on westward but Togrin Balmung [change to ‘the Chief Tracker’] catches up to them [why does he want them?]. In the ensuing battle, Matron sacrifices herself so that the three can escape. They run into Dywelf again, and proper introductions are made. [What does this mean? Haven’t they all met already?]

Dywelf agrees to help them, but things get more complicated as Dymer learns that Dywelf's full name is Dywelf Faosstin [this doesn’t mean much standing alone. Is the significance that Dywelf and Dymer are related?], and Dywelf too feels conflicted. Before they can discuss any of this, both Lepaug and Togrin Balmung [change to ‘the Chief Tracker’] catch up with them in the city of Dos Erina [don’t need this name. Just say, ‘in a neighboring city,’ if that’s accurate]. Dywelf promises to stop at least one of them and delay the other.

Reluctantly, the three children [are the three Dymer, Cigma, and Samson? We haven’t heard anything about Samson since they rescued  him. If he’s significant, give a little more detail earlier] leave Dywelf behind to deal with the two pursuers as they make their way towards the Cave of Six Paths, a very dangerous place but also their only option [why is it dangerous and why is it their only option?]. Inside the Cave, Samson comes alive [you don’t need to say he comes alive unless he is literally doing so. Just say he takes the lead] and takes the lead because he instinctively feels he can navigate the intricate tunnels. However, they realise that Togrin Balmung [the Chief Tracker] has once again caught up with them and there is no way out. As Cigma and Samson are knocked out, Dymer is cornered by Balmung [the Chief Tracker]. However, displaying a rare breed of spellcasting [what does he do, exactly?], he manages to fend off Togrin Balmung [the Chief Tracker] and deal a telling blow.

Dywelf and another man find them in the nick of time and the day is saved. The man is revealed to be the Headmaster of Sewellyn's School for Spellcasters & Spellweavers, and he offers them all safety [in/at] his school.


This sounds like a really interesting story! The synopsis leans a little too heavily on the reader understanding why each of these characters is significant to the story, without giving those details. Spell it out more – I’ve indicated in the synopsis where I want more information. Make sure you include character motivations (why does Togrin want to find these kids? Why are the matron and the magician bending over backwards to protect them?).

Try to keep the synopsis to 4-5 named characters – it gets character-name soupy otherwise, especially in Fantasy, when so many of the names are made up. You can use character descriptions instead of proper names, and that’ll do the trick. For example, you can describe Dywelf throughout the synopsis as ‘the magician’ and Togrin as ‘the Chief Tracker,’ and that’ll be understandable to a reader.

Overall, this is nicely written and I can track the main plot throughout the synopsis. Work on paring down the character names and answering some of my questions, and you should have a thorough, tight synopsis. Best of luck!