Announcing the 13th Annual Popular Fiction Awards Winners

Writer’s Digest would like to congratulate the winners of the 13th Annual Popular Fiction Awards. Each year, writers submit their very best short stories in one of six categories: crime, horror, romance, science fiction, thriller, and young adult. The winners of this year’s awards were chosen from over 875 entries and represent the very best in genre fiction. Please join us in congratulating our winners!

For complete coverage of the awards, see the May/June 2018 issue of Writer’s Digest. The stories of the Grand Prize winner and the First Place winner in each genre have been posted for you to read and enjoy (see the links below). For an extended interview with our grand-prize winner, click here. For a selection of advice and inspiration from the winners, click here.

Grand Prize

“Snow. Blood. Love.” by Ami Cameron (read it here)


First Place

“Not in My Neighborhood!” by Diana Bredeson (read it here)

Honorable Mentions

“Easy Money” by Gene Bedell

“Fall From Grace” by Victoria Kelleher

“The Burial of John Doe” by Theresa Konwinski

“Simon Marbly” by Irina Novac


First Place

“The Hole” by John Bowie (read it here)

Honorable Mentions

“Mr. Bender’s Will” by Richard Arbib

“Transit” by Kathleen Laux

“Plant Food” by Jennifer Ridge

“Lunch at The Double H” by Susan Tims


First Place

“Widow” by Julia Lemyre-Cossette (read it here)

Honorable Mentions

“Going Up?” by Jasmine Chua

“Love, Ben” by Jack Croughwell

“Reverie” by Jan Darling

“The Ghost of Arabelle Vale” by Michelle Lindsey

Science Fiction/Fantasy

First Place

“When I Was Your Age” by Darren French (read it here)

Honorable Mentions

“The Poisoned Seed” by CaReese Rials

“Into Thin Air” by T. S. Sgrignuoli

“Imposters” by Amber Linkenheld-Struk

“Dark Matters” by David Woolston


First Place

“The Polaroid” by Renee Roberson (read it here)

Honorable Mentions

“The Rocks” by Jay Heathcote

“Old Soldier” by Laurel Heidtman

“Nosey Neighbors” by Allison Keeton

“Misha’s Retribution” by Joyce Putnam

Young Adult

First Place

“The Holiday” by Sophie Myers (read it here)

Honorable Mentions

“Resist Flag” by David Bruner

“Reaping Day” by Matthew Goldstein

“College Visit” by Gary Kidney

“Day Dreamer and the Sleeping Giants” by Barbara Layman


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Writing Advice and Inspiration from WD’s Popular Fiction Award Winners

Writer’s Digest would like to congratulate the winners of the 13th Annual Popular Fiction Awards. Each year, writers submit their very best short stories in one of six categories: crime, horror, romance, science fiction, thriller, and young adult. The winners of this year’s awards were chosen from over 875 entries and represent the very best in genre fiction. Please join us in congratulating our winners!

For complete coverage of the awards, see the May/June 2018 issue of Writer’s Digest. For an extended interview with our grand-prize winner, click here. To see a complete list of winners and read the first-place winners in each genre, click here.

Below, discover helpful writing advice and inspiration from our esteemed winners:

What is your favorite line from your story?

“I gotta go, Ma. The neighbors are back, and I have their mail.” —Allison Keeton, “Nosey Neighbors”

“A man of many secrets, Nyllen was. But no better friend could be found among men.”—CaReese Rials, “The Poisoned Seed”

“Now I had the police thinking I was crazy, it had been suggested that I try not to be too nosey and the man asked if Frankie had a bite history.” —Diana Bredeson, “Not in My Neighborhood!”

“Arabelle!” His voice struck her heart like a clock striking midnight, its fury, passion, and terror setting a pendulum of darkest fate into motion… —Michelle Lindsey, “The Ghost of Arabelle Vale”

“It was beautiful, but I was empty.” —Julia Lemyre-Cossette, “Widow”

“Reaping Day had arrived.” —Matthew Goldstein, “Reaping Day”

“Stop right there, duck snot.” —Susan Tims, “Lunch at The Double H”

“Huey was a career criminal without the brains or ambition to be good at it.” —Eugene Bedell, “Easy Money”

“It was five o’clock in the evening and Simon Marbly sat hunched in an indigo wingback chair, wearing an expression of defeat.” —Irina Novac, “Simon Marbly”

“Senior year of high school is amazing because your life is beginning, but senior year of college is terrifying because your life is beginning.” —Jack Croughwell, “Love, Ben”

“The only thing I see is a madman with half-baked theories who just ended his career.” —David Woolston, “Dark Matters”

“The pirate inches toward us along the wall like a prison escapee, keeping as much distance between himself and the TV as he can.” —Darren French, “When I Was Your Age”

“It was never mistletoe or the soft contours of a newborn’s faces. Those things were reserved for fluffy, white clouds. Ice harbored cold images with jagged lines and sharp teeth. Stark contrast between lights and darks, the only hues, the intoxicating yellow-brown of decay.” —Jay Heathcote, “The Rocks”

Though giants were more interesting than chores, if [Day Dreamer] didn’t get her sowing done soon, she’d still be working when the moon dragged the shadows from the trees. —Barbara Layman, “Day Dreamer and the Sleeping Giants”

“New leaders replaced the old until there were no leaders left.” —John Bowie, “The Hole”

“She looked at his hand and crinkled her nose in distaste—it was smooth and soft, and smelled like he’d washed it too many times, trying to remove his sins.” —Jennifer Ridge, “Plant Food”

“It had taken her about 30 minutes to fully appear on the photo, but it had taken her much longer to disappear from the self she had always known down in that basement.” —Renee Roberson, “The Polaroid”

“How many more of these do you suppose I’ll see before I retire?” Doc asked Rogers.

“Depends on when you retire, Doc. If you retire today, none. If you retire tomorrow, very possibly more.” —Theresa Konwinski, “The Burial of John Doe”

Anthony Stanton smirked. “Rich people are never crazy, Jack—just eccentric. Remember that.” —Richard Arbib, “Mr. Bender’s Will”

What are the benefits and challenges of writing short stories or writing in your genre?

I like to write funny horror. I like to develop evil or insane characters who could live next-door to us and live seemingly rich and rewarding normal lives. The short story is a great way to do that. —Susan Tims, “Lunch at The Double H”

You get to tell a complete story without committing to a full novel. —CaReese Rials, “The Poisoned Seed”

I think the biggest challenge in writing romance is avoiding stereotypes or over doing it. Good literary romance is like real life romance: You should flirt your way in, not overwhelm the reader with clichés. —Julia Lemyre-Cossette, “Widow”

They are writing calisthenics—exercises that don’t take over my life like my novels, but that include all the elements of serious fiction. Moreover, I’ve come to believe that if you can’t write a compelling short story that holds a reader’s interest, your hopes to write a publishable novel are doomed. —Eugene Bedell, “Easy Money”

The clear challenge for me is letting the thing fly out the window in hopes that it doesn’t come back too beat up and bloody. —David Woolston, “Dark Matters”

Short stories are quick, fun blasts, the punk rock of the literary world. They may only take thirty-or-so minutes to read, but they can be powerful little ditties that stay with you for a long time. —Darren French, “When I Was Your Age”

For a thriller with a simple, clever, plot twist, the short story is a great fit. There’s not always enough meat on the bone for a full-fledged novel, but it’s still a story worth telling. —Jay Heathcote, “The Rocks”

I love children’s picture books so the short form is perfect for crafting stories in that genre. For kids learning to read, it’s another example of why every word counts. —Barbara Layman, “Day Dreamer and the Sleeping Giants”

I think horror leaves open the full breadth of human emotion. Horror inherently creates feelings in the audience that they avoid in their daily lives. If other genres draw too heavily from those emotions, they turn into horror. Horror has the benefit of the full emotional palette.           I don’t think horror has to be outright scary—it is much more interesting to me to read something that is alarming in how it makes me think, like a thought experiment. —John Bowie, “The Hole”

The biggest challenge is to find the right place to end it. Open endings are fine—they can work out really well sometimes, if your goal is to forever leave people in suspense—but the story still has to feel complete. —Jennifer Ridge, “Plant Food”

Finding the time to write is the most difficult part. —Richard Arbib, “Mr. Bender’s Will”

Don’t take too much time to set up scenes. You only have a little space to get to the point. No long sentences or long paragraphs. And it has to be free from typos. Nothing takes a reader out of the story faster than typos. In short, a good editor is the key. —Susan Tims, “Lunch at The Double H”

It took me a long time to realize I didn’t need paragraphs of exposition to get my ideas across. If my protagonist meets a pulsating blob that communicates via telepathy, I merely show it and don’t sweat the details. That’s part of what makes short fiction so fun to write and read. You don’t have room to explain everything, so in many cases, the author relies on the reader’s imagination. —Darren French, “When I Was Your Age”

Where do you get your ideas?

Twists on real life. I’m always wondering “what if this happened instead.” Everything I read or hear, I imagine it happening just slightly differently, or a person having a different reaction or a secret.— Allison Keeton, “Nosey Neighbors”

Many of my ideas have come from my travels. I find that being in a place that is unfamiliar really triggers my imagination. It’s probably because it makes it seem full of possibilities. —Julia Lemyre-Cossette, “Widow”

The primary source [for my ideas] is dreams. I used to sleep with a paper and pen beside my bed (now a cellphone) so that when I woke up I could record any interesting ideas that occurred in the dream. I would write the essence of an idea rather than a plot, just something to get my gears going. Of course, most of these were duds that seemed interesting only at the time. However, every once in a while, I get truly inspired by some fantastical element in my dream. —Matthew Goldstein, “Reaping Day”

Ideas are never a problem for me. My good imagination took the place of a memory, of which I have none. My memory is so bad, people around me forget things. —Eugene Bedell, “Easy Money”

Almost never from articles that say “21 Prompts That Will Unclog Your Writer’s Block” or whatever they’re titled, I stopped reading them. —Jack Croughwell, “Love, Ben”

Primarily from long drives. I typically do not listen to the music or the radio if I’ve got a long-haul drive. Instead, I’ll kind of meditate on stories as the miles pass. I find it stimulating. Often after the rides, I talk with my dogs about the ideas. They are excellent listeners. —John Bowie, “The Hole”

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

If you’re going to be a writer, you have to write. You can’t talk about writing. You can’t wish to write. While thinking about your work in the shower is part of the writing process, you won’t have anything to think about if you haven’t sat down and put something on the page. Anything on the page. [Also,] if you’re not willing to edit and take feedback, walk away from the game. — Allison Keeton, “Nosey Neighbors”

If you really want it, don’t give up! —Diana Bredeson, “Not in My Neighborhood!”

Write 15 minutes a day, because if you write once a week for 2 hours at a time, it will take you twice as long to get back into your groove, your entire process is slowed down and it can make your writing seem choppy. 15 minutes is a short time in a day and can be squeezed in almost every day. But it can be enough to decide what your character will do next or to rework that one scene that wasn’t quite right. It can also be enough to brainstorm and get a new story going. —Julia Lemyre-Cossette, “Widow”

[A] life-changing piece of writing advice one of my writer friends gave me has been to write “outside of myself.” —Irina Novac, “Simon Marbly”

The best writing advice I’ve ever received comes from my buddy Bob, who said, in response to all the writing advice, “You need to take away what works for you.” —Jack Croughwell, “Love, Ben”

You can’t edit it if you don’t write it. I’ve heard this advice time and time again from many sources, so I think it’s starting to stick. —David Woolston, “Dark Matters”

My wife once told me that every character in a story should have something they want, some motivation, even if the reader never finds out what that motivation is throughout the course of the story. From that line of thinking, a fully-fleshed character can emerge because now they have dreams and aspirations. —Darren French, “When I Was Your Age”

An art teacher once advised, “Draw what you see, not what you think should be there.” I think of stories the same way. Don’t drown it in color and fluffy description if that’s not what the story’s about. —Barbara Layman, “Day Dreamer and the Sleeping Giants”

If the conflict can be solved with a simple conversation between two people, it’s not strong enough. This may not be as accurate for short stories, but I’ve read a lot of novels where the entire premise is based on characters misunderstanding each other. It’s so frustrating as a reader when I know the solution and the characters persist in ignorance. —Jennifer Ridge, “Plant Food”

An editor at a conference told me not to force a style just because I thought it was trendy, and once I quit doing that, the story flowed much more smoothly. —Renee Roberson, “The Polaroid”

What advice do you have for other who are writing short stories?

If you don’t enjoy writing, maybe it’s not for you. If you do enjoy writing but don’t know if your work is good, join a writers group. Find one that uses encouragement and gentle criticism. Once you feel more confident, find a larger audience. But, clothe yourself in thick skin. Not everyone is kind. —Susan Tims, “Lunch at The Double H”

Read as much as you can and write every day. It seems trite but I believe there is wisdom in those words. At one time I used to spend all my time reading books about writing and I wasn’t producing anything. It’s only when I started writing every day that I had material that I could then edit (or send to a contest!). —CaReese Rials, “The Poisoned Seed”

Write as if technology doesn’t exist. Write timelessly. (Unless, of course, technology and time are the premise of the story.) —Irina Novac, “Simon Marbly”

It’s best, no matter how short the story is, to have something actually happen between the beginning and the end. —David Woolston, “Dark Matters”

Edit other people’s writing. You’ll learn to edit your own writing, and also learn to let yourself be edited. —John Bowie, “The Hole”

Have as many people read your work as possible before you publish it. My very first self-published novel was only read by a friend and a proofreader, and I look back on that book with slight embarrassment. It’s not necessarily that the story is bad, but that it could have been so much better if I’d only had someone to point out the plot holes and potential for more at the time. —Jennifer Ridge, “Plant Food”

What can you not live without in your writing life?

Feedback! —Susan Tims, “Lunch at The Double H”

Music is essential. It helps me focus and minimizes distractions. Surprising fact: my Janet Jackson playlist is my secret weapon. I do my best writing when I’m listening to her music. —CaReese Rials, “The Poisoned Seed”

The support, honesty and encouragement of my family and friends. Being outside would be a close second, it helps me relax and come up with ideas. —Diana Bredeson, “Not in My Neighborhood!”

Three things: prayer, a quiet room, and lots of coffee. —Michelle Lindsey, “The Ghost of Arabelle Vale”

As long as I have a mechanical pencil, or a decent pen, and a notebook, I can pretty much write anywhere. Once I have my first draft completed or near competition, I do depend on my laptop for the revision process. —Irina Novac, “Simon Marbly”

Books! Read, read, read. That’s the key, I think. Plus, it’s fun!

Silence. All I need is absolute silence and something to record the ideas that come pouring out. —Jay Heathcote, “The Rocks”

Cut and paste! Revisions are a nightmare without it. —Theresa Konwinski, “The Burial of John Doe”

I should say coffee but I’m actually going to go with The Investigation Discovery Channel, ha ha! I get so many ideas for stories and plot twists from the shows I see on there, and People Magazine Investigates and Vanity Fair Confidential are two of my favorites. —Renee Roberson, “The Polaroid”

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Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 432

For today’s prompt, write a spring poem. Maybe it feels like spring in your neck of the woods. Maybe it feels like a second (or third or tenth) wave of winter. According to the calendar, the first day of spring was yesterday, sooooo…


Order the Poet’s Market!

The 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 a Spring Poem:

“fresh soil”

i can feel it between my fingers
& smell the black earth ready
to take in seeds & tiny plants

the sun stays a little longer
each day as if to say it’s time
to return to your sacred roots

& it doesn’t matter if flowers
or veggies or strawberries
because everywhere every

thing is springing back to life


Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). His favorite season is actually autumn, but spring sets the fall into motion.

Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.


Find more poetic posts here:

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The simple steps Vanessa took to get Band 7.5 in IELTS

Today we are delighted to introduce to you Vanessa – a young lady from Nigeria whose first language is Yoruba. The remarkable thing about Vanessa is that she prepared for IELTS in 6 weeks and got an Overall Band 7.5 as a result (with 8.5 in Listening!). This score helped Vanessa win in our monthly IELTS results competition, and when we asked her to share some useful things other test takers can do to get a higher score, here is what she said:

Band 9 in IELTS“Thank you for choosing me as one of the winners of the IELTS Result Competition, I am greatly honoured.

I had about a month and two weeks to prepare for the IELTS Test, I will share some of my study tips with you.

Reading and Listening: I studied the entire reading module and listened to all the recordings in my IELTS study book and I practiced some of the model tests too. For the reading section I timed myself while I was practicing, so that I could get used to the time restriction during the real exam.

Speaking: I practiced speaking about different topics with my IELTS tutor.

Writing: I studied the writing module in my preparation book and spent a lot of time practicing how to write different types of essays.

In addition to these, I put God first in my IELTS preparation because with God all things are possible. Also, my parents supported and encouraged me in preparing for the test by getting a tutor for me and buying all the study materials I needed.

I also watched a lot of IELTS tutoring videos and read study tips from successful IELTS test takers.

My advice to all those preparing for the test is to study and practice a lot, because practice made me to notice my errors and so I could correct myself, also it made me more confident.

Practice! Practice!! Practice!!!

Passing the IELTS requires hard work, determination, and positive mindset – and we are all capable of that.”

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Brand Basics: 6 Debut Authors Discuss Their Author Platforms and Connecting with Readers

Every issue of Writer’s Digest, we chat with debut authors about their upcoming releases, how they broke in and what they learned in the process. One question we always ask them—and rarely have room to include in the magazine—is about their author platforms: How do they connect with readers? Do traditional approaches work best for them (website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or nontraditional ones? What advice do they have for other authors trying to get their name out into the world?

We compiled feedback from some of those featured authors from the May/June 2018 issue of Writer’s Digest here, and the answers are as varied as the genres they write.

Roger Johns (, author of Dark River Rising:

“When I began writing [Dark River Rising], I did not have a platform in place. In fact, I had never even heard of an author platform. Now, I have a website and I co-author a crime-fiction-oriented blog that appears on the Murder-Books website ( I also have a Facebook page and I work diligently on building my newsletter email list.”

[Don’t miss the 4th Annual Mystery & Thriller Virtual Conference]

Mike Malbrough (, author of Marigold Bakes a Cake:

“Because I freelanced as an illustrator for awhile, I made many weak attempts at having some sort of platform in place, but never with much success. I am currently concentrating most of my efforts on a newsletter called “What Am I Doing Here?!” It allows me to offer a more intimate and, I think, valuable look into my work, life [and] career. I can explore all aspects of that question from my process to self-doubt and the purpose of life. Everybody should sign up!”

Morgan Babst (, author of The Floating World:

“I spend way too much time on Facebook and Instagram, on the pretense that I’m platform building. But more seriously—as a literary writer, it’s hard to build a platform before your first novel arrives. I have a few fans (a.k.a., friends) who have read all of the stories I’ve published in literary magazines (and some of them kindly retweet them), but I’ve found that the essays I’ve published have found me more readers than my short fiction ever did.”

Douglas Haynes (, author of Every Day We Live is the Future: 

“While working on my book proposal, I hired a web designer to help me create a visually engaging website. This was money and time well spent, as the site has given me a professional-looking platform and garnered many compliments. I also started an author Facebook page. Currently, I’m working on placing book excerpts and related articles in literary magazines and news sites.”

Jodi Kendall (, author of The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City:

“I had a website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram years before landing a book deal. My favorite social media platform is Instagram, where I love following bookish accounts and showcasing my favorite current reads, behind-the-scenes author experiences and moments of my life in New York City through visual storytelling. When I post photos or videos, I use select hashtags such as #theunlikelystoryofapiginthecity #mglit #kidlit and #middlegrade to target like-minded authentic users. I love the Instagram Stories feature as well. I don’t overly concern myself with follower count or number of likes. Instead, I focus on curating interesting visual content to grow my account organically. I also frequently speak at schools (Skype and in-person), conferences and bookstores, and attend author, illustrator and SCBWI events.”

Under Construction: Rethinking the Process of Building an Author Platform

Sheena Kamal (, author of The Lost Ones:

“Unfortunately, I did not have a platform. I wasn’t even on social media before the book deal came through, so I had to start from scratch. I used to hate the idea of dispersing myself on social media, but I’ve discovered that there are mediums that I respond to and play to my interests. For example, I prefer Instagram over anything else, so learning how to use that has worked out for me. In terms of gaining readership, I’m open to anything asked of me and have just gotten a website up and running. Baby steps.”

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Puzzles & Games for Writers: Crossword Conundrum (Plus Puzzle Solutions from WD’s May/June 2018 Issue)

We’re always delighted to include fun puzzles and games for writers in the back of each issue of Writer’s Digest. The May/June 2018 issue includes a crossword puzzle on the back page, and now we’ve brought it to our readers on the web. Play the puzzle below. (Or, if you’re just here to find the answer key from the magazine, keep scrolling past the puzzle window.)


Just here for the answers from the magazine? Keep scrolling to see them.






  4. NYT
  5. OHIO
  6. POV


  1. BETA
  2. DVPIT

Need more mental stimulation? Check out these online courses, starting soon:

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Remembering Paul Swearingen, Unsung Hero of the Writer’s Digest Forums

If you haven’t visited the Writer’s Digest forums in the last year or read any of his books, you may not know much about author and educator Paul Swearingen. But for many members of the Writer’s Digest community, Paul acted as a shepherd and a mentor on their writing journeys as a volunteer moderator of the forum.

Paul passed away on September 22, 2017, at 72 years of age, in Topeka, KS. He is remembered not only by his family, but by his students and dozens of writers who posted to the forums, as well as readers of his YA novels. He taught high school English, Spanish, photography and journalism and worked as a counselor and adviser. He enjoyed collecting stamps and coins—and indeed, was recognized as a numismatic expert in the trade—excelled in photography, and was an active member of Modern Woodmen of America.

“As far as Writer’s Digest is concerned, Paul was a capable, experienced administrator, but to fellow members of the forum he was much, much more—friend, mentor, teacher, and critic,” said community member Dorothy Piper, who coordinated this tribute to Paul. “Most importantly, he was a fellow writer. He experienced the same frustrations with plot, finding markets and book sales that we did, while always promoting the WD slogan: Write better. Get published. He was also an avid gardener who shared many tips on the YA Fiction board which, during quiet moments, became known as ‘Yard Activities.’”

Dorothy gathered comments from fellow members (using their online identities) honoring Paul and the way he helped and influenced them as the moderator of the WD Forum:

Commentary and compilation by Dorothy Poper.


Updog wrote:

I met Paul once in real life and I can tell you he was every bit the gentle soul he was online. He had family visiting from out of town, but he took the time to come meet me anyway. That’s the kind of guy he was. I know he stayed with Jeff Yeager, too, when he was out Jeff’s way for a radio convention.

Paul mentored many a new writer, both on the forums and through personal messages. He never stopped being a teacher, ever, and was extremely generous with his time. He was patient with my questions, even when we disagreed. We could never come to an agreement about whether “anymore” was an acceptable word. He’d always say, “there’s no such word in the English language. As a result, I think about him every time I write “anymore.”

I think the best writing advice Paul gave (and repeated often on WD) is to read at least 100 books in the genre you want to write in. Pretty much everyone who ever posted a question on the boards has heard that suggestion from Paul. He himself had read over 1000 books and had many of them stored in boxes in his garage (or was it the attic?) He sent me a bundle of books once from his collection. I think he sent a bunch of books to Maia when she was collecting for the library she was putting together on that island [in the Marianas].

…There are so many memories I have of Paul, little moments on the forums that made me laugh. … I miss him.

Cynicalwanderer retrained his writing habits thanks to Paul’s oft-repeated mantra that one should strive to use “all right” rather than “alright”, even though the latter has become more colloquially acceptable these days. Now, every time I type “all right”, I’m fondly reminded of Paul.

Rosedarling remembers that advice, too. Her two fondest memories of Paul are of him participating with a group of forumites on the NaNoWriMo challenge and writing 50,000 words in six days; and when she got stuck on a writing project and Paul told her to throw someone down the stairs. The advice worked and she was no longer stuck. A whole host of us argued with him as to whether you can start doing something, for example, to “start running.” Paul insisted you either ran or you didn’t. I don’t think he won on that one.

Jowen wrote:

I joined the WD Community in the early 2000s, then a lively, sometimes unruly bunch of would-be writers. Paul, a moderator on the Forum, was a much-loved, highly respected mentor to everyone. He was knowledgeable, friendly, encouraging and kind, and despite health issues, ran a tight ship with grace and humor. Although I never met him personally, I always felt he was a friend.

Justhales wrote:

I want to add that Paul was always a very encouraging man who gave me valuable and sometimes hard to hear honest critique/suggestions for my writing (he pointed out what I did well and ALL the things I needed to work on, haha). He helped me and many others develop as writers, and showed us, through his actions, on how to accomplish dreams by self-publishing and marketing his own books. He was also hardworking and stayed positive in spite of his cancer. I never got to meet him in person, but he definitely played a huge role in my development as a writer and never once made me feel discouraged about my writing.

Oldtimer wrote:

Paul helped me so many times, with his gentle humor and wide knowledge. When I wanted to use a photo as an avatar, he told me all the steps and, although I messed it up several times, he kept at it all I got it right. He also enlightened me about how to pronounce “Arkansas” in July, 2009. He wrote: Dorothy, “Are-Kansas City” is correct. I never figured how to pronounce “Kechi”, however. It’s a suburb of Wichita. In the same post he advised another member how to pronounce “Missouri” by writing “Misery”? Good way to get that gunfight started in MO, Julia! You must be back in NM now to be able to say that in public and escape flying lead …

Please join us in remembering Paul and his contribution to the WD community.


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IELTS test in Nepal – March 2018 (Academic Module)

When P took the IELTS test in Nepal, he got the following questions in the Writing and Speaking sections:

Writing testIELTS test in Nepal

Writing task 1 (a report)

We were given a graph showing the percentage of dependent population in four countries in year 2000 and a projection for 2050.

Writing task 2 (an essay)

Nowadays the importance of teachers is diminishing due to increased availability of alternative resources to students. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the statement?

Speaking test


– What is your full name?
– Can I see your ID?
– Where are you from?
– Do you work or study?
– What do you do?
– Can you describe your job?
– Do you like presents?
– What do you like the most about presents?
– Describe a gift you didn’t like.
– Why didn’t you like it?
– What are the places where children and adults can spend leisure time together in your city?
– What are public transport options in your area?
– What are the problems in transport service there?

Cue Card

Describe a recent development undertaken in your area. Please say

– What is it?
– What are the advantages and disadvantages of it?
– Do you like the idea behind it? Why?


– What is your opinion about using public funds to build sports centres?

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from IELTS-Blog

Literary Agents of Color: Empowering Authors & Agents to Succeed

Penny Moore has always had a love of books, especially young adult and middle-grade. While completing degrees in linguistics and Japanese language & literature at the University of Georgia, she spent time studying comparative literature at top universities in Japan and South Korea. She then worked as a middle-school TESOL teacher, which is where she solidified her passion for publishing and kids lit in particular.

Penny joined Empire in 2016 as an agent after working at FinePrint Literary. She represents Morris Award Finalist Akemi Dawn Bowman, author of Starfish; renowned Instagram illustrator Beth Evans/@bethdrawsthings, author of I Really Didn’t Think This Through; Nicki Pau Preto, YA fantasy author of Crown of Feathers; hit Instagram illustrator and author husband and wife duo, Chan Lee & Marina Ahn, of Drawings for My Grandchildren; and popular Instagram teen poet, Caroline Kaufman/@poeticpoison, of Light Filters In.

Moore’s brainchild is the new online directory Literary Agents of Color—which includes bios and submission guidelines for around 50 such agents, and growing.

 Can you tell us a little bit about how Literary Agents of Color came about? What is the inspiration behind it, and who is involved in making it happen?

The inspiration came from seeing writers of color on social media expressing their disappointment over how there were no agents of color to query with their projects. But we [literary agents of color] see each other at events and on social media all the time, so we knew there had to be a better way to respond to that need than an individual ‘I’m here!’ It’s common for a person-of-color (POC) writer to feel that a POC agent would better understand the challenges facing them in a predominantly white industry, so the fact that our numbers are few just increases the importance of letting authors know we’re here and we want to see their work.

The numbers are out there: Publishing largely favors white authors and white professionals, and this has even more of an affect on the agenting side. Because of the unique pay structure of agenting (where things are almost entirely commission-based), it can be incredibly hard to sink 5-plus years into building your list and income without a wealthy background or extensive support system. As a way of pushing back against this and building up a support network to retain those agents we do have in the industry, we saw the need for a place that both increases visibility for agents of color and encourages and supports their careers.

The people involved in making it happen have been: Kurestin Armada (P.S. Literary), Linda Camacho (Gallt & Zacker Literary), Quressa Robinson (Nelson Literary Agency) and myself. This brilliant group of POC agents has been key to helping me get things off the ground.

What has the response been so far, from colleagues as well as from writers? Is there any one conversation that stands out as especially meaningful or affirming?

The response has been amazing. There wasn’t [merely] one single meaningful conversation, but we’ve had so many writers and other publishing professionals across social media express how they’ve been waiting for such a site, and what a great resource it’ll be! That wave of support has been incredibly affirming, and it lets us know that the passion is there, it just needs to be organized. We’ve had several interview requests and offers from other organizations to help spread the word about our directory, so we’re hoping that more writers discover it every day.

Your website [currently still in progress] lists two collective goals: To advocate for and protect the interest of creatives, and to support and promote the careers of POC agents. Can you speak a bit to how you hope to strive toward each, and where you’d like to be a year from now?

In the rising tide of focus on diversity, we want to ensure that publishing continues to publish and promote writers and illustrators of color in the long term. In order for it not to be just another passing trend, we’ll need literary agents of color in the industry to keep the momentum up, to keep selling those books and protecting POC creatives’ interests. Of course, that won’t be possible if we can’t keep agents of color in the industry. It’s reciprocal, really—we support writers and they in turn support us.

We’re currently focusing on visibility, just getting the word out that we’re here and slowly increasing in number, and that POC creatives now have a resource to better find us. We’ll also be partnering with the People of Color in Publishing Group to supplement their efforts, as our goals are one and the same. In the end, retaining POC professionals across publishing is the only way to support long-term shifts in the demographics of the industry. Instead of just constantly turning over new hires that quickly burn out, we want to support the people already here and build opportunities for future mentorship.

At present the website consists of a helpful and growing directory. Do you foresee expanding your site to include other elements—a social media presence or an active community, perhaps—or is that central directory resource your primary focus?

Right now we are taking it one step at a time. There certainly is the possibility for more active engagement within the literary community in the future, but we don’t want to rush things. At present our focus is making sure the directory is a solid and complete resource for writers as well as other publishing professionals. Moving forward, we’ll be touching base first with the professionals within our directory to see what would best help them connect with future clients, and then see what other possibilities lie in store. In the meantime, we hope that anyone who has suggestions and additions for the directory will contact us through the site. And please, query away!

ROAR: Writer’s Digest Turns Up the Volume on Underrepresented Voices in the Writing World

Read more from this extended series, entitled “ROAR,” which appears in the May/June 2018 issue of Writer’s Digest. Feel the thunderous reverberations of authors and industry pros working to broaden our perspectives—as writers and readers alike. Plus, learn how underrepresented voices are rising in the writing world, all in these articles:

Subscribe to Writer’s Market to get everything you need to know about selling your work.

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Extended Interview with WD’s Popular Fiction Awards Winner

Writer’s Digest would like to congratulate the winners of the 13th Annual Popular Fiction Awards. Each year, writers submit their very best short stories in one of six categories: crime, horror, romance, science fiction, thriller, and young adult. The winners of this year’s awards were chosen from over 875 entries and represent the very best in genre fiction. Please join us in congratulating our winners!

For complete coverage of the awards, see the May/June 2018 issue of Writer’s Digest. To see a complete list of winners and read the first-place winners in each genre, click here. For a selection of advice and inspiration from the winners, click here.

Ami Cameron is a writer living in Vancouver, Canada with her husband, four small kids, and two playful kittens. She did the responsible thing and got a degree in criminology and has worked in group homes, transition houses, and social work. These experiences bleed into everything she writes. Her first novel, Hard Love, is the story of three foster teens that run away from their group home to find the truth about their pasts, and the families that left them behind. This is the first competition she’s entered, and the first award she’s won. Visit her at

Can you write a one-sentence summary of your story, describing it for someone who hasn’t read it yet?

During a Christmas visit to her Grandmother’s, a young girl helps cover up the shooting of her aunt’s abusive husband.

What do you think are the biggest benefits and challenges of writing a successful short story?

Writing a successful short story … it’s a feeling of completion—of instant gratification—to get that story out, start to finish. The challenge is to make the inciting incident strong enough and sharp enough to create drama and interest, and yet be resolvable in a few pages.

What do you think are the biggest benefits and challenges of writing a successful crime story? How does the short form affect that?

 I’m fascinated by criminal motivations, especially when you start with a law-abiding citizen and they turn. A successful crime story for me is going to draw a line in the sand, take the character to a moral decision (no matter how their moral compass reads) of, “This is wrong, this is why, and this is how to make it right.” A form of justice has to be there, and for a moment, the reader understands, and maybe even agrees with, the characters actions.

Writing the short form, you have to build your characters, from the very start, in a way that the reader knows them, knows (or at least can guess) where that line in the sand is, and why. And of course, the conflict and motivation must make sense … and always, always, be believable.

Describe your writing process for this story.

I grew up with a large extended family, and we would meet back “home” every few years for Christmas. My memories of that time are so vivid. I originally set out to write a creative non-fiction piece in honor of my amazing and crazy family.

However, this story had a mind of its own, and evolved into a fictional story of domestic abuse and murder. Once I understood where it was going, it tumbled out pretty quickly.

How did you choose the title of this story? What do you think makes for an effective story title?

I love story titles, and you know when you’ve hit the right one. It has to be powerful, catchy, and intriguing. I hate to admit it, but I pick books based on their titles, and even the fonts! The title for “Snow. Blood. Love.” came a few weeks after the story was complete. I couldn’t figure out what to call it, but I looked at the bones, and there it was.

How long have you been writing? How did you start? Do you write full time?

I’ve been writing since I could string letters together. My first story was called, “Ami’s Terrible Horrible Very Bad Day.” Even at age 6, I was a more interested in the macabre. No happy endings for me! In seventh grade my teacher read one of my stories to the class. I realized I had a bit of talent, and decided I was gonna be a writer.

Balancing life/work/family is tricky, but I write as much as I can. I do schedule my writing time and that helps. It’s all about priorities.

Who has inspired you as a writer?

D.H. Lawrence and Shirley Jackson have written short stories that still haunt me. They’re insanely good! Zsuzsi Gartner has really unique ideas. For my novel writing, I’m inspired by Agatha Christie, L.M. Montgomery, and Dodie Smith … Among the living: Kim Edwards, Mette Jacobsen, Lisa Jewell, and Ann-Marie MacDonald. I study authors who combine strong writing, a unique story, and great pacing.

Which genres do you write in? Do you generally just stick to short stories?

I am finishing revisions on my first novel, Hard Love. It will probably be plugged into YA, but I’d love it if it could crossover, or just be Adult Fiction, because I put my characters into some pretty adult situations. But I just love writing from the perspective of a younger character. There’s so much to discover and process through a younger character’s eyes.

For my short stories, I’m all over the place. What I write is as eclectic as what I read, but I’m passionate about examining psychosocial issues and their trickle-down effect.

Describe your typical writing routine.

My writing time is limited. I try to write in the evenings if I have enough energy. This type of writing usually involves a glass of wine and popcorn.

Then once a week I have a sitter so that I can work undistracted. That’s when I get most of my work done. I grab a coffee, my writing sweater, and get serious.

How would you describe your writing style?

I’m a pantser.

For my short stories, I rely a lot on the initial story spark to take me where it wants to go.

For my novels, I loosely outline via chapter headings, and I’ll do some brief character sketches. I spend a lot of time daydreaming though. The Notes on my phone are full of things I don’t want to forget to put in.

What are the keys to a successful short story?

Everything has to move the plot forward. The inciting incident has to be set up and occur at the right time. The hook needs to be unique. The arc needs to complete and be satisfying.

What’s the one thing you can’t live without in your writing life?

My writing sweater! I have to be warm while I work. A hot drink is also necessary. I just can’t think when I’m cold.

Where do you get ideas for your writing?

Music stirs my creative juices. A lot of ideas come from song lyrics. Art begets art and all that. Just one great line of imagery in a song can stir a whole slew of story ideas. I’m an avid people watcher, and (like every other writer) I’m a shameless eavesdropper. I also spend much of my thought life wondering, “What if…?”

What do you feel are your strengths as a writer? How have you developed these qualities? 

There’s nothing new under the sun. I do my best to stay away from clichés, and try to write in a way that’s unique and fresh. I like twists, I like the unexpected. As a writer, the challenge is to find a distinctive voice, a new angle, a compelling perspective that makes the story worth telling again.

Being a strong writer takes practice, it takes getting people to read your work, and being willing to take feedback. It takes a lot of reading, and learning from other writers. And, it takes instinct. It’s a lifelong journey I think, and I’m just beginning.

What are some aspects of writing you’ve struggled with? How have you worked to strengthen yourself in these areas?

Definitely procrastination and discipline. Writing is hard work. I have to make it a priority, and that can be hard. Life is so full of distractions.

Being in a writing community certainly creates accountability to get your butt in the chair. That’s been the most important thing for me. If you have someone else waiting to read something new from you on Monday, you better show up ready.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

Trust your audience! We can all picture how mountains look at sunset. You don’t need to write in every. bloody. detail. Your readers have imaginations too. Trust them. That’s part of the joy of reading.

Also, join a writing group/community. It doesn’t have to be a big group (you want to feel safe enough to share), but get connected somehow. When I began meeting with other writers, my writing hit fast forward.

What’s your proudest moment as a writer?

My proudest moment so far, was when Larry Brooks (author of Story Engineering, Story Physics, etc.) read the first chapter of my novel, sat back in his chair, and said, “Wow … I’m flustered.” Yeah, that was pretty cool.

What are your goals as a writer?

My immediate goal is to find a home for Hard Love. After that, I have three more novels that are waiting patiently to be written. I’ll keep writing short stories too. I love them too much. Maybe I can get those into a collection one day. My goal is to just keep writing, keep getting better, and to always be proud of what I’ve written, whether it gets accolades or not.

Any final thoughts or advice?

Don’t wait for someone else to care about your dreams as much as you do. No one else ever will. Believe in yourself. Be willing to fail. The writing friends I admire most are the ones that have a stack of rejection letters, because they’ve put themselves out there. You’re a writer, and you can only get published if you submit.

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