Friday, August 31, 2018


Let's face it: The Query Trenches are unforgiving. Thankfully, you won't have to do it alone. Enter here for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by *SUNDAY 9/2 at 12 pm*.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (Or else I can't find you!)

The winner will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Adios, Adieu, Goodbye, and Thanks for Everything!

I have thoroughly enjoyed the past 20 months I've spent as an Operation Awesome blogger. Among other things, I've critiqued 27 synopses for the site, participated in a bunch of Pass or Pages rounds, and answered your questions as Dear OAbby. I've loved getting to know this writing community and helping writers get to the next stages in their careers!

It became clear recently that I have a few too many irons in the fire. I'm now faced with the difficult decision of what activities to cut, and sadly, felt I had to pass along my OA blogging duties in order to have more time for my own writing, as well as my obligations with other mentoring programs. I'm leaving you in extremely capable hands with veterans J. and Karis, along with our new bloggers, Kate, Nathaniel, and Amren. I can't wait to visit this blog as a reader and see all the cool things these folks are going to contribute to the community!

Please feel free to follow me on Twitter (@jkolin27) and I wish you all the best!!!


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Lannette Cornell Bloom's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Memories in Dragonflies: Simple Lessons for Mindful Dying by Lannette Cornell Bloom

1- Memories in Dragonflies: Simple Lessons for Mindful Dying has a publication Date of August 21, 2018, which is my birthday. Do you have any comment on the cycle of birth and death?

That’s wonderful - Happy birthday to you!

I used to work as a pediatric nurse and saw babies come into the world on a daily basis. I saw the first gasps for breath, exhaling the first cry, the tiny fingers and toes, the bright smiles of the parents—life anew.

And I came face to face with the other side of the life experience when my mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness—which is the basis of my book, Memories in Dragonflies.

What I’ve learned is that each stage of the life cycle is special in its own way. It’s all how you look at where you or your loved ones are on their respective journeys across the metaphorical bridge of life.

It’s important to keep in mind that death is just as normal and inevitable as birth—though usually not as welcome. We all have to die one day, whether we like it or not, and I’ve found that the more you can slow down and become aware of the beautiful moments underneath the heavy, tough times, the more joy there is to be found in each stage.

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

When I sit down to write, I tend to pour my heart out for pages upon pages without knowing exactly where my words are taking me. It requires trust to let the words flow out and not try to control them and form them into something they weren’t meant to be. So my tip is to sit down every day in front of your computer or a notebook and release all judgment—just let yourself write with no outline or clear intention so that the words can guide you. Write, write, write—and save the editing for later.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

When I was a little girl, there wasn’t email or cell phones—when you wanted to communicate with someone you called that person on the phone (and hoped they answered!) or wrote them a letter. I wrote lots of letters growing up, and also kept a journal. In a way, it has always been my main form of expression and also therapy.

Because writing was always so personal and sacred for me, I didn’t consider myself a writer until Memories in Dragonflies had become a reality.

4- Could you give a tip for the loved ones who will be left behind as to how handle watching an inevitable passing unfold before their eyes?

Whether you have years to say goodbye to your loved one or the passing is quick and unexpected, it’s important to accept that this was their time and it doesn’t discount all the memories and love shared between you.

Make the environment as comfortable and peaceful as possible. Allow your emotions and the emotions of those around you to flow freely. Be supportive to those also left behind and don’t be afraid to ask for support where you need it.
Lannette Cornell Bloom's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book - Memories in Dragonflies: Simple Lessons for Mindful Dying #life #death #nonfiction #book

5- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

I’m much more active on Instagram @lannettispaghetti. But my twitter handle is @lannettecbloom.
I’d love to shout out to some of my She Writes Press sisters: @ktaylorauthor and @cathy_zane

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book in a photogenic, peaceful setting?

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

Since writing my book and going through the publishing process, friends and family have been opening up more about their own life experiences. I’ve bought them notebooks and encouraged them to tell their stories. Though it’s not my writing, it’s one of my goals to get the people important to me to write because, I think, it’s such a therapeutic activity and it means their stories will carry on through the generations.

Another goal of mine is to blog more often—a personal blog is such a great way to share your message and the wisdom you want to impart onto others. It’s my mission to help others find the simple joys in hard situations and so I will continue to share my experiences and advice through my blog regularly.

And my long-term goal is to work on a second book and do this whole process all over again!

8- What question about death should people ask experts, such as yourself, more often?

Death still tends to be a taboo topic in Western cultures. In my own experience of taking care of my mom there were moments when we tried to pretend everything was normal and other times where the reality hit us hard and there was no way to pretend that she wasn’t dying. I think the biggest question is:

Is it okay to talk about death with a dying person?

And unfortunately the answer is varied depending on the person. What’s important is to communicate, to not skirt around the topic, and to listen if and when the dying person tries to talk about it.

9- What is your favorite book by someone else and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Title: Gift from the Sea
Love because: This is one of those books I’ve kept and cherish throughout the years. It’s a beautifully written story that relates shells from nature to human relationships. Each time I read it, I take something new out of it.

10- What was your inspiration for writing this book?

You probably wouldn’t know it from reading the book, but I did not write anything down during my time taking care of my mom. In fact, I didn’t even realize how much the experience changed me until years later. It was as simple as waking up one night with the overwhelming urge to write down my experiences. The memories were all there, as clear as the day they happened. I think I finally had enough distance from my grief that I could come to a new understanding and perspective of the experience. It was another level of healing I wasn’t aware I needed and yet I am so grateful for!

11- What might be the best use of time for someone who knows they will pass soon?

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

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

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

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

16- How will you measure your publishing performance?

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

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

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

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

Memories in Dragonflies: Simple Lessons for Mindful Dying by Lannette Cornell Bloom

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

September Pass or Pages Details

It's time to announce the category and genre of our next Pass Or Pages contest! In September, Pass Or Pages will focus on: 

Young Adult Fairy Tales, Folktales, or Myths, retold with diverse characters

Please do not send us MG entries; we can tell the difference.

Here are the important dates for this round:
September 4th: Agent panel announcement
September 10th-12th: Entry window (via a form here on our blog)
September 24th-28th: Feedback reveals!

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

Friday, August 24, 2018


Are you in the query trenches? Looking for a critique? Come join us on #QueryFriday for a chance to win a query critique! One lucky winner will have their query critiqued by us here at Operation Awesome. Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by *SUNDAY 8/26 at 12 pm*.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (Or else I can't find you!)

The winner will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. May the odds be ever in your favor!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Synopsis Critique #27: Adult Fantasy

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of DESERT AWAKENING, an Adult Fantasy novel, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are in brackets, and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!


Ella Dawson has spent her adult life documenting the deplorable state of the middle east [1] in her award winning photographs. Frustrated [2], she continues her relentless quest [3] until one day in a troubled Syrian city she witnesses terrorists [4] exchanging a package. When the transaction is interrupted by a group of soldiers, Ella opens the crate, and discovers an antique bronze idol of a woman. 

She takes it [5] back to her apartment, which is owned by her personal driver TAAMIR and is worried they will be followed encourages him to leave with his family for a few days [6]. Upon handling the idol alone in her room [7], it shows her a vision of unknown women dressed in robes chant and encircle [8] a stone altar with an eight-pointed star on it. A beautiful woman [9] tells her that she is called EDHUANNA and Ella she is now the guardian of the Bridge of Vela [10]; a portal leading to infinite knowledge in the city of the gods. 

When Ella awakens, she discovers a burn in the shape of the eight-pointed star on her palm. Confused and scared she feels she has no choice but to call JASON PRICE [11]. A lead operative for Division 12— a private contractor organization— he also is her ex-boyfriend. She tells him she’s in trouble and to come get her. He takes her to a safe-house where he leaves to contact Division 12, hoping to learn more about the stolen statue. 

Alone in the hotel room [12], Ella is attacked by the two Division 12 guards from downstairs. Reacting instinctively, she learns she has a new ability to super heat whatever she touches, burning the men and killing them. 

When Jason returns, Ella tries to explain what happened, but Jason says there isn’t time, and they have to leave now. They drive toward Baghdad, where Jason says there is one person he can trust as he suspects Division 12 has a mole. He apologizes for leaving her last Summer [13] in New York. As ten months have passed, Ella has forced herself to move forward and tries to reluctantly forgive him [14]. 

They arrive at an Arabian horse ranch in Baghdad where Jason introduces KATHERINE MAYBERRY. A retired professor from Oxford, she’s a witty seventy-year old who lives with her much younger and exotic girlfriend, ZALIKA. She finds Ella’s scar intriguing and agrees to help them. [15]

Jason and Ella rekindle their relationship, and Ella finds herself enjoying the seclusion of KAT’S [16] estate. KAT has an extensive personal library and they search it to learn more about the Bridge of Vela. EDHUANNA visits her dreams [17] on the second night and warns her she has until the New Moon to stop whomever is seeking it. She shows her the bloody devastation, another 5000 years of civil war in the Middle-East [18] should she fail to stop it from being opened. 

After venturing to the Baghdad museum to view the rare Cuneiform tablets, she [19] learns of the eight colored stones, that must be placed on the altar have been stolen [20]. KAT discovers the location of the ancient city EDRIS. [21]

The next day, Ella returns to find her apartment in ashens [22]. A note is left, [23] TAAMIR and his daughter will die unless she brings the statue to Damascus. She escapes with TAAMIR and his daughter by freezing the air inside a guard’s lungs. As they attempt to get in a vehicle, TAAMIR is shot, sacrificing himself so ELLA and his daughter can escape. ELLA drives the vehicle to a nearby town and calls KAT’s trusted driver ASSEM. TAAMIR’s daughter is taken to safety. She then calls JASON for help who asks where she is [24]. When suspicious men enter the cafe, she escapes out the back and steals a motorcycle. An SUV chases her through the congested streets of Damascus where she is eventually captured. 

When ELLA awakes, she finds herself on a private jet. A handsome man with a black fedora appears and tells her his name is DEREK KANE. Second in line to the Kane United fortune [25], he wishes to open the gate and use the power to grant him eternal life. He confiscated her bag and now has the statue in his possession. Ella is angry and tells him he is delusional. When Ella is carried off the plane, she is surprised to see JASON standing beside DEREK. Angry at the betrayal, Ella is forced into a holding cell. 

She feels her power waning and needs the statue to recharge. EDHUANNA appears in her dreams and she sees the entrance to EDRIS. In exchange for an innocent man’s life [26], she discloses the location to DEREK. He opens the entrance, and they descend into the side of the mountain. They trek through an ancient city toward the temple of Inanna. DEREK discloses to ELLA that the statue is now worthless, as all of its power has gone into her. She must be sacrificed on the altar for the bridge to open. ELLA struggles to fight, but the bridge opens. DEREK eagerly ascends up the translucent blue path of light, but JASON shoots him. ELLA discovers the enormous power she can now summon and splits the massive stone altar in two, severing the tie to the bridge. 

They escape. JASON tells her Division 12 had been trying for years to capture DEREK and needed him [27] as a double agent. A plane takes them to Cairo and eventually the U.S. Ella notices she still has the scar on her hand. A shimmer of magic ripples across it.


[1]: This should be ‘Middle East’
[2]: What is she frustrated about?
[3]: What is her relentless quest? To document the conditions of the Middle East? From the first sentence, it sounds more like a job/career than a quest
[4]: How does she know they’re terrorists?
[5]: Explain what ‘it’ is. The idol?
[6]: This is a run-on sentence. Redraft as something like “…TAAMIR. His worry that they will be followed encourages him to leave…” 
[7]: Make sure the reader knows you’re talking about Ella here (‘she’ is nonspecific). Is Ella alone or is the idol alone?
[8]: This should be ‘chanting and encircling’
[9]: Is the beautiful woman inside Ella’s vision?
[10]: This should be something like, “and proclaims Ella the guardian of the Bridge…”
[11]: Why does she have no choice? Couldn’t she contact someone else, or is he the only person she knows/trusts in Syria? Is Division 12 more than just a private contractor organization (which sounds pretty neutral on its face)?
[12]: Are the safe house and the hotel room the same place?
[13]: This should be ‘last summer’
[14]: This should be ‘and reluctantly tries to forgive him.’ She’s not trying to reluctantly forgive him (‘reluctantly’ modifies ‘forgive him’ in your draft) – ‘reluctantly’ is how she’s trying to forgive him.
[15]: You’ve got a number of named characters already, and Kat and Zalika don’t appear to be significant enough to merit naming (at least in the synopsis). Try to keep named characters to 5-6, and only the ones who recur repeatedly in the synopsis.
[16]: You can put a character name in all-caps the first time it appear in the synopsis, but after that, it should be in regular type. No need to re-capitalize any of these character names in the rest of the synopsis.
[17]: Whose dreams? Ella’s? Kat’s?
[18]: No hypen: ‘Middle East’
[19]: Who? Ella?
[20]: This doesn’t make sense as written. Rewrite as something like, “learns that the eight colored stones that must be placed on the altar have been stolen”
[21]: No need to put a place name in all-caps
[22]: I assume you meant ‘ashes’
[23]: This should be something like, “She finds a note telling her that Taamir…”
[24]: Rewrite this as, “She then calls Jason, who asks where she is.”
[25]: Is Kane United significant to the plot? We haven’t heard of it before in the synopsis. If so, introduce it earlier so this revelation has more of an impact.
[26]: What man?
[27]: “Him” is Jason or Derek?


This is a good synopsis in terms of tracing the main plotline from start to finish. I have a very clear idea of what this book is about, and the things Ella must do to get what she wants (to prevent District 12 from getting the idol and opening the bridge). You don’t have much work left to do to have a workable synopsis, from a plot standpoint.

Most of my comments relate to grammar and syntax. Just as you would for your query and the book, make sure you have time to carefully line-edit your synopsis (or work with a trusted friend or critique partner to do so). Then, read it again. Then, read it again. You’ll want to make sure it’s as clean as possible before it goes to agents.

Overall, good job and best of luck with this book!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Jacqui Castle's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

The Seclusion by Jacqui Castle

1- Oxford Comma question! Did you do a book dedication like "THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED TO MY PARENTS, (a person) AND GOD"? Or did you avoid referring to a parent as a diety? 😄

Well, I only dedicated the book to two individuals, so hopefully, there is no confusion. The Seclusion is dedicated to my mother and my late grandmother. My main character Patricia, or "Patch" is named after my grandmother.

2- What ignited your passion for writing?

I've always loved to write and have been a freelance writer and journalist for going on ten years now. I enjoy taking a complex topic or something that I know very little about and learning through the process of breaking it down and writing a descriptive piece. However, for some reason, I never envisioned myself writing fiction and never even tried until a few years ago. I haven't stopped since.

3- How can people best support the Endangered Species Act, including preventing animals from going extinct by protecting critical habitats?

In my opinion, the most important thing people can do at this time is help rally others to vote in November. Wonderful candidates are running for office who will work hard to protect the Endangered Species Act and other policies that help protect and conserve. But, they can't if they don't win.

One organization I have been volunteering for in my spare time is Postcards to Voters, which sends election reminders to registered Democrats in crucial election areas. Just text 'Hello' to 1-484-ASK-ABBY and you will be walked through the process and can start writing postcards right away.

The Endangered Species Coalition ( fights to protect the Endangered Species Act. They recommend calling your representatives and writing a letter to the editor of your local paper. Their website provides a wide range of resources for those wanting to become even more involved.

4- Would you share a picture with us of your book with a cup of tea?
#tea #book Jacqui Castle's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

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

Well, the publication of my book in September has definitely placed a big check mark on my list of writing goals. Past that, I would love to just keep writing, with the aim of publishing a book every couple of years. The Seclusion, if everything stays on track, is set to be a trilogy, and I'm working my way through the first draft of book two.

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

That is a tough question! It's like asking who my favorite child is, and the answer is the same in that it depends on my mood when you ask me.

I just finished reading the entire Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness, and each book in the trilogy stuck with me for weeks after I closed the last page. The series has earned its place on my favorites shelf. American Gods by Neil Gaiman and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver are also two of my favorites. For me, it is not necessarily about the genre of the book. I read all genres. If I find myself carrying the story with me and thinking about it weeks later, then that speaks for itself.

7- Dare I ask how my fellow Native Americans fare in The Seclusion?

Not great. Though Native Americans are not explicitly mentioned, their fate is implied. Like everyone else in the story, they are forced to comply with the rules of New America by moving to mass, easy-to-surveil urban centers, leaving their past and culture behind, and following the doctrine of The Board.

😞 So, history repeats itself. No surprise to me.

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

Writing, writing, and more writing. And also, reading. I aim to read at least three books a month, and regularly have an audiobook in the mix as well. I find that when I begin my writing sessions with ten to twenty minutes of reading first, then I am more motivated and inspired to work on my own projects.

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

The protagonist, Patch, has a nervous tell in which she spins a ring on her ring finger with her thumb when she is anxious.

10- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Yes, representation is incredibly important, and I strived to create a diverse world that fit within the limits of the plot of The Seclusion.

It is revealed early in the story that a main character's ancestors were Mexican immigrants, and that becomes an important plot line. There are two same-sex relationships present in the novel. Oliver, my favorite character, is of middle-eastern descent, and another strong character is African American. It is tough to dig into the backgrounds of the characters in The Seclusion because the story is told from the viewpoint of a character who knows very little about the history of her country, or about other cultures in general. So, we are left exploring the world from her paradigm.

11- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Definitely Oliver. We are introduced to Oliver in the middle of the book, and he is by far my favorite character. Oliver is eccentric and a bit kooky, but in many ways he is more grounded than anyone else in the story.

12- Your book holds a crystal ball up to America. What, in your opinion, is one thing people could do to make sure your book stays in the "fiction" genre, rather than turning you into a prophet?

Throughout the entire publication process, I have asked myself this question. The Seclusion presents an extreme future that sadly, at the moment, doesn't really feel that extreme.

I can think of two points of action of vital importance right now, and they go hand in hand. The first is for people to demand transparency from our leaders above all else. Another is to protect the free press in every way possible. The world would be a far more dangerous place without them.

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

Usually a suggestion from a friend or fellow writer or reader with a similar taste in books. I have an active bookshelf on Goodreads and receive recommendations through that community. Also, I try to support Inkshares authors and other debut authors as often as I can. When I find an author I love, I often work my way through their entire catalog.

14- How will you measure your publishing performance?

Early reviews have started to roll in, and that has been an exciting process to witness. So far, they have been overwhelmingly positive, so for a debut novelist, I am breathing a sigh of relief. The Seclusion is a controversial book that some will resonate with and others, well, they may be rubbed the wrong way. That is alright. Art is subjective.

What I want is for those who enjoy the book to walk away still thinking about the story. To carry with them that thread of hope that is prevalent in dystopian novels. To be propelled forward by the feeling that no matter how bleak our surroundings, there is always a way to fight for wisdom and truth. There is always a path forward.

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

I took a non-conventional route and used a hybrid publisher. Inkshares operates as a middle road between self-publishing and traditional publishing. The author runs a crowdfunding campaign and presells copies of their book. Once a preorder goal is met, that signals to the publisher that this is a book people want to read, and they step in and provide all of the services you would expect from a traditional publisher — developmental editing, copy editing, cover design, bookstore placement, marketing, etc…

Breaking into the market as a first-time author is near-impossible. Because The Seclusion deals with timely subject matter, I knew that I wanted to get the work out there as soon as possible to see what people thought. So, Inkshares seemed like a good fit. I put up a few chapters from my original manuscript, then launched my campaign. The reception was incredible. During the 5-month campaign for The Seclusion, 750 copies of the book were pre-sold to backers.

Though the crowdfunding aspect was challenging, hybrid publishers like Inkshares are an excellent option for first-time authors. It's something to consider for those who aren't afraid to put in the crowdfunding legwork, want to get their name out there, and don't want to take on the editing and marketing responsibilities that come along with self-publishing.

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

You'll have to ask me again once the book has been out for awhile! During the publishing campaign, most of my pre-orders came through people I connected with on Twitter.

For the launch, there will also be a press circuit that includes live events, radio spots, giveaways, interviews, and guest posts.

Once the buzz dies down, I will continue to keep folks updated on future projects through Twitter and Goodreads. Readers are also welcome to send me an email ( if they would like to be added to my mailing list.

17- Your in-the-works Apate book sounds fun and made me wonder... Have you been following @RogueNASA on Twitter?

Yes! I do follow @rogueNASA on Twitter, and that is a fabulous link to draw with my in-process novel, Apate. The story is still in the early stages, but I'm incredibly excited for it to develop. Apate will take place in the near future and will be told from two vastly different perspectives — a congressional intern's and a NASA scientist's. There will be an asteroid (named Apate after the Greek Goddess of deceit) plummeting toward Earth, and let's just say that all is not what it seems to be.

18- 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 am planning on hosting a discussion on dystopian literature in September, so I would love to know what draws dystopian readers to the genre.

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

Jacqui Castle's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book
Twitter handle - @jcastlewrites
Goodreads Account -
Join Newsletter HERE


“Jacqui Castle’s novel sets the hook in a wickedly-quick heartbeat. Not only does her eerily prescient story keep that hook in place throughout, it often leads to moments where you feel a chill that’s driven not only by her words, but also by the words we hear in the news and social media every day.” —Mike Rich, author of Skavenger's Hunt and screenwriter of The Rookie, Radio, and Finding Forrester

“If you love The Giver, you will love The Seclusion. Castle paints a well-developed world in a realistic future with a pair of unlikely heroes you want to cheer for. There are no easy victories in this dark, gritty dystopian that checks all the right boxes." —David Estes, bestselling author of The Dwellers saga and The Fatemarked epic


Jacqui Castle is a freelance writer living in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. Her work has been published in a variety of online and print publications, including Mountain Xpress and WNC Woman. The Seclusion is her debut novel.

The Seclusion by Jacqui Castle

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Introducing Amren, one of the three new OA bloggers!

Hi y'all and welcome to my TED Talk, where I'll be telling you about my research on engineered solutions for freshwater pollution.

Oh, that's next month? My bad.

I'm Amren, and I'm the new resident bubble tea enthusiast on the Operation Awesome team! As a writer, I used OA resources to help me figure out issues with my query letter and I participated in Query Kombat in 2018, so I'm excited to contribute to other writers' journeys. I'll be heading a new first page critique here at OA called First Page Impressions - check out the First Page Impressions page for more information. Here's a hint: it's going to be about writing. Contrary to my new role here, I think second impressions matter more than first impressions: they either reinforce or refute the first impression, and I find that very telling. So if you don't like my style the first time you read this, maybe if you read it again the words will change.

The only reasonable answer to "Why do you write?" is that I don't know how not to write. I've always loved telling stories, and admittedly I began with some truly horrible Harry Potter fanfic where he somehow had a younger sister in Slytherin who ended up murdering him. It should come as no surprise that I'm just as mean to my characters now as I was then. I started competitive writing in junior high, when I participated in a competitive writing program called Power of the Pen. At present, I write mostly YA fantasy and NA horror, and I'm currently querying my first novel. One thing you'll always see in my writing is bisexual coming-out stories, because I identify as bisexual. I wish I'd seen more bisexual (and LGBT+ characters in general) in YA lit when I was growing up; if I had, maybe I would've figured this out a lot sooner. In retrospect, I had a lot of girl crushes.

In those brief moments when I'm not writing, I love practicing pole dance and aerial hoop. I grew up with an intense fear of heights and falling (you know, survival instincts and all that), so for the past few years I've been working to get rid of that paralyzing fear of removing my feet from the ground. I recently moved from the US to Belgium with my partner, which I'm very excited about because now I'm just a train ride away from all the heavy metal festivals. I'm also trying to get back into knitting, so DM me your coziest sweater patterns!

I'm not very active on Twitter, but if you follow me I'll follow back @AmrenOrtega

Friday, August 17, 2018

Introducing Nathaniel, one of the three new OA bloggers!

Let’s say you and I are supposed to meet up for lunch, but you forgot to ask what I looked like. Amongst other patrons, you’d catch a glimpse of a short, half-Filipino with noise-cancelling headphones on and a fidget spinner in his hand in the least lit and quietest area of the building. If your first reaction would be to throw your query at him for a critique, then, congratulations! I’d be happy to help you with that. My name is Nathaniel, and I’m the new Query Friday and Flash Fiction Friday host!

I usually botch first impressions unless the other person finds me pathetic or endearing, but hopefully when I tell you a little about myself, you’ll be more inclined to trust me with the pitch to your word baby. I’m a 25-year-old high school English teacher who teaches at an inner city public school in Portsmouth, Virginia. The best part about my job is showing slam poetry with swear words and not getting in trouble for it. Oh, and also teaching ninety darling ninth graders every day. Should I have said that first?

One cool thing about me is that I’m on the Autism Spectrum. I was hoping I’d be graced with savant math skills, but all I got was an unhealthy obsession with psychology and the need to respond to every, “Enjoy your meal” with “You too.” A lot of people are confused when I say that I like being Autistic. Wouldn’t it make my life so much easier if I didn’t curl up on the floor crying at too much light and sound, or be able to talk to people easier? Sure, but so would the world accepting me for who I am and not expecting me to be like everyone else. In all seriousness, I’m passionate about disability advocacy and write about it a lot.

Another thing I write about is being transgender, which I do over at Alternatives HR. ( I don’t have a traumatic coming out story—all of my friends and family accept me, and I have a job and a place to live. But I still dream of the day when I can be out at work, have a long dwarf beard and never be called “ma’am” again.

I’m currently immersed in the query trenches trying to publish my debut novel, which is a contemporary YA about eSports. I was a contestant in Query Kombat this year, (2018 if you’re reading this in the future) where I made it to the quarterfinals. Query Kombat is actually how I found Operation Awesome, with the help of Kara Reynolds!

To close this out, I’ll list some weird facts about me in a lightning round: I was once on Nickelodeon for about two seconds. I have an elderly tuxedo cat named Minerva. (Yes, she was named after Minerva McGonagall) I have three and a half mental illnesses. I genuinely enjoy working the graveyard shift. My favorite part about space is Europa because of the frozen oceans.

My Twitter handle is @natglanzman. Let’s be friends!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Tackling the Dreaded Synopsis: Part Two

With PitchWars, Author Mentor Match, and other contests right around the corner, I'm re-running my posts about how to write synopses. Feel free to comment with any questions, and make sure to check the archives for over two dozen synopsis critiques!

Last week, we covered the basics of synopsis writing. This week, as promised, we're going to get into the mechanics, using an example from a book most of us are very familiar with. Now take a deep breath, limber up your typing fingers, and let's get synopsizing! And keep in mind, if you'd like your synopsis critiqued on this site, the submission instructions are below.

Where do I start? Do you use an outline? If so, start there! Flesh out each scene from your outline's descriptions, focusing on the main plot, into no more than a paragraph each. Many scenes will require only a sentence, some paragraphs will summarize more than one scene, and some scenes won't require summary at all (focused on a subplot, character description, etc.). Once you have all the relevant scenes fleshed out, start connecting the dots: make sure going from Scene A to Scene B, all the way to Scene Z, makes sense in the context of your central plot. Then revise the language until it flows well.

If you don't have an outline, make a list of scenes from your manuscript, in order. Summarize each scene (you don't have to do this in great detail, just enough so you can explain what happens in your central plot in each scene). Then connect the dots and revise the language.

Some pointers
  • Use third person, present tense, active voice, regardless of what you used in the manuscript.
    • This isn't required, but it helps orient the reader if you put each character name in ALL CAPS the first time you use it. This makes the name stand out to the reader.
    • ... but no more than 4-5 named characters in the synopsis. For everyone else who isn't as integral to the main plot as those 4 or 5 characters, describe them by their relationship to the main character or the plot. For example, in a synopsis for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (the book we'll be working with below), the only named main characters should be Harry, Ron, Hermione, Voldemort, and Quirrell. There are obviously many other important characters in these books, but for the purposes of this book, everyone else can be described rather than named (Harry's aunt, the headmaster of Hogwarts, etc.). 
    • Start at the beginning. Weave in a brief description of the setting, the time period, and any other details necessary to orient the reader, and then get right into the main character and his/her 'ordinary world,' in order to lead into the inciting incident in the next paragraph.
    • Lead right into the inciting incident. What happens to propel your main character into action? You should get into this as soon as possible after describing your main character's 'ordinary world.' What changes?
    • Follow the Hero's Journey (explanations here) or Save the Cat (here) or any other plotting structure you used for your manuscript, and run through every important point that gets your hero from the ordinary world, to the inciting incident, to deciding to act, to trying and failing, to trying and succeeding, to ultimate victory/failure.
    • Give away the ending and all plot twists!
    An example

    Here's the synopsis (by an anonymous poster) from the Wikipedia page for Harry Potter & Sorcerer's Stone. This summary wasn't written to accompany a manuscript submitted to an agent, but let's pretend it was. I'm going to include my comments in bold/brackets throughout. Then, I'm going to rewrite this synopsis so it conforms more closely to the guidelines we've discussed (focusing on the main plot, limiting the number of named characters, etc.):

    Original Synopsis with Comments:
    The most evil and powerful dark wizard in history, Lord Voldemort, murdered married couple James and Lily Potter but mysteriously disappeared after failing to kill their infant son, Harry. [THIS IS BACKSTORY. WEAVE THROUGHOUT THE SYNOPSIS, BUT DON'T LEAD WITH IT] While the wizarding world celebrates Voldemort's apparent downfall, Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall and half-giant Rubeus Hagrid place the one-year-old orphan in the care of his surly and cold Muggle uncle and aunt, Vernon and Petunia Dursley and their spoilt and bullying son, Dudley. [TOO MANY NAMES AND TOO MANY DETAILS ON BACKSTORY BEFORE GETTING INTO HARRY'S STORY. ]
    For ten years, living at number Four Privet Drive, Harry is treated by the Dursleys more like a servant than a member of the family and is forced to live in a cupboard under the stairs. [THIS IS WHERE THE STORY REALLY STARTS. MAKE THIS THE FIRST PARAGRAPH, WITH SOME DETAILS FROM THE OPENING PARAGRAPH SPRINKLED IN] Shortly before his eleventh birthday, a series of letters addressed to Harry arrive, but Uncle Vernon Dursley destroys them before Harry can read them, leading to an influx of more and more letters. To evade the pursuit of these letters, Vernon first takes the family to a hotel, but when the letters arrive there too, he hires a boat out to a hut on a small island. [THIS IS TOO MUCH DETAIL FOR A SCENE THAT CAN BE OMITTED OR SUCCINCTLY SUMMARIZED TO GET TO THE INCITING INCIDENT, WHICH IS HARRY RECEIVING HIS HOGWART'S LETTER]
    It is Harry's eleventh birthday and at midnight, Hagrid bursts through the door to deliver the letter and to tell Harry what the Dursleys have kept from him: Harry is a wizard and has been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. [THIS IS THE INCITING INCIDENT, AND SHOULD BE PRESENTED EARLIER] Hagrid takes Harry to a hidden London street called Diagon Alley, where he is surprised to discover how famous he is among the witches and wizards, who refer to him as "the boy who lived." He also finds that his parents' inheritance is waiting for him at Gringotts Wizarding Bank. [TOO MANY DETAILS, WE DON'T NEED ALL THESE NAMES. WE SHOULD BE ON OUR WAY TO HOGWARTS BY NOW] Guided by Hagrid, he buys the equipment he will need for his first year at Hogwarts and as a birthday gift Harry receives a pet owl from Hagrid (which he names "Hedwig").
    A month later, Harry leaves the Dursleys' home to catch the Hogwarts Express from King's Cross railway station. There he meets the Weasley family, who show him how to pass through the magic wall to Platform 9¾ [LITTLE DETAILS LIKE THESE ADD A LOT OF COLOR. PLATFORM 9 3/4 GIVES THE READER AN INDICATION OF THE KIND OF MAGICAL WORLD WE'RE IN. KEEP DETAILS LIKE THESE, BUT KEEP THEM SMALL], where the train that will take them to Hogwarts is waiting. While on the train, Harry meets two fellow first years, Ron Weasley, who immediately becomes his friend, and Hermione Granger, with whom the ice is a bit slower to break. Harry also makes an enemy of yet another first-year, Draco Malfoy. Draco offers to advise Harry, but Harry dislikes Draco for his arrogance and prejudice and rejects his offer of "friendship". [DRACO ISN'T IMPORTANT ENOUGH IN THIS FIRST BOOK TO EVEN INTRODUCE]
    At Hogwarts, the first-years are assigned by the magical Sorting Hat to houses that best suit their personalities. While Harry is being sorted, the Hat suggests that he be placed into Slytherin which is known to house potential dark witches and wizards, but when Harry objects, the Hat sends him to Gryffindor. Ron and Hermione are also sorted into Gryffindor. Draco is sorted into Slytherin, like his whole family before him. [KEEP THIS MORE VAGUE. IF ANYTHING SHOULD BE KEPT HERE, THE ONLY IMPORTANT DETAIL IS HARRY AND HIS FRIENDS ARE SORTED INTO THE SAME HOUSE, WHICH AIDS IN THEIR GROWING FRIENDSHIP AND LOYALTY TO EACH OTHER]
    Harry starts classes at Hogwarts School, with lessons including Transfiguration with Head of Gryffindor, Minerva McGonagall, Herbology with Head of Hufflepuff, Pomona Sprout, Charms with Head of Ravenclaw Filius Flitwick, and Defence Against the Dark Arts with Quirinus Quirrell. [NONE OF THIS DETAIL IS NECESSARY, THOUGH QUIRRELL SHOULD BE INTRODUCED] Harry's least favourite class is Potions, taught by Severus Snape, the vindictive Head of Slytherin who seems to loathe Harry. Harry, Ron, and Hermione become far more interested by extracurricular matters within and outside of the school, particularly after they discover that a huge three-headed dog is standing guard over a trap door in a forbidden corridor. They also become suspicious of Snape's behaviour and become convinced that he is looking for ways to get past the trapdoor. [WAY TOO MUCH DETAIL. CUT DOWN TO ONE SENTENCE]
    Harry discovers an innate talent for flying on broomsticks and is appointed as Seeker on his House’s Quidditch team, a wizards's sport played in the air. His first game goes well until his broomstick wobbles in mid-air and almost throws him off. [SUBPLOT. NOT DIRECTLY RELEVANT TO THE MAIN PLOT, EXCEPT FOR THE NEXT SENTENCE, BUT CAN BE CUT WAY DOWN] Ron and Hermione suspect foul play from Snape, whom they saw behaving oddly. For Christmas, Harry receives an invisibility cloak from an anonymous source and begins exploring the school at night and investigating the hidden object further. He discovers the Mirror of Erised, in which the viewer sees his deepest desires becoming true. [IRRELEVANT SUBPLOTS]
    Thanks to an indiscretion from Hagrid, Harry and his friends work out that the object kept at the school is a Philosopher's Stone, made by an old friend of Dumbledore named Nicolas Flamel. Harry is also informed by a centaur he meets in the forest that a plot to steal the Philosopher’s Stone is being orchestrated by none other than Voldemort himself, who would use it to be restored to his body and come back to power. When Dumbledore is lured from Hogwarts under false pretences, Harry and his friends fear that the theft is imminent and descend through the trapdoor themselves. [THIS IS A GOOD PARAGRAPH. PRESENTS THE STAKES WELL AND EXPLAINS WHY HARRY AND HIS FRIENDS WOULD PUT THEMSELVES IN DANGER]
    They encounter a series of obstacles, each of which requires unique skills possessed by one of the three, and one of which requires Ron to sacrifice himself in a life-sized game of wizard's chess. In the final room, Harry, now alone, finds Quirrell, who admits that he had tried to kill Harry at his Quidditch match against Slytherin. He also admits that he let a troll into Hogwarts. Snape had been trying to protect Harry all along rather than to kill him, and his suspicious behaviour came from his own suspicions about Quirrell. [I WOULD LEAVE OUT THE SUBPLOT ABOUT SNAPE UNLESS YOU'RE WRITING A LONGER SYNOPSIS. FOR 1-2 PAGES, IT CAN GO]
    Quirrell is one of Voldemort's followers, and is now partly possessed by him: Voldemort's face has sprouted on the back of his own head, hidden by his turban. Voldemort needs Harry's help to get past the final obstacle: the Mirror of Erised, but when Quirrell tries to grab the Stone from Harry his contact proves lethal for Quirrell. [A LITTLE MORE DESCRIPTION HERE SINCE THIS IS THE CLIMAX OF THE BOOK] Harry passes out and awakes in the school hospital, where Dumbledore explains to him that he survived because his mother sacrificed her life to protect him, and this left a powerful protective charm on him. Voldemort left Quirrell to die and is likely to return by some other means. The Stone has now been destroyed. The school year ends at the final feast, during which Gryffindor wins the House Cup. Harry returns to the Dursleys' for the summer holiday but does not tell them that under-age wizards are forbidden to use magic outside of Hogwarts. [THIS IS A CONFUSING ENDING. END WITH A SENTENCE THAT'S RELEVANT TO THE PLOT, NOT SOMETHING THAT LEADS INTO FUTURE BOOKS]

    Rewritten Synopsis

    Ten-year-old HARRY POTTER lives with his aunt, uncle, and cousin, who treat him more like a servant than a family member, and force him to sleep in the cupboard under the stairs. Harry can't remember his parents, who died when he was an infant. He mostly keeps to himself, avoiding his cousin's bullying and his uncle's unpredictable wrath. But when strange things start happening around Harry, including his sudden ability to converse with a snake, and an influx of letters addressed to him flood the house, Harry realizes he's part of something bigger than the only world he's known.

    Then, on Harry's eleventh birthday, a huge, good-natured man shows up with another copy of the letter, despite Harry's uncle's attempts to destroy all of them. It's Harry's acceptance letter to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The man explains that Harry is a wizard, and in fact, his wizard parents were murdered by the most evil and powerful dark wizard in history, LORD VOLDEMORT, who disappeared after failing to also kill Harry as a baby. Harry is shocked to learn he is famous among the inhabitants of the wizarding world, who refer to him as 'the boy who lived.'

    Soon afterward, Harry leaves his aunt and uncle's house to attend Hogwarts. On the train, he meets RON WEASLEY, the fun-loving youngest son of an established wizarding family, and HERMIONE GRANGER, a brainy know-it-all who is the only witch in her family. When they arrive at Hogwarts, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are all sorted into Gryffindor House, the House associated with bravery and loyalty.

    Soon after starting his lessons at Hogwarts, which include subjects such as Transfiguration, Potions, Charms, and Defense Against the Dark Arts, Harry and his friends discover a huge, three-headed dog standing guard over a trap door in a forbidden corridor. None of their professors will tell them why the dog is there or what it's guarding, but that doesn't stop Harry and his friends from sneaking around the school at night, having a horrifying run-in with a troll, or using Harry's newly-acquired invisibility cloak to spy on their classmates and professors.

    Eventually, Harry and his friends learn the hidden object is an ancient artifact called the Sorcerer's Stone, which gives the bearer eternal life, and in turn, near-limitless power. Harry soon realizes the plot to steal the Stone is being orchestrated by the disembodied Lord Voldemort himself, who plans to use it to return to his body and resume his evil reign. But Lord Voldemort must be using someone on the Hogwarts grounds to acquire the Stone for him. Harry and his friends initially suspect their dour Potions professor, who has a history of associating with Voldemort and despises Harry for unknown reasons, of being his helper.

    Then, the headmaster is lured from Hogwarts under false pretenses. Left unprotected, Harry and his friends fear the theft of the Stone is imminent and descend through the trapdoor themselves to guard it. They encounter a series of obstacles, each of which requires unique skills possessed by one of the three: Hermione must solve a difficult puzzle, Ron sacrifices himself in a life-sized game of Wizard's Chess, and Harry must use his newly-discovered flying talent to retrieve the key to the final door. 

    Behind that door is not the Potions professor after all. It is PROFESSOR QUIRRELL, the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. He admits he is one of Voldemort's followers and is now partly possessed by him. In fact, Voldemort's face has melded with the back of his own head, and has been hidden all year by Quirrell's omnipresent turban. Voldemort needs Harry to get through the final obstacle and retrieve the Stone for him. Harry is able to get the stone, but when Quirrell tries to grab it from Harry, the physical contact proves disastrous for both Voldemort and Quirrell. Because Harry's mother died to save Harry, she left a powerful protective charm on him and Voldemort cannot touch him, even through someone else's body. Voldemort vanishes, Quirrell is injured but no longer possessed, and the Stone is destroyed.

    The school year ends with a feast, during which Harry and his friends are honored for their roles in saving the Sorcerer's Stone. Harry returns to his aunt and uncle's house for summer vacation. This time, though, Harry goes with the knowledge that he is a wizard and his real life is at Hogwarts with his friends. And no one, not even his awful family, can take that from him.

    Here are some great resources on synopsis writing:

    Wednesday, August 15, 2018

    Nafkote Tamirat's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

    Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

    The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat

    1- What is your favorite cheese?

    The best one: burrata. Any other favorite cheese is problematic.

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

    Humor, sensitivity, pride, words, quickness

    3- What ignited your passion for writing?

    Reading books and listening to people tell stories. I’ve been reading non-stop since I learned how and was by all accounts a fairly humorless child, who didn’t really know how to interact with anyone outside of my immediate family. I remember being fascinated by how some people could use their words to make others laugh and pay attention, and I desperately wanted to have that gift. I started by filling composition notebooks with stories about girls who were disliked but secretly brilliant (along with levity, I also lacked subtlety in my youth) as well as one ill-conceived piece about a school photographer who hated children, which I believe I thought was hilarious. I was mistaken.

    4- Would you share a picture with us of your book with something distinctly Ethiopian?

    Ethiopian food -Nafkote Tamirat's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

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

    To write as much as possible (fiction, essays, etc.) and to keep improving and growing throughout.

    6- Can you tell us about your thoughts and feelings when you found out your book was featured in the May issue of O The Oprah Magazine?

    I grew up watching Oprah with my mom and over the years, my admiration and respect for what she does has only become more profound. It took me a few days to digest the fact that my book was in her magazine, alongside other fantastic authors and then I blacked out from joy. I still haven’t recovered.

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

    I’m going to cheat and name two recent favorites: the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante and The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. With the former, I couldn’t catch my breath fast enough to follow the incredible narration, the sweeping scale of events, the characters who felt like people I knew, the extraordinary depiction of intense female friendship over a lifetime. With the latter, I was struck by the way in which grief and creation (of a person, a piece of writing, a life) were brought together so intimately and beautifully. I’ve always loved how Nelson rejects the binary in favor of diving into the uncomfortable grey areas that permeate the issues that most matter.

    8- What was the best thing about using your native city of Boston in your book?

    My feelings towards Boston are complicated: I grew up in a community that was almost incidental to the existence of the city itself; Bostonians love the city with a passion that I find difficult to wrench up from my depths; Boston remains a very insular city where the people who “belong” all look the same. Writing and thinking about Boston for over six years, while living in a different country, and putting my part of Boston into my own words allowed me carve out a place for myself in my hometown, ironically when I was the farthest I’d ever been from it.

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

    I think my mom is perpetually my biggest fan in basically everything I do and with this book, I think she’s overjoyed it’s a real thing that people can find at bookstores and not just a delightful fantasy that I continue to entertain.

    10- 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 that anyone who reads the book enjoys the story and following the journeys of these characters who have been living in my brain for years. If during that process, they’re compelled to question preconceived notions, look around their community a bit more closely, read more books about Ethiopians, read more books by Ethiopians and other members of the African diaspora, then I will feel honored and delighted.

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

    The fiction MFA program I did at Columbia University BUT I do not think that completing such a program is necessary to becoming a good writer. When I arrived at Columbia, I was pretty sure I was the best living writer under the age of 30 and by having fellow students and teachers gently (and sometimes not so gently) show me the flaws in my stories, I gradually became a better editor of my own work and began to understand the kinds of questions I needed to ask myself and potential readers in order to improve. I’m lucky enough to have friends who will read drafts for me, along with an amazing agent and editor, but even before I send work to them, there are many, many rounds of editing I do on my own, which I’m only capable of doing because of the time I spent reading and critiquing the writing of others and having them return the favor. I think it can only help to cultivate relationships with people who are willing to read your work, suggest things, disagree with other things and ultimately, help you push past your initial fears and limitations.

    12- Could you tell us something about living in Paris that might surprise people?

    Paris is one of the best cities to launch your affordable and informal cinema education, thanks to an unlimited movie card, available for €21 a month. Once you have that, you can see as many movies as you want in almost every single movie theater in the city, including venues that exclusively show classic movies or independent movies, meaning that you can watch a silent movie from the 1930s and then a Marvel movie on the same day. Paris is also one of the rare European cities that almost always provides subtitles for movies instead of dubbing them and that regularly shows both the latest and the oldest movies from around the world. There are many things about the city that annoy me (The bureaucracy! The lack of spicy food!) but then I remember my unlimited card and I’m like, oh, I may never leave.

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

    I once wrote a story about a girl with a star tattoo on her face (one of my less successful experiments but the character has stuck with me, so I might give it another go). I also wrote a story called Our Pharmacy where one of the main characters, Alga, follows up almost everything she says with the question, Do you believe me? It starts as a funny quirk but ends as a way to bully others into never daring to doubt her credibility.

    14- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

    All of the main characters in my book are Ethiopian or Ethiopian-American and while the novel is written in English, we are to understand that the dialogue occurs in Amharic, except in conversations with Americans or non-Ethiopians. Some census reports estimate that there are over half a million people of Ethiopian descent living in the US, and there are more and more Ethiopian artists coming into the spotlight. Nonetheless, many people still think “famine” when they hear “Ethiopia” (if they even know what it is at all). I’m not trying to shame those people (much) but rather, want to point out that like many groups in the US which contribute a great deal to their host country in terms of labor, creativity, political capital, etc., Ethiopians are still an unknown quantity to many. I hope that my book can help bring a fascinating culture and people to the attention of those who have yet to receive the good word about injera and Teddy Afro.

    15- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

    The first person who comes to mind is Lee Fiora from Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. How can someone be so infuriatingly passive and self-absorbed and yet also express so eloquently and sensitively what it feels like to be the person who can’t get out of their own head long enough to feel things as they happen and find a place in the world where they so desperately want to fit in?

    16- Does your book hold a mirror up to society, and in what way?

    Perhaps in terms of asking the reader to reexamine their notions about what the American Dream “should” mean for immigrants: every single person who decides (or doesn’t) to make the US their home has a different reason, motivation and experience. No one has to feel gratitude for being in America, no one has to love living in America. The American Dream is a choice made by the individual and should never feel like a gift being forced upon you by a nation.

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

    Publicize the books I read and love, especially those written by groups of people who are not usually provided with an extensive platform or widespread exposure. I’ve observed first-hand the difference a few words can make, not only to spread the word about new authors but also to provide encouragement. I have been unbelievably grateful to readers who have contacted me to let me know about how something I wrote affected them, not only for their feedback but also because it makes me feel less alone.

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

    It’s a combination of: recommendations from friends, articles about books on the literary and pop culture websites I visit, reviews or recommendations from writers I already follow and books recommended by my dad.

    19- How will you measure your publishing performance?

    I don’t mean to be precious about this or faux-modest because I am a.) not at all wealthy and would be ecstatic if one of my books became a bestseller and I could buy everyone in my family a mansion and b.) proud of my novel and always happy to see it mentioned in a positive review or list. However, instead of measuring past performance, I would prefer to channel my attention, anxiety and energy into the pieces I’m working on now and the projects I’m planning for the future.

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

    I knew very little about the publication process when I started and am still no expert, so I have depended heavily on the wise counsel of my agent, Julia Masnik, and my editor, Caroline Zancan.

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

    I think word-of-mouth is very effective and I’ve always enjoyed book trailers, although I have no idea how well they work as a marketing strategy.

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

    Do you think The Fast and the Furious movie franchise should dedicate an installment to a story about the gang trying to extricate their cars from a crowded parking lot? If yes, what are your ideas for how to execute this idea, so as to achieve the maximum speed and fury?

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

    Nafkote Tamirat's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book
    Nafkote Tamirat's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

    The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat