Tuesday, October 19, 2021

October 2021 Pass or Pages Entry #2


It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Kaitlyn Johnson, Hilary Harwell, Michelle Hauck, Beth Marshea, Carlisle Webber, Cortney Radocaj, for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!

Entry 2: Dance of Ice and Steel

Genre: Fantasy



Seventeen-year-old[BM1] Sophia Altus is resolute: she must find her mother’s murderer and kill them. No one harms her family and lives[KJ1][CR1].

Sophia is an Elementale with control[MH1] over ice[CW1]. Her extensive training to defend the mortal world against hellbeasts[CR2] means she’s well-versed in the art of killing anyway[CM2][CW2]. In fact, it might be the thing she’s best at. Except she couldn’t even dispatch that godforsaken creature before it tore through her mother. The designated Stupidest Thing on Earth[CR3][CW3] shouldn’t have been able to get into the palace in the first place, much less kill the Queen[CR4]. Which means there’s an Elementale involved and oh[CW4] would Sophia like to get her hands on them[KJ2][BM3][CW5].

She only plans to ask two things when she does: why, and how would you like to die[CR5]?

Except when she finds him, she almost wishes she hadn’t[CR6]. Because finding him means learning that her mother’s death was just a means to an end. That end is her - the last key in his seriously deranged plan to destroy the mortal world[CW6]. Finding him means discovering that some monstrous part of her is intertwined with him[BM4].

Sophia must decide between surrendering herself to his plan and setting the end of the world in motion or refusing and signing the death warrant on everyone she loves – both her old family and the new one she’s found along the way[KJ3][CR7][BM5][MH2][CW7].

DANCE OF ICE AND STEEL[BM6] (95,000 words) is a fantasy[KJ4] novel for fans of Naomi Novik’s A Deadly Education and Margaret Rogerson’s Sorcery of Thorns who will enjoy similar fantasy elements and a strong female protagonist[CW8].

I am currently pursuing a degree in creative writing in New York. This will be my debut novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Kaitlyn's comments:
[KJ1]This feels like a very sudden, jarring decision before we know anything about who she is/what her life is like/what the world is like. Perhaps start first with how she is an Elementale well-versed in the art of killing, a skill she intends to utilize to the fullest extent once she locates her mother's killer.
[KJ2] This is feeding the reader too much. We want to start with who she is, opening situation, and then the conflict that gives her a goal and what stands in her way. I feel this would be stronger starting with her being an Elementale, intent on killing her mother's murderer, only to discover betrayal from her own people and what she must now do about it.
[KJ3] This is still too vague. It feels like the author is attempting not to "spoil" things but we need more concrete details to understand what she's a part of and why she has to make this decision.
[KJ4] Be sure to state it is YA.

Hilary's comments: None

Michelle's comments:
[MH1] With fantasy there’s a lot of competition. You really need to focus on what is unique about your story. I don’t see a lot of elementals involved with ice specifically. Maybe showcase more detail on the ice aspect. That sounds full of potential!
[MH2] I feel the details aren’t specific enough on the stakes and also so on this opponent she’s facing. A name and more about him might help. Also why he needs Sophia to destroy the mortal world isn’t clear. There’s not really a mention of her new family until the last line, and I’m unsure of a character arc for Sophia. How does she change? That’s a lot to get in a query, but maybe hints of her arc.

Beth's comments:
[BM1] I’m immediately assuming this is YA Fantasy with a seventeen-year-old protagonist. Make sure you label your genre to reflect that.
[BM2] Delete this word
[BM3] Try to simplify the highlights of the story rather than recreate it. The gist is that Sophia failed to protect her mother from a murder plot and now she’s seeking revenge, the mechanics of how that happened are less important. Right now this is a little too confusing. 
[BM4] Again, this could be simplified. She learns that killing her mother was only a means to get to her. 
[BM5] I don’t believe in these stakes. If his plan is ultimately to destroy the world, wouldn’t her family die anyway and I didn’t realize that she’d found any new family.
[BM6] I know fantasy titles have a tendency to get a little repetitive, but offhand the formula of “X of Y and Z” is way overdone. 

Carlisle's comments:
[CW1] Since you are setting up a world with your own terms and rules, you should explain what those are as soon as you mention them. The agent has no way of knowing what they mean otherwise, or how your main character’s world works.
[CW2] Delete "anyway".
[CW3] Is this an official label?
[CW4] Delete "oh".
[CW5] Words like “oh” and “anyway” make the book feel much less serious than a murder plot is. 
[CW6] What does this mean?
[CW7] I am not clear on how the end of the world wouldn’t mean her own death as well.
[CW8] Italics and delete.

Cortney's comments:
[CR1] This sentence can be cut—it’s not adding anything. The resolution to find her mother’s murderer and kill them herself is enough to tell us she’d feel this way.
[CR2] Why has she been trained? My assumption is there’s another world aside from the mortal one—are we talking another planet? Another dimension? Or do they live in the same physical space and you’re using “world” more metaphorically? Why would Elementales care to protect mortals?
[CR3] This phrase is confusing—are you referring to the hellbeast?
[CR4] So Sophia is a princess? Up until this point I’d figured Sophia was a cog in the machine, a soldier—not intimately involved with royalty. It changes the scope of this project, and this layer of political tension isn’t touched on at all anywhere else.
[CR5] This needs to be cut; same as above, it’s not adding anything new to the pitch.
[CR6] This is a solid turn for the query; good choice!
[CR7] This all is a little too vague—one of the rare instances where I feel like the internal motivations and conflicts are solid while the external/plot isn’t (often, it’s the opposite, or neither is present). And especially for SFF, you have to have a balance of both; I have way more questions about what’s going on here than I should, and I’m left more frustrated than intrigued at the end of this query. I don’t have a solid grasp of the actual stakes here—why is she the key to the antagonist’s plans? Why does choosing not to help him endanger her friends/family? Why does he want to destroy the world in the first place? Based solely on this query, I have a hard time making sense of what the actual plot conflict and external motivations are, and it’s vague enough that I’d have a hard time picturing how to sell this and make it stand out from other fantasies.

First 250 Words

Sophia danced among the clang of swords and the glint of daggers, cornsilk-blonde hair[BM7] flying around her like a pale halo. She was holding a baselard sword in each hand, the silver of the short blade flashing as she whirled and parried a strike with one sword, the other slashing up[CW9].

“Ow!” she[KJ5] heard a yell and drew back to see Samantha rubbing her arm ruefully, glaring at Sophia. “That hurt,” she said, accusing accused [BM8].

Sophia sighed, letting her swords drop and looked at her friend. “It’s a training blade, Sam. And you’re wearing a combat suit.” It was partly true. Samantha only wore the combat top, the traditional Elementale gear out of sorts with her plain leggings[MH3][CW10].

They were in one of the Ice Palace’s training rooms, a place that was quickly becoming Sophia’s second home. It smelled the way it always did[BM9]: a little musty, the air mixed with the metallic scent of weapons and the salty[KJ6] tinge of sweat. The walls were clear, made of glass and ice. Beyond, Sophia could make out the entire skyline of Velçare, capital city of the Ice Kingdom. And beyond that, Asteri.

The Elementale world, consisting of seven kingdoms representing the elements[CW11], was as familiar to Sophia as the back of her hand (not that she spent too much time staring at the back of her hand)[CW12]. She was an Ice Elementale, born and raised in the Ice Palace. Her mother was the Ice Queen, Bayleigh Altus[KJ7][CR8][BM10][MH4][CW13].


Kaitlyn's comments:
[KJ5] Falling into passive voice. She is lost in the sounds of sparring, immersed in a skill that demands focus. Then a shout rings out and her partner glares at her accusingly, rubbing her arm.
[KJ6] Telling language. Instead of saying "it smelled of this" get more internal with the character. Have us experience the smells/sensations through her, not in a distant way.
[KJ7] Careful here. It's feeling like we're falling into an info dump instead of focusing on the current scene.

Hilary's comments: Overall here the query lacked the kind of clarity I look for when reviewing projects. I had a hard time sussing out the central plot of the story and felt things jumped around a little too much. You have great comp titles, but ultimately I didn’t fall in love with the writing.
Michelle's comments:
[MH3] I do see a lot of openings that involve sparring as a way to start with action but avoid a deadly encounter. It is smart to avoid deadly action scenes as an opener when the reader hasn’t had time to care about the characters yet. However, this scene needs more of a hook.
[MH4] The last two paragraphs have too much backstory too soon. We don’t really need to know these details about the world yet. Not during their sparring match. I do think that is great information to bring in a little later. I pass on this entry as I’m not really hooked at this point.  

Beth's comments:
[BM7] Perhaps other agents feel differently, but this turns me off immediately. It’s a clichĂ©. 
[BM8] Make this change.
[BM9] Why is it important to call out that it always smelled this way?
[BM10] Epic Fantasy, in my opinion is one of the hardest genres to really do well. It’s difficult to world build in a way that is not an info dump, but still provides the reader with the information they need. I think this one needs more polish and perhaps a bit more focus on the core of the story.

Carlisle's comments:
[CW9] I notice in this opening that almost every noun has an adjective. This makes the writing feel very labored and slow. Where else can some of these descriptors go? 
[CW10] What is Elementale gear and why doesn’t it fit with the leggings? More explanation is needed here.
[CW11] What elements are these?
[CS12] Asides like this make it feel like the narrative is stepping in and explaining things to the reader, instead of letting the reader into the world organically.  
[CW13] Taking a step back to explain how the world works takes the reader’s eyes off the main character. It may be better to wait on this until after the reader knows Sophia a little better.  

Cortney's comments:
[CR8]The voice here is solid, but there are a couple things that are putting me off. First, opening with a training/sparring scene in fantasy is very, very common; it’s not lessening the feeling I had after reading the query, of not being shown what’s unique about this book among the rest of the fantasy market. Second, this last paragraph or so is very information dumpy; this is information that can be woven throughout the first chapter, even the first couple chapters. As is, it feels very tacked on and out of place. This is a pass for me, unfortunately; I think with some revisions the query could sit a lot more solidly and uniquely, and same for the pages, but as is I’m having a hard time grabbing onto something that intrigues me.

Results:  [If you receive a "Pages!", click on the agent's name here or at the top of this post for submission instructions.]

Kaitlyn: Pass
Hilary: Pass
Michelle: Pass
Beth: Pass
Carlisle: Pass
Cortney: Pass


Monday, October 18, 2021

October 2021 Pass or Pages Entry #1

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Kaitlyn Johnson, Hilary Harwell, Michelle Hauck, Beth Marshea, Carlisle Webber, Cortney Radocaj, for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!

Entry 1: Brainy in Burberry

Genre: Contemporary


Since you’re seeking young adult fiction from diverse voices[CR1], I hope you’ll consider my 70,000-word #ownvoices YA[KJ1] contemporary novel, BRAINY IN BURBERRY[BM1] set in present-day New Delhi[CW1].

In this mashup of Devil Wears Prada meets Legally Blonde[BM2][MH1], a teen wannabe model must conquer the tough world of engineering to prove that beauty with brains is no myth[CR2].

Sharmila Sen, aka Mili, dreams of storming the runways as a fashion supermodel, until her businessman-father signs her up for engineering college. Mili, under threat of disinheritance, pursues her modeling dreams in secret. In college, she befriends the nerds, suffers the pathetic lessons doled out by her teachers[CW2], and meets the potential love of her life.

The modeling life trips her up – juggling stilettoes and textbooks is no cakewalk[CW3]. When Mili fails the first semester exams, her parents unleash their fury, and her former “friends” take to taunting[CW4] her for her dumbness[BM3]. Mili takes stock[CW5], and sets her target high – she plans to ace all her exams, and fulfill her modeling ambitions, as the proverbial cherry on top[CW6]. If she doesn’t succeed, she’ll lose that one thing most precious to her – her self-respect[KJ2][CR3][BM4][MH2][CW7].


Kaitlyn's comments:
[KJ1] This may come across as more Crossover rather than YA, since it's focusing on first year of college. This would depend on editor/placement in market. 
[KJ2] While it feels very interesting here (love the kind of reverse Legally Blonde feel), the stakes leave me uncertain what she risks aside from letting herself down. If she DOES pass all the tests and succeed in modeling, does she plan to reveal her true passion to her family? Does she have a deal that if she does well, they'll let her model? Trying to see the final goal/outcome here.

Hilary's comments: None

Michelle's comments:
[MH1] Love these comps and I don’t mind movie comps, but do try to have a recent book comp as well. And I wish New Adult had become a category as books like these are stuck between YA and adult.  
[MH2] This query is very clear and coherent. Though I’d kind of like to see the stakes involve figuring out where she really belongs. This seems like she is pursuing her studies more from pressure than because it’s what she wants. Is that something that is changing and she does come to enjoy student life and engineering.

Beth's comments:
[BM1] Cute title! 
[BM2] Can’t go wrong with this paring!
[BM3] I think there’s a better word choice to be had here.
[BM4] I would keep reading, but this premise seems a little tough to me. She’s asking herself to be the best at two full time careers concurrently. I’m not sure that’s aspirational as much as a recipe for a nervous breakdown.

Carlisle's comments:
[CW1] Delete the second paragraph and add it here. 
[CW2] Such as? If she’s in engineering school, aren’t her lessons going to be STEM related? How are those pathetic?
[CW3] Rather than generalize, could you describe one incident where modeling gets in the way of school? 
[CW4] Are these the nerds of the previous paragraph? If not, who are they?
[CW5] I’m not sure what you mean by this. 
[CW6] Delete this
[CW7] I like that you state what she has to lose, but I don’t feel like the stakes are high enough. Even with low self-respect, she can still live a good life and come back from it. Is there something she feels she could lose and not come back from?

Cortney's comments:
[CR1] I’d highly suggest either removing this or personalizing more when you send to individual agents (what specifically about your book do you think they’ll like? Themes? Tone? Specific tropes they’re looking for? Etc.). If you do already and it’s just this way for the contest then great! But wanted to mention it just in case. 
[CR2] This is slightly confusing where it’s placed—we don’t have any context at this point in the query for why modeling and engineering are crossing, so my very first thought is why would a model have to conquer the engineering field? Why does that matter? (Not that a model can’t be/do both, but they’re generally two fields that don’t cross, and the connection between the two isn’t going to be made by most who read this sentence.) I think the comps are fine (though would also suggest having a recent, i.e. within the last 5 years, contemporary YA title as well if you’re going to use two huge older movies), but the preface to the actual query isn’t necessary and doesn’t really add to it.
[CR3] The bones of the query are there, enough to make me feel that there’s likely a decent arc and solid stakes; it feels a little stilted and not quite as impactful as it could be, though. It feels as though there are a few pieces missing, namely the internal conflict Mili is facing. It’s implied, but it’s not talked about or defined—I’m assuming Mili has had struggles with schools and the “dumb” comments from friends cut deep, that she has conflicting feelings about doing what her dad wants versus what she wants (or does she? Does she not care what her family thinks and just doesn’t want to be disinherited?), that her dad doesn’t think modeling is a legitimate career and thinks engineering is the only way for Mili to have a financially stable life. But these are my assumptions and not necessarily the reality of her feelings/situation. We need a little more definition here, and especially with the last line. What tension and conflict is she feeling after she fails her first exams? “Tak[ing] stock and set[ting] her target high” doesn’t give us insight into what Mili is experiencing internally, and I think fleshing this out a bit with those details will strengthen this a lot.

First 250 Words

As dawn broke on a hot July morning[CR4], the denizens of Chittranjan Park were stirring awake, groping for their iPhones and flinging the sheets off their sweaty bodies[BM5].

But[MH3] in my house, tucked away in a corner of K-block, my family and I had brushed our teeth, scrubbed our bodies with Pears soap, and swooped into our seats at the breakfast table[CR5][BM6].

I had just grabbed a slice of bread when my father cleared his throat. “I have made a decision[CW8].”

I groaned. Baba lorded over a thousand employees at the company he ran, so why did he have to poke his nose into our lives at home too[BM7]? I toyed with the idea of derailing his train of thought, but resolved against it[CW9].

Baba continued: “Mili will study engineering at DICE.”

A crushing silence fell upon the table. My knife stopped mid-yolk. Ma set her fork down. My elder brother Saurav, probably sensing the sudden absence of chatter, looked up from his phone[KJ3].

“You’re right, Dad[KJ4]!” He bobbed his head up and down as if he’d just been thinking the exact same thing.

I rounded upon him. “Do you even know what he’s talking about? Because I don’t!”

Ma wiped down her rosebud lips with a napkin. “I think your father is referring to the Delhi Institute of Computer Engineering,” she said, enunciating each word as if the rest of us were either stupid or deaf.

“There you go!” Saurav leaned back and resumed playing games on his iPhone[KJ5][CR6][BM8][MH4][CW10].


Kaitlyn's comments:
[KJ3] We don't get any of her internal reaction to this. It's a list of outer reactions from her and others, but I'd love to get under her skin.
[KJ4] Right about what? Confused why this is an answer to the declaration. 
[KJ5] I wonder if perhaps the opening would be stronger with her preparing herself to finally tell them she wants to pursue modeling. That is time. But then her dad drops the bombshell before she can. This can give us a bit more lead up while we get to know her and her intentions before this declaration is made. I'd be happy to look at the first 20 pages. I liked the concept.

Hilary's comments: I thought the pitch here was solid and loved the comp titles, but I wasn’t as drawn in by the voice as I’d hoped to be. I also think this would probably sit more squarely in the adult market, since the protagonist is primarily college age.
Michelle's comments:
[MH3] I’d probably cut “But” as I don’t feel like this is a huge contrast to how everyone else wakes up. 
[MH4] I like this short slice and get a hint this story might have a lot of personality! I would have liked a little more about Mili but I’m sure with this short sample it’s difficult to flesh out a characters fully. I would request pages! It sounds like the sort of fun contemporary story I’m looking for. 

Beth's comments:
[BM5] Language here is slightly over wrought for commercial fiction, but I’m not putting it down just yet.  
[BM6] I find this comparison odd because by my estimation, you’re saying the family is maybe a half hour earlier than the rest of town which doesn’t seem like quite enough to create a strong point.
[BM7] This statement feels a bit off to me. At this point she doesn’t know what he’s about to say and neither does the reader. His decision might have to do with work, or with something else outside the home, or be something personal to him that isn’t about her life at all. 
[BM8] I think this one needs just a little more work. The author has a great sense of cadence and a nice hook for the story, but needs to work on the set up and making sure that the reader has all the information they need to have the desired reaction. With a bit more polishing I would take a look at this story, but not just yet.

Carlisle's comments:
[CW8] This opening isn’t quite working for me. Descriptions of weather and places are something agents see every day, and they don’t stand out. I think it would have more impact on the reader to get to know why this particular character is the narrator, what makes her story worth telling, and why her father making a decision would have an important impact on her life.  
[CW9 This would have more impact if we saw her jump into the conversation and actively try to change the subject.
[CW10] While the reader can and should see these reactions from her family, I think it’s more important that you show the reader what Mili is feeling after this announcement.

Cortney's comments:
[CR4] Opening with the weather/time of day is risky and one I’d consider changing; it’s used very often and is something a lot of authors fall back on when they don’t know what else to start with. 
[CR5] Reversing what everyone else is doing helps offset the very opening issue I mentioned; good choice. I’d still suggesting rethinking the opening sentence though, again because of how overused it is.
[CR6] This starting point is WAY too late in the story; we have no chance to get a feel for who Mili is, what her family (and especially dad) is like, what this moment means to her. This is the inciting incident, the thing that sets the rest of the story into motion, and there needs to be set up for this before it happens. Jumping directly into this pivotal moment is jarring, and it’s not impactful at all since we don’t have anything to compare it to. This is a pass for me; the query was a little shaky but had enough there to assure me there was likely a decent structure, but the pages told me otherwise. I now worry the structure that I’d thought was potentially there is not, and the rest of the book might not be structured and paced in a way that works well.

Results:  [If you receive a "Pages!", click on the agent's name here or at the top of this post for submission instructions.]

Kaitlyn: Pages!
Hilary: Pass
Michelle: Pages!
Beth: Pass
Carlisle: Pass
Cortney: Pass


Thursday, October 14, 2021

Dear O'Abby: Do I have to pay to play?

 Dear O'Abby,

I have written a considerable amount of short fiction and feel like I'm ready to start submitting it to competitions and journals in the hope of getting published.  I've been researching and have been surprised to discover that a lot of the contests and even publications I would like to submit to, charge for it.  Is that normal?  I always I thought I'd earn money as a writer (eventually), not have to pay for the privilege of submitting.

Can you give me some advice around this?



Dear Cash-Strapped,

Unfortunately, this is a reality.  Some publications and a large number of contests do charge reading fees or entry fees.   For contests that offer a cash prize, these entry fees often go toward making up that prize. 

At the end of the day, it is up to you whether you are willing to pay to play.  Or if you can afford to do that for very long. Personally, I agree with you and believe I should be paid for my writing rather than paying for the privilege of submitting, so if I get to a point in the submission process where I am asked for payment, I terminate it.  I'll only pay to enter something I really, really want to be in. 

My suggestion would be that you send your work to places that don't charge a reading fee to begin with.  You can spend a lot of money very quickly and a lot of publications only give you a copy of the journal as payment for your work so you don't get a chance to make that money back.  Once you have a few publication credits under your belt, you might feel more confident to pay fees for selects contests or publications.

There are plenty of publications and contests that don't ask you to pay to play, and that will pay you if your story/poem is selected.  Often not a lot, but when you're starting out, even a token payment can feel great.  I still have the first cheque I ever received as payment for a short story - it was in USD and would have cost more than the cheque was for to process at my local bank - and will probably carry it around with me the rest of my life.

Hopefully that helps!  If you want to spend some money on your writing career, you might want to subscribe to Duotrope which is a great resource for finding publications to submit your work to.  I have to admit I haven't used it since it has been behind a pay wall, but when I was submitting short fiction regularly, I used it all the time to find publications best suited to my stories.

Best of luck with your submitting!

X O'Abby

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Alex Perry

Operation Awesome Spotlight #20Questions in #2021 of #NewBook Debut Author posted by @JLenniDorner of @OpAwesome6

Pighearted by Alex Perry

1- Can you please tell us more about being a "derby girl"?
#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Alex Perry #pig #dog #organtransplant
My derby photos all look terrible, so here is my baby in my derby helmet looking much tougher than I do.

I practiced with my local derby team for years and loved skating as “Alexandra Jamilton” on our tennis court practice area, but I’ve never passed all of the qualifications to compete. Also, hitting people is an important part of roller derby, but I squeal when someone hits me and apologize every time I hit someone else. I’m not sure that I have the necessary fighting spirit. Then I got what’s called the “nine month injury.” After my daughter was born, I was ready to jump back into practice! But then 2020 happened and I Rapunzeled myself in my house with the baby. I hope to rejoin roller derby someday. Actually, I’d settle for just rejoining society.

I feel that. #InThisTogether

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

Find a critique group and read them your work aloud. Avoiding embarrassment has improved my writing more than anything.

Tip from J: https://wordcounter.net Has text-to-speech proofreading, if you need help vocalizing.

3- What most motivates you to read a new book?

I love that moment when a book clicks for me and I have to keep going. Usually, my petty hunger for drama keeps me turning the pages until the characters have charmed me and I get invested in the plot.

4- What is something about organ transplants that most people probably don't know?

Before writing Pighearted, I thought an organ transplant could make someone almost “good as new,” but life expectancy is relatively short. Every recipient is on several medications for the rest of their life and might experience issues with their immune system. However, the technology is improving rapidly and all of the cutting-edge advancements in Pighearted are possible today.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book with your dog?
#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Alex Perry #pig #dog #organtransplant

Birdie and Pighearted!

6- Any fun Halloween plans for this year?

Halloween falls on my debut week. It’s also the first week that we’ll be in our new home in a new state. Just getting through it will be enough for us.
I’d like to dress up my toddler and use her to scam candy from my new neighbors, but I don’t know how to do that safely in a pandemic.

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

When I was in high school, I thought @alextheadequate would be a cute play on Alexander the Great. I was wrong, but it’s still my twitter handle.
I’d love to shout out some of my real-life critique group members! They are that rare combination of productive, talented, and extremely friendly. With most people you only get two out of the three, but they do it all. @rebecca_fryar @JennetteGahlot @ashewriter

8- What is your favorite book to movie adaptation?

I think this is going to get me kicked out of the writer’s club, but I prefer the Lord of the Rings movies to the books. The Return of the King is one of my all-time favorites and it hits me right in the heart.

9- Are you a Plotter, Pantser, or Plantser, and how did you adopt that style?

I’m a definite plotter and I always have been. In high school they taught us to outline everything, and I just kept with it. I don’t have the self-confidence to be a pantser. I can only make it a few unplanned pages before anxiety takes over.

10- What does your basic writing schedule look like, and how often do you write?
#writespace #NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Alex Perry #pig #dog #organtransplant

I wish I wrote sometimes. Occasionally, I can write during my daughter’s nap. I think a lot of pandemic parents are in the same boat.

11- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: Lauren Allbright @laallbright
Title: Milo Moss is Officially Unamazing
Love because: It’s officially amazing and charming from the first page. I appreciate that the family’s structure was complicated but felt very relatable. At the same time, they were the quirkiest bunch of lovable weirdos that kept me engrossed.

12- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader?

I want the reader to laugh out loud at least a couple of times, but at a certain point in the book I hope that they’re weeping bitter tears like they just watched UP.

13- What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?

I’d love for kids to take an interest in medical and STEM topics that come up in the story. Hopefully, this book makes it clear how much respect I have for young readers and their ability to understand complicated topics and come to their own conclusions about it.

14- What is your favorite creative non-writing activity to do?

I’d have to be a toss up between two very wintry things I don’t have time for: baking and knitting.

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks

For me, diversity is accurately representing the world kids live in. My novel is set in Houston, one of the most diverse cities in America. The main character and his family are white, but none of the other main characters are. His doctor is a young black woman and his best friends are a Hispanic girl and a Muslim boy with Syrian heritage. Two female farmers are married to each other. I set out to reflect what’d I’d experienced in Houston, and the resulting story could not have been anything other than very diverse. I sincerely hope many different readers will be able to see themselves and their families in Pighearted.

16- What method do you feel is the best way to get book reviews?

I wish I knew!

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

As you can see from the previous answer, I’m not savvy enough to be an indie author. Also, middle-grade seems like it’d be particularly difficult to market without the resources of a traditional publishing house to help connect my book with readers, teachers, and librarians.

18- What's the biggest writing goal you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?

This is it! Publication has been my lifelong dream. My new goal is to hear that a kid has enjoyed it.

19- Would you please ask our audience a question to answer in the comments?

Does anyone have a favorite animal protagonist in a book?

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Alex Perry #pig #dog #organtransplant

Charlotte's Web meets My Sister's Keeper in this charming story told from the alternating perspectives of a boy with a fatal heart condition and the pig with the heart that could save his life.
Jeremiah’s heart skips a beat before his first soccer game, but it’s not nerves. It’s the first sign of a heart attack. He knows he needs to go to the hospital, but he’s determined to score a goal. Charging after the ball, he refuses to stop…even if his heart does.
J6 is a pig and the only one of his five brothers who survived the research lab. Though he's never left his cell, he thinks of himself as a therapy pig, a scholar, and a bodyguard. But when the lab sends him to live with Jeremiah's family, there’s one new title he’s desperate to have: brother.
At first, Jeremiah thinks his parents took in J6 to cheer him up. But before long, he begins to suspect there's more to his new curly-tailed companion than meets the eye. When the truth is revealed, Jeremiah and J6 must protect each other at all costs—even if their lives depend on it.
This charming story about family, sacrifice, and survival -set against the backdrop of boundary-pushing science and the ethics behind it - will inspire readers to never stop fighting for the ones they love.

Author Bio:

Alex Perry used to teach sixth grade in Houston, but now she writes books for kids everywhere. Pighearted is her debut novel. She lives just outside of Chicago with her husband, daughter, and two huge dogs. You can visit her at http://alexperrybooks.com or follow her on twitter @alextheadequate .

Pighearted by Alex Perry

Monday, October 11, 2021

OA Recommends - Helping Writers Become Authors

Every month [more or less] we introduce you to a different writer-oriented website. These are sites with which one or more of our team members has had positive experiences. We hope you'll check them out and let us know what you think!

This month on OA Recommends, let's learn more about Helping Writers Become Authors!

1- What is the origin story or history of Helping Writers Become Authors?

I started my blog mostly just as a way to share the journey—more as a conversation than a teaching tool, per se. Over the years, it grew into its own thing, and as I learned more and more in my own journey as a writer, I became more and more passionate about sharing it with others. Particularly after my first writing book, Outlining Your Novel, came out, I felt I had something to say that would help other writers overcome some of the same challenges and puzzles I was facing in my own writing.

2- What are some of the biggest changes that Helping Writers Become Authors has experienced over the years and have your original site goals changed?

It actually started as a book-review blog. I think I called it K.M. Weiland’s Bookshelf or something like that. Then I changed it into a discussion of writing, under the name Wordplay. Other than that, I’d say the main changes have had to do with the focus of the material. The site has always been about writing tips, but as time has gone on and I’ve become more and more interested in deep-diving with story theory, plot, structure, and character arcs, the posts have grown to reflect that.

3- Are there any big events or exciting news coming up for Helping Writers Become Authors in 2022?

My main project for 2022 is publishing a book based on this year’s blog series about archetypal character arcs. The series is centered around six transformational character arcs forming what I call the “life arcs,” which can be seen as important developmental challenges in the human life cycle. Within this context, I see the popular Hero’s Journey as the second of six progressive arcs. I’ve had a blast sharing my research and theories about archetypes on the blog, and I’m excited about compiling it all into a book next year.

4- How often do you have a new post on your site and is there a schedule for certain posts on certain days?

These days, I post weekly, on Mondays. Every post has an accompanying podcast with the same information, for those who prefer to listen rather than read.

5- How do you choose which topics to write about?

More and more, I write in response to reader requests or questions. But most of my posts are still very personal, based on my own thoughts, questions, and discoveries in my own writing journey.

6- Tell us about the different craft books you offer.

Outlining Your Novel is about brainstorming and organizing ideas. It covers broader story principles like discovering your characters and setting and figuring out your plot.

Structuring Your Novel is about the nitty-gritty of story, scene, and sentence structure.

Creating Character Arcs is about using structure to harmonize character, plot, and theme into a seamless and powerful narrative.

Writing Your Story’s Theme is about using plot structure and character arcs to realize a cohesive and resonant theme.

I recommend reading them in the order they were published: outlining, then structuring, then character arcs, then theme. They build right into each other. However, if you're only going to read one, I recommend Creating Character Arcs. It's more important than outlining and includes basic info on structuring and theme.

7- In your experience, which is the craft topic that most writers have the most difficulty with?  Why do you think that's the most difficult topic?

In the past, I would have said story structure, but these days I feel there is so much information out there about structure that most writers either are educated on the subject or will easily find the answers to their questions about it. So I’m going to go with theme. It’s such an abstract topic, but it’s so integral to solid storytelling. This is something I discussed in my most recent book Writing Your Story’s Theme, which I mentioned above, because I feel there are so many solid and practicable ways to approach creating and workshopping theme in your stories.

8- Tell us about your Story Structure Database.

I created the Story Structure Database as a resource where writers (including myself) could go to easily reference the major story beats (or lack thereof) in popular books and movies. I don’t update the Database too often anymore, but there are currently hundreds of easily searchable stories available.

9 - With all the websites for writers out there, why should someone take the time to read Helping Writers Become Authors; what makes Helping Writers Become Authors unique?

My main focus is story theory. I enjoy breaking down the overall patterns found in stories and trying to figure out what makes them work. If you’re into taking things apart and putting them back together, utilizing intuition and logic, as a way to write tighter, more powerful stories, then you might have as much fun with it as I do! :)

10- Would you please list the links and ways people can find Helping Writers Become Authors: website, blog, social media.

The site: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorkmweiland/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/kmweiland

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KMWeiland

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kmweiland.author/

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the award-winning and internationally-published author of Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, Creating Character Arcs, and Writing Your Story’s Theme. She writes historical and speculative fiction and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Monday, October 4, 2021

October 2021 Pass or Pages Entry Form!



We are now accepting entries for Pass Or Pages! Before you enter, be sure to check out the rules. This month's round of Pass Or Pages is for DIVERSE VOICES. Any entry not falling under that umbrella will be disqualified. 

While Diverse Voices isn't exactly a genre, Operation Awesome is looking to showcase historically underrepresented writers of YA and Adult fiction. To paraphrase from We Need Diverse Books: "The diverse book movement recognizes all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, Native, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities." If that's you, then this round could be your place to shine!

The entry window closes on Friday, October 8 at 6 p.m. Eastern.

The form will not allow you to show italics or other formatting, but if your entry is chosen you'll have time to let us know of any formatting you need fixed.

Remember, with great power comes great responsibility! Best of luck!


Friday, October 1, 2021