Finding an Agent & Approaching Artist Residencies

I’m determined. The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes will soon rest on the shelves of bookstores, libraries, and retail stores everywhere. Middle-grade fiction readers will delight in reading about a 12-year-old African-American superhero and his multi-cultural band of friends, along with their love of spy gadgets and science.

But first, I need an agent.

This guest post is by Lora Hyler . Hyler has completed the manuscript of her middle grade novel, The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes, and has begun the second in the series while actively seeking an agent. She founded her Wisconsin-based public relations and marketing company in 2001. She will join the faculty for fall 2017 conferences of both SCBWI Wisconsin and Wisconsin Writer’s Association. She holds a 2016 Jade Ring award from the Wisconsin Writers Association for an adult short story, several screenwriting and news awards, and has published hundreds of corporate articles. She was the recipient of a 2017 artist residency at Marnay sur Seine, France and two previous residencies at Noepe Center for the Literary Arts on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

My writing journey began a couple of decades ago with a career in radio news, public relations, and marketing. I started my own public relations firm in 2001 (, have represented a handful of authors, and look forward to marketing my own books. Short stories and screenplays were my first forays into the world of fiction. Encouraged by a few screenwriting awards, I began to exercise my fiction writing muscle through a middle grade manuscript.

After joining the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) in 2015, I learned much about the business of children books. Many times, the wealth of information on the path to publication appears daunting. Yet, there are plenty of authors willing to share their stories about how they landed an agent, sometimes after 100 or more rejections. I’ve chosen to view each “no” as a step closer toward “YES!” After all, that’s how I’ve run my career.

My tally sheet reveals I’ve sent queries to nearly 30 agents. To date, I’ve received 17 no-thanks, a couple requests for full manuscripts, and several encouraging words. My advice to any budding author: Face these rejections with the view of a glass half-full. If you’re like me, your eyes race across the email the minute it pops into your in box. Yep, there it is … the dreaded, all too familiar sentence. You know the one. It’s always some version of: “Thank you for sending your manuscript. It’s not a good fit for my current list.”

I had a recent chat with my critique partner and shared my story of a lovely rejection email from an industry leader. I successfully queried her and was told to send the full manuscript. During the discussion, I had a revelation. This industry leader wrote, “Thanks for sending me your manuscript which I have so enjoyed looking at. It is such a great fun concept and the ideas you have for further titles makes it a more commercial project than we (pursue).”

Great news! I was worried my concept wasn’t commercial enough. This individual has successfully shepherded through a fantasy series that set global sales records, captured the imaginations of youth and adults, and gained fans from reluctant and avid readers alike.

Infographic. Vision board. Visualize your way to success.

On my journey toward publication, I’ve decided to harness all the positivity the Universe sends my way. I’ve created an infographic of written quotes from agents and editors who have reviewed my work. With this lovely visual encouragement greeting me each day, I expect to keep my spirits up and forge ahead until the day an agent says the ultimate, “I’d love to represent you.”

Do go back and carefully read any rejection notes you’ve received. Wait! You want me to revisit the source of so much pain? Yes, I do! Occasionally, amidst the gray clouds, the skies part and a beam of light peeks out. Mine these rejection notes for bits of wisdom and any encouraging words.

Find an agent who’s best for you.

Where do you go to meet these agents? In person at workshops and conferences, or on websites and webinars. I’ve found agents that I’ve met face-to-face to be accessible. It also pays to listen closely when authors are speaking at conferences. I attended my local SCBWI conference where an author choked up while thanking his agent, saying she believed in him when he had stopped believing in himself. High praise! Due to his accolades, I queried this agent noting how impressed I was with her. She replied within an hour asking me to send my manuscript.

Try Twitter and the laundry list of pitch sessions available to budding authors. Brenda Drake leads Pitch Wars.

Another interesting concept allows you to get a handle on select agents and what they are currently seeking for their list. It’s called the Manuscript Wish List. I’ve found that tracking this provides insights into the whims of a particular agent.

While I seek an agent, I also keep an eye out for nonfiction work for hire opportunities to capitalize on my journalism background. I also like to blog. A sure way to keep writing muscles in good order.

The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.

Discover your tribe through residencies.

Now, I’d like to share an exciting part of my journey that I like to think of as a blindingly bright light directing me to the finish line. Artist residencies. They are available worldwide; some are for artists of all kinds, others are specifically for writers.

The joy of being selected for a residency provides a high to keep any writer powering through rejections, and revising. In our harried daily lives, where we struggle sometimes to find quiet time, residencies provide space and time to create. Often in beautiful, one-of-a-kind settings. My last residency set me up in a writing studio with windows opening up to the Seine river running through a small French village. Cool breezes, swooping birds, and the occasional family swimming downstream accompanied my writing days.

It’s fantastic to begin a residency living among strangers, and as the days progress, to become supporters of each other’s work and lives. Critique groups form and friendships blossom. Many residencies encourage public readings, providing writers an opportunity to reveal their work in progress, or completed work, to an eager audience. I’ve received adrenaline highs when an audience member laughs at the right spots. The cherry on top is one-on-one feedback offered post-reading.

My residencies to date:

  • May 2017: Centre d’Art Marnay Art Centre, (CAMAC), Marnay sur Seine, France. Month-long residency at a 17th century complex in a village of 240 residents. I was one of eight selected artists from around the globe.
  • Fall 2016 and Fall 2015: Noepe Center for the Literary Arts, Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. Noepe has since closed its doors.

As you read this, I am applying for additional residencies. Spain, Italy, Mexico, Washington state, and Illinois residencies are just a few that have caught my eye. I encourage you to pursue the thrill of a blinking cursor before you in a fresh space, in a new state or country. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded souls who, a door or two over, work on their own creations. And they’ll be happy to join you in a laugh and sips of wine when you need a break.

However, wherever you decide to write, just keep writing. Publication is just a few no’s away. Until then, mine your rejections. In the midst of it all, there may be gold.

If you’re an agent looking to update your information or an author interested in contributing to the GLA blog or the next edition of the book, contact Writer’s Digest Books Managing Editor Cris Freese at


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IELTS Speaking test in Canada – August 2017

When R took the IELTS test in Canada she was asked the following questions:

Speaking testIELTS test in Canada


– What is your full name?
– Can I see your ID?
– Where are you from?
– Do you work or study?
– What subject are you studying?
– Why do you think people choose such a subject in your country?
– What is the most interesting part of your study?
– Do you eat fruit?
– What kind of fruit do you like?
– Why?
– Is it important to eat fruit?

Cue Card

Talk about an invention that has changed the world for the better. Please say

– What is it?
– When and where was it invented?
– Is it useful for different age groups?


– What invention is used the most at home in your opinion?
– Do you think the most useful and important inventions of the world were already made?
– Do you think the invention of wheel was very important?
– What leads a person to invent something?

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from IELTS-Blog

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 406

For today’s prompt, write an intro poem. Okay, that’s vague, right? In my mind, I’m thinking of a situation in which a poet enters a room and then drops a poem. Kind of like this is my intro music or something. Of course, I’m fine with other interpretations as well. Like maybe you’ve been itching to write an introduction to poetry poem, or introducing a famous (or infamous) character, or well, no introduction needed (or maybe an introduction is needed–or maybe I’m just rambling).


Pre-order the new Poet’s Market!

The new 2018 Poet’s Market, edited by Robert Lee Brewer, includes hundreds of poetry markets, including listings for poetry publications, publishers, contests, and more! With names, contact information, and submission tips, poets can find the right markets for their poetry and achieve more publication success than ever before.

In addition to the listings, there are articles on the craft, business, and promotion of poetry–so that poets can learn the ins and outs of writing poetry and seeking publication. Plus, it includes a one-year subscription to the poetry-related information on All in all, it’s the best resource for poets looking to secure publication.

Click to continue.


Here’s my attempt at an Intro Poem:

“Here I Am”

Nobody stand up; no one turn;
I brought enough line breaks to burn

a hole in your heart and your mind.
The rhymes you lose I’ll surely find,

because I was born to poem:
if you didn’t, now you know-em.


Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He can be a little silly with his forced rhyming from time to time.

Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.


Find more poetic posts here:


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Why I Write Poetry: Courtney O’Banion Smith

Several weeks ago, I posted about “Why I Write Poetry” and encouraged others to share their thoughts, stories, and experiences for future guest posts. I’ve already received so many, and I hope they keep coming in (details on how to contribute below). Thank you!

Today’s “Why I Write Poetry” post comes from Courtney O’Banion Smith, who decided to forego a personal essay and make a list instead. It’s all good.

Courtney O’Banion Smith has taught literature and writing in some capacity for over a decade. She has worked on the board of several literary journals and organizations, and her work has been reviewed and published in several journals, anthologies, and online. She lives in Houston with her husband and two sons.


Master Poetic Forms!

Learn how to write sestina, shadorma, haiku, monotetra, golden shovel, and more with The Writer’s Digest Guide to Poetic Forms, by Robert Lee Brewer.

This e-book covers more than 40 poetic forms and shares examples to illustrate how each form works. Discover a new universe of poetic possibilities and apply it to your poetry today!

Click to continue.


Why I Write Poetry: Courtney O’Banion Smith

Courtney O’Banion Smith

40 Reasons Why I Write Poetry

1.      Because I have a short attention span.

2.      Because I need evidence that I do, indeed, see things differently.

3.      Because witness.

4.      Because the world is a messed up, fallen, crazy, broken place (see #3).

5.      Because only poetry can make any sort of accurate sense of the world (see #4).

6.      Because pain must amount to something (see #5).

7.      Because beauty.

8.      Because majestic and miraculous.

9.      Because truth, but more importantly, Truth.

10.   Because properly fabricated lies can reveal the Truth (see #4 and 6).

11.   Because words fail.

12.   Because Homer, Virgil, Basho, Issa, Buson, Danté, Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, Browning, Whitman, Dickinson, Byron, Blake, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Yeats, Hopkins, Masters, Eliot, Frost, Williams, Cummings, Olson, Plath, Sexton, Lowell, Berryman, Auden, Hughes, Creeley, Corso, Merwin, Smith, Warren, Ammons, Brooks, Bly, Heaney, Milosz, Ashbery, Oliver, Komunyakaa, Olds, Glück, Hirshfield, Hass, Pinsky, Carson, Forché, Eady, Strand, Hoagland, Doty, Rogers, Collins, Nye, and

13.   Because family.

14.   Because we think we need a stage to matter.

15.   Because I can.

16.   Because I must.

17.   Because Mother Goose.

18.   Because of iambic pentameter.

19.   Because the length of a breath (see 18).

20.   Because I need approval.

21.   Because I just want to get it right.

22.   Because physics, metaphysics, and food for the soul.

23.   Because the first social media.

24.   Because hashtag poetry (#23).

25.   Because I can’t sleep.

26.   Because pay attention to me (see #14).

27.   Because the world needs it.

28.   Because in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

29.   Because chaos becomes order becomes chaos becomes order infinitely.

30.   Because being clever and conquering a challenge feel good.

31.   Because control (see #4, 5, 6, 21, and 26).

32.   Because insanity is a strange fire that must spread to be extinguished.

33.   Because punctuation, capitalization, and spacing matter.

34.   Because what’s left unsaid can be just as important.

35.   Because the cursor must feed.

36.   Because white space.

37.   Because the best way to get to the essence of a thing is to say it’s something else (See #2, 3, 5, 11, and 21).

38.   Because of heartbreak, heartache, and loss.

39.   Because of love.

40.   Because of you.

If you’d like to share why you write poetry, please send an e-mail to with a 300-500 word personal essay that shares why you write poetry. It can be serious, happy, sad, silly–whatever poetry means for you. And be sure to include your preferred bio (50-100 words) and head shot. If I like what you send, I’ll include it as a future guest post on the blog.


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5 Secrets to Creating a Compelling Series Character

When I began my first book starring Jim Brodie, my goal was simply to write the best book I could. I didn’t have visions of a series. Then, as I polished the final draft, readying the manuscript for submission to an agent, new story ideas for Brodie began to pop into my head.

I took a step back to consider the possibility of making Brodie a series character, realizing that a lot depended on how Japantown was received. But I decided to give myself a little more breathing room just in case.

This guest post is by Barry Lancet. Lancet is the author of the award-winning international suspense series featuring Jim Brodie. The latest entry is THE SPY ACROSS THE TABLE (Simon & Schuster), which sends Brodie careening from Washington, D.C. and San Francisco to Japan, South Korea, the DMZ, and the Chinese-North Korean border, in a story that predates recent headlines. In one of the first advance reviews, Publishers Weekly said that “Lancet keeps the suspense high through the exciting climax.” Photo by Ben Simmons.

It’s vital to point out that even as I contemplated the idea of a series, I held nothing back from Japantown. Why? Because to make the team you have to bring your best game. That’s what I did and the book sold to Simon & Schuster and would go on to make a number of “best-of” lists and win the Barry Award for Best First Mystery.

By the time Japantown reached print, I was immersed in writing my second novel, Tokyo Kill, again with Brodie at the helm of another contemporary tale that, this time, veered back to the days of World War II. Why another Brodie book instead of a standalone? I’ll get to that in a minute, but first let me tell you what I did to create a little “breathing room.”

[New Agent Alerts: Click here to find agents who are currently seeking writers]

Over the years, I’d gleaned from interviews with other authors that the planning of their series characters followed one of two paths: either they allowed themselves flexibility for the future, or they moved hastily, and inadvertently penned themselves in. With this information at hand I made the following moves, and offer them here for you to think about:

1. Keep the backstory detailed but open-ended enough to give yourself maneuverability.

For example, Brodie is an American born in Japan to American parents, an art dealer with a struggling antiques shop in San Francisco, and half-owner of a security firm built by his father in Tokyo. He’s also the father of a six-year-old girl. All of this gives me plenty to work with. He has the need to travel so I’m not pinned down with my setting. Two careers provide a multitude of opportunities for trouble; and he’s a single parent, which offers the chance for emotional exploration. Each of my books takes advantage of Brodie’s backstory.

2. But you shouldn’t give too many extended details about the backstory.

Backstory, by nature, slows a story down, so for that reason alone it should be parsed out in drips over time. And when you do, make sure not to pin yourself down too much.

Which leads us to the next point: What should a series character be? Much will be specific to the setting, goals, and genre you choose, but here are three major aspects to consider:

3. Make your character attractive to both male and female readers.

(Unless you’re working in a genre that zeroes in on one over the other.)

4. Avoid common character clichés.

If your hero is a spy, steer away from the melancholy, burned-out agent, or the slick, overly smooth operator. If your protagonist is a private investigator, avoid the recovering alcoholic trope (it’s been done hundreds of times), or the lady’s man with an ex-wife or two.

That said, no rule or suggestion is all-inclusive, nor goes unbroken. If you must approach a stereotype, do so with the freshest point of view you can muster. Jeffery Deaver brilliantly turned the “wounded cop/private investigator” trope on its head in The Bone Collector by making his hero a nearly complete paraplegic, mentally fit but able to move little more than a finger. Michael Connelly handled the ex-wife syndrome with humor and pathos in the Lincoln Lawyer.

[Understanding Book Contracts: Learn what’s negotiable and what’s not.]

5. I’ve saved the most intriguing item for last:

You don’t have to stray too far from home to find at least a portion of your protagonist’s personality, and here’s why.

Over the last five years, I’ve met and listened to any number of bestselling authors. What I’ve noticed (sometimes despite claims to the contrary) is that their series characters often exhibit a number of personality traits they themselves possess.

I’ve seen this too many times to ignore. The character may drive a different car, wear different clothes, and live in a different state, but, whether consciously or unconsciously (as in my case too), underlying similarities often emerge. At the same time, I saw the upside. These similarities give the authors a solid grasp on their characters, and their character a solid anchor in reality.

The lesson here is that you don’t have to bend over backwards to divorce yourself entirely from your character. Which is another way of saying you don’t need to be nervous about borrowing a part of yourself for your character.

The five factors above helped bring Jim Brodie to the printed and digital page. And how did that turn out?

After I finished Japantown, I sent it out to agents. Soon thereafter, I was fortunate enough to land my top choice in a list of ten (Robert Gottlieb of Trident Media Agency). Japantown was preempted by Simon & Schuster and optioned for TV for two years by J.J. Abrams (the series is now under consideration with a new producer).

When the dust settled, a contract for two books landed on my desk, soon to be followed by a second contract for two more books. The additional three books were contingent on Brodie putting in an appearance as the main character. His name appeared prominently in the contract, and he is the focus of each book. Brodie’s most far-flung adventure to date is his most recent, The Spy Across the Table, where his backstory has been fleshed out a tad more to include a choice secret.

In more ways than one, Jim Brodie has taken on a life of his own.

The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.

If you’re an agent looking to update your information or an author interested in contributing to the GLA blog or the next edition of the book, contact Writer’s Digest Books Managing Editor Cris Freese at





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IELTS test in India – August 2017 (Academic Module)

Our friend A took the IELTS test in India and remembered the following details:

Listening testIELTS test in India

Section 1. A lady talked with a person from a real estate agency.
Questions: filling in blanks on a personal details form.

Section 2. A lady talked about a university.
Questions: filling in blanks, multiple choice.

Section 3. A student and his tutor talked about a project assignment on extinct species in New Zealand, including the bird Moa.
Questions: multiple choice, match characteristics to paragraphs.

Section 4. A person talked about the history and evolution of bicycles over the years.
Questions: short-answer questions (no more than 3 words), diagram labelling.

Reading test

Passage 1. About an oil refinery plant.
Questions: multiple choice, True/False/Not Given.

Passage 2. About Nicholas Kaldor employment theory. He developed the “compensation” criteria for welfare comparisons.
Questions: True/False/Not Given, summary completion.

Passage 3. About West African culture and people.
Questions: filling in blanks, True/False/Not Given.

Writing test

Writing task 1 (a report)

We were given two diagrams showing the student accommodation building in 2010 and now. We had to describe and compare changes.

Writing task 2 (an essay)

In many countries today the numbers of plants and animals are declining. Why is it happening, in your opinion? What can be the solution to this situation?

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from IELTS-Blog

Chanso: Poetic Form

Today’s form is kind of cool, because it affords a bit of creativity. Let’s look at the chanso!

Chanso Poems

Chanso poems are adaptable to the needs of the poet. This French form consists of five or six stanzas with an envoy that is roughly half the size of a regular stanza. So what is a regular stanza?

That depends on what the poet decides. The main rules are that each line of the poem should have the same number of syllables, and each stanza should be uniform when it comes to length and rhyme scheme. Beyond that, the poet has final say.

So a chanso could consist of 5 tercets followed by a couplet written with an abc rhyme scheme for each line; or it could be 6 12-line stanzas with an intricate rhyme scheme that is halved to a 6-line envoy. For my example below, I went with simple quatrains.


Master Poetic Forms!

Learn how to write sestina, shadorma, haiku, monotetra, golden shovel, and more with The Writer’s Digest Guide to Poetic Forms, by Robert Lee Brewer.

This e-book covers more than 40 poetic forms and shares examples to illustrate how each form works. Discover a new universe of poetic possibilities and apply it to your poetry today!

Click to continue.


Here’s my attempt at a Chanso Poem:

On the Forest Moon, by Robert Lee Brewer

“3PO! Come in, 3PO! 3PO! Where could he be?”
-Luke Skywalker

With all the things I have been through,
I thought it must be obvious–
the odds good you already knew–
like R2 I’ve grown mischievous

and abandoned Jedi and Sith
for a vacay with my Ewoks,
who love to hear me spin a myth
and always listen when I talk.

Not that I hate on Master Luke,
though I could do without that Han,
who’s quick to give a tough rebuke
every time things don’t go to plan.

It’s just I don’t like being shot
or getting pulled into pieces.
After all, I’m not a robot
when I’ve got telekinesis,

or at least, that’s what Ewoks think
as they sing “yub-yub” on their moon,
which was once on the very brink
of the Empire’s galactic doom.

So look and you’ll find me no more:
I’ll be the droid you’re looking for.


Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.


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I Landed 4 Book Deals in 1 Year With No Agent: Here’s How I Did It

The year 2016 was a banner year for me: I got four book deals with four different publishers! Three of those books were published in 2017, with the fourth scheduled for a spring 2018 release. It’s been an exciting ride, but also a complicated one: juggling several projects in various stages of production over the past year. There were many times when I had to clear my head to be sure I was responding to the right editor about the right project and keeping up with overlapping deadlines. Here’s how it all unfolded, and how I stayed sane throughout it all:

This guest post is by Susan Cushman. Cushman was co-director of the 2010 and 2013 Creative Nonfiction Conferences in Oxford, Mississippi, and director of the 2011 Memphis Creative Nonfiction Workshop. In addition to having over a dozen essays published in various anthologies, journals, and magazines, Cushman has authored two books and edited two, including Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s (eLectio Publishing, February 2017), A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We Are Meant to Be (Mercer University Press, March 2017), author, Cherry Bomb, a novel (Dogwood Press, July 2017), Southern Writers on Writing (University Press of Mississippi, 2018). A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Cushman has lived in Memphis, Tenn. since 1988.

Book Deal 1: Cherry Bomb, my novel, was conceived about seven years ago. I had written my first novel a couple of years earlier, but it ended up on a shelf in my closet. One of the characters in that novel wouldn’t keep quiet, and she reappeared as Mare, the graffiti artist protagonist in Cherry Bomb. Once I completed the manuscript, I hired a freelance editor and also got feedback from several published authors who graciously served as early readers. Finally I was ready to find a literary agent to represent me and get me a book deal with one of the Big Five houses.

That’s when it all went a little sideways.

I spent six months querying roughly 75 literary agents. I did my homework—finding agents who represented books with similar themes as mine, or whose readers might also like my book. About 25 of them asked to see the full manuscript and complimented my writing style, which was encouraging. Then the rejections came. Most said things like “I can’t figure out to market this book,” or “I can’t find a niche for this.” Finally, an agent said she loved the book and wanted to work with me. She had represented a famous author whose book was full of art and religious overtones, like Cherry Bomb, so I thought it was a match made in heaven—until she started sending it to different editors (and charging me about $750 each time) who not only disagreed with each other, but who were trying to move the book in directions I didn’t want it to go. The agent was pushing me strongly toward the commercial fiction genre, while I was trying to hold onto what I hoped would be literary fiction. When she asked to send it to a third editor for another revision, I parted ways with her. It wasn’t an easy decision, as I felt I was leaving behind my dreams for a big book deal.

I only spent a few weeks querying agents again—maybe about 25 this time—before making the decision to look for an independent press that didn’t require agent representation. Researching my options online and through social media contacts, I eventually connected with Joe Lee of Dogwood Press, who had served on a panel at a writing conference I helped direct a few years ago. We signed a contract to publish my novel in July 2017.

During this lengthy process of birthing a novel, there were periods of relative inactivity that drove me crazy. Hence, I always had several varied projects in the back of my mind at the same time. I’m sure a single publisher would never have contracted me for such a wide-ranging mix of overlapping books, and I also tried not to talk too much about each deal with the other publishers. But having multiple projects in the hopper at once help eased my anxiety in the waiting periods.

Book Deal 2: Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s (eLectio Publishing, February 2017) had a completely different type of genesis. From 2008­–2016, I wrote 60 posts on my blog, Pen and Palette, about caregiving for my mother, who died from Alzheimer’s last May. A few months before her death, while I was still trying to find a publishing home for Cherry Bomb, I got the idea to collect those posts into a memoir/essay collection. I again did some online research into small presses. I got a quick response from eLectio Publishing in Little Elm, Texas, and the process was smooth and fast. They allowed me to include lots of photographs and, as with Dogwood Press, I was able to suggest artwork for the cover. They don’t have a publicity director, but marketing is something I actually enjoy, so I was off and running with more than a dozen events from March–May.

Book Deal 3: A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We Are Meant to Be (Mercer University Press, March 2017) “bloomed” in the midst of my work on the first two projects. Three of my essays had been published in anthologies between 2012 and 2015, and I love the genre. So I decided to try my hand at putting together a collection. I invited twenty women to contribute (and they all said yes!) their stories of “second bloomings” after loss, illness, divorce, or in second careers, second marriages, or second “lives.” All of the contributors were published authors, including a few well-known ones, so this time I decided to query academic presses. In addition to Mercer University Press’ stellar reputation, I think it was their director Marc Jolley’s words that won me over: “If you don’t let us publish this, I’m still going to buy it for my wife!”

A Second Blooming is now in its third printing, and I had a ball visiting the hometowns (and states) of many of its authors for readings and signings with them at their local booksellers. At one point, one publisher expressed concern that marketing these books so close together was going to be a problem—that I would use up my reader base and wear out my welcome at bookstores. I’ve been amazed at how many bookstores have welcomed me back multiple times, and how many readers have come out for more than one of my events.  (There was only one situation that I wish I could go back and change: One of the premiere bookstores welcomed me for two events, but not for a third in the same year. The third book was my novel—the project I cared the most about—so I was disappointed at not being able to have a reading at this particular store for the novel. I should have discussed all three books with the store manager at the beginning of the year, and I would have probably been given the choice of which two I could have readings for.)

Book Deal 4: Southern Writers on Writing, my fourth book deal of 2016, was another product of those “slow weeks” between deadlines with the other three presses. (Yes, even with three books in the works you’ll still have slow weeks!) Having had so much fun and success with A Second Blooming, I wanted to create another anthology. This time I invited 26 southern authors (13 men and 13 women) to contribute to a book by southern writers about writing. Since I’m from Jackson, Mississippi, and went to school at the University of Mississippi, I decided to query the University Press of Mississippi. Fortunately they were interested right away, so I didn’t have to spend time looking for a publisher.

Working on two anthologies was a bit tricky, in that I would sometimes forget which contributors went with which book. I even sent an email to the wrong publisher once, with concerns about reprint rights for a previously published piece that we were including. Fortunately, she just laughed it off.

I keep hard copies of everything in file folders right next to my desk. When I’m finished working with some aspect of one project, I put that file folder away and get out another one to work on. It’s a form of physical compartmentalizing, and it helps keep me organized. I also keep a physical calendar on my desk (I don’t use an electronic one) and clearly mark each day’s deadlines, reminders, and appointments. This is crucial with so many marketing events overlapping with deadlines for editing, follow-up emails and calls to media folks and booksellers. These are my best multitasking tips:

  1. Keep hard copies of all paperwork for each project in separate file folders on or near your desk. Put each one away when working with the contents of another one.
  2. Be diligent with your calendar, whether you use electronic or handwritten format. Clearly mark all deadlines (I use lots of red ink and stars and yellow highlights) for each project.
  3. Treat each project with respect—don’t hurry through what you might consider less pleasant tasks on one book to get to something that’s more fun on another project. This is tempting—I, for one, much prefer marketing and final editing to first drafts and heavy revisions—but you must stay disciplined.
  4. Consider spacing the projects out a bit more than I’ve done. Two weeks apart for the release of my first two books was a bit tight. In retrospect, three to six months between projects might have been better. On the other hand, you don’t want to lose momentum when you’re excited about your work!

And yes—I’m already working on a fifth book. My first instinct was to write another novel, and I still may do that at some point, but for now I’m putting together another essay collection. This time the essays are all mine, and they reflect most of the important areas of my life: art, spirituality, mental health, family/adoption, and sexual abuse. When I started gathering all my essays—previously published and not-yet-published—I discovered I have over 55,000 words ready to be organized into a book. My publishing plan might surprise you, given the story you’ve just read: I plan to query literary agents for this one.

(To follow my journey, subscribe to my blog to find out what happens, friend me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter. I’d love to e-meet you!)



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IELTS Speaking test in India – August 2017

Thanks to K who took the IELTS test in India we can share these Speaking questions today:

Speaking testIELTS test in India


– What is your full name?
– Can I see your ID?
– Where are you from?
– Do you work or study?
– What part of the country do you live in?
– Is it good to live there?
– Would you like to live there in the future?
– Are there any famous places in your city?
– What are they famous for?
– Let’s talk about mirrors.
– How often do you spend time looking in the mirror? Why?
– Did you ever buy a mirror?
– Do you think it is important to have a mirror at home? Why?
– Do you think you spend too much time watching TV?
– Why is that so?
– Did you watch it a lot as a child?

Cue Card

Talk about an interesting house or apartment you have visited. Please say

– Where is it?
– What does it look like?
– When and why did you visit it?


– What are the common types of houses in your city?
– Why do you think they are so popular?
– What other types of accommodation are there?
– Why do people prefer that?
– Are there any authentic houses in your city?
– Do people prefer living in the city area or countryside nowadays?
– Why is it so?
– What is the best part of living in the countryside?
– Do you think people are wasting too much energy?
– What can be a solution to preserve energy sources?

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New Agent Alert: Julie Dinneen of D4EO Literary

About Julie: After years of editorial work, professional writing of many descriptions, and an internship at The Bent Agency, Julie joined D4EO Literary in 2017 to build her own list of upmarket fiction.

She is Seeking: Across the board, she’s looking for books that hook her from the very first page, whether it’s the writing, the voice, or some unquantifiable draw that demands her time. Julie is drawn to stories that are exceptionally well-written that star dynamic, unforgettable characters and that appeal to a wide, commercial audience.

She is looking for literary fiction with commercial appeal and beautiful, stand-out writing (The Girls, Cloud Atlas). She’s on the lookout for upmarket general, women’s, and historical fiction her book club will want to spend hours talking about (Big Little Lies, The Nest, Orphan Train). She’d love to discover a new twist on chick lit—think Bridget Jones for millennials—and has a weakness for fun, perfectly-executed beach reads. Julie is also looking for well-written romance, both contemporary and historical. She especially enjoys epic, genre-bending romance (Outlander, The Bronze Horseman) and never says never when it comes to paranormal, although believability and originality are essential.

[New Agent Alerts: Click here to find agents who are currently seeking writers]

Genres she reads less of but will still consider include high-concept YA with blockbuster potential, psychologically complex horror, and female-centric thrillers. In these categories, she’s looking for select projects with storytelling that won’t let go.

How to Submit: To query, please send a query letter and the first ten pages in the body of the email to Her response time is between ten minutes and four weeks.

The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.

If you’re an agent looking to update your information or an author interested in contributing to the GLA blog or the next edition of the book, contact Writer’s Digest Books Managing Editor Cris Freese at




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