Weekly Round-Up: Fun and Family

Every week our editors publish somewhere between 10 and 15 blog posts—but it can be hard to keep up amidst the busyness of everyday life. To make sure you never miss another post, we’ve created a new weekly round-up series. Each Saturday, find the previous week’s posts all in one place.


wr_iconHave Some Fun

Stumped about what book to read next? Let this flowchart make the decision for you.

It’s summer! That means it’s time for camp, right? Join Camp NaNoWriMo and get that novel written. Check out the Top 5 Reasons Every Writer Should Join Camp NaNoWriMo to learn more.

To have fun while working on your romantic thriller novel, ask yourself, “How can I make things worse?” Read 6 Ways to Improve Your Romantic Thriller Novel to find out how that can help.

Agents and Opportunities

This week, meet agent Anjali Singh of Ayesha Pande Literary. She is seeking graphic novels (YA and adult), memoir, and literary fiction.

When it comes to opportunities for finding agents, sending query letters is just the beginning. Check out The Power of Contests: Create Your Own Luck for one author’s story of finding an agent through a contest.

After you’re convinced that a contest might be worth your time, find some practical advice in Preparing for Twitter Pitching Contests, Including #SFFpit This Week!

Finally, don’t forget the importance of in-person interactions. Read An Agent’s Perspective: Why You Should Be Attending Conferences & Workshops as a Writer to learn more.

Poetic Asides

For this week’s Wednesday Poetry Prompt, write a bug poem. Then try out a new poetic form: the huitain.

This week’s poetry spotlight shines on Poetry Slam Inc. Learn more about the organization and this year’s main event here.

Reasons for Writing

Writers are often told to get personal, but you may worry that writing about family will hit a little too close to home. Read Why I Write About My Parents, and consider writing about your own parents.

Why do you write poetry? Check out Why I Write Poetry: Nurit Israeli and consider submitting an essay that shares why you write poetry.

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from Writing Editor Blogs – WritersDigest.com http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/weekly-round-fun-family

This Flowchart Will Tell You What Book to Read Next

Looking for a new summer read? Let us help: From classics to recent bestsellers, fiction to nonfiction, local favorites to international treasures, this flowchart has you covered.

This infographic is courtesy of Brendan Brown of The Expert Editor. Visit them online at experteditor.com.au.


Baihley Grandison Featured 2017Baihley Grandison is the associate editor of Writer’s Digest and a freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter @baihleyg, where she mostly tweets about writing (Team Oxford Comma!), food (HUMMUS FOR PRESIDENT, PEOPLE), and Random Conversations With Her Mother.

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from Writing Editor Blogs – WritersDigest.com http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/flowchart-will-tell-book-read-next

The Power of Contests: Create Your Own Luck

Shortly before my debut YA novel was published in 2016, I spoke to a local writer’s group about my path to publication. Year by year, I recounted the numerous ups and downs of my lengthy journey. After describing a series of setbacks and close calls with agents and editors, I finally recognized that every face in the audience looked absolutely horrified! From then on, I’ve given a swift summary instead: over ten years, three manuscripts, two agents, far too many rejections, just enough praise, and numerous contest finals and wins that validated my work. Indeed, I ultimately found my agent and publisher through contests.


This guest post is by Kristin Bartley Lenz. Lenz is a writer and social worker from metro-Detroit. She writes for Detroit non-profits and manages the Michigan Chapter blog for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Her debut young adult novel, THE ART OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO, was a Junior Library Guild Fall 2016 Selection and was chosen for the Great Lakes Great Books 2017-2018 state-wide literature program. Learn more at www.kristinbartleylenz.com.


If you are a querying writer, you’re no doubt aware of the many contests on Twitter, including #PitchWars and #PitMad (http://www.brenda-drake.com/). These are fabulous opportunities and I’m a 2017 Pitch Wars mentor, but Twitter is an extremely crowded sea. For sure, spend some Twitter time swimming amongst these supportive writing communities, but I’m here to encourage you to consider other contests as well.

[Interested in learning more about Twitter pitch contests and how to make the post of them? Click here.]

Jay Asher is well known for his YA novel Thirteen Reasons Why that was recently made into a Netflix series, but you might not know that Jay had a very long road to publication. Numerous contests over many years gave him the validation he needed to persist, and it was winning a contest—the SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant—that ultimately helped him land a book contract.

In my case, I was feeling discouraged after spending nearly a year revising with an agent who ultimately passed on my manuscript by saying, “it’s not you, it’s me.” I was active in the YA blogging community and stumbled upon a contest on Monika Bustamante Wagner’s Love YA blog. Writers were encouraged to submit their queries, and agent Carrie Pestritto from Prospect Agency would choose her favorites. She picked mine, requested the full manuscript, asked me to revise, and then offered representation.

Yes, I was on my way! But I knew there were still hurdles ahead; just because an agent loves your book, there’s no guarantee it will find an editor. And even though my manuscript went through several revisions with Carrie, we had no luck in selling it.

What to do now? Write another book, which I did. But I also had an older manuscript that was still speaking to me. It had been a finalist in several contests and the young adult winner of the Chicago North Romance Writers of America 2011 Fire & Ice Contest, judged by an agent. That agent ultimately passed, and my current agent Carrie wasn’t so sure either. The manuscript needed to be revised, and we were at a crossroads about which direction to take.

My frustration was at an all-time high (ten years, people!). I knew I had a strong story and that the right editor could help me grow it even stronger. Yet again, I stumbled upon a contest. Elephant Rock Books was accepting submissions for their annual Helen Sheehan YA Book Prize. I knew enough to be wary about contests and small presses, but I remembered ERB from a Publisher’s Weekly article: Small But Mighty Presses Prevail at ALA Awards. ERB’s previous Sheehan Prize winner, Carvial at Bray, went on to be a Printz honor winner and a Kirkus Book of the Year. I had read the novel; it was a coming-of-age story similar in style to mine. I scoured the ERB website and found it professional and full of personality. (Yes, even websites can have “voice.”) I submitted my manuscript right at the deadline.

When I got the call that I won the contest, I was elated, but then I panicked. I had known in advance that winning would mean publication, but now it was a reality. I had spent years aiming for a big New York publisher, and now I was veering off course to a small press in Connecticut. And I had to break the news to my agent. This wasn’t the path she had imagined for me either.

But Carrie was happy for me and supportive. She reviewed the contract and worked as a partner throughout the entire process. She negotiated the audio rights with Audible and helped with promotion. The Art of Holding On and Letting Go was the only novel ERB published in 2016, and I received all of their attentive care. They nurtured my book through every stage from intensive editing and design to marketing and sales. They sent it far and wide, resulting in positive reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, VOYA, and many enthusiastic bloggers. It was a Junior Library Guild Selection, and I was invited to speak on a panel at NCTE/ALAN. This small but mighty press continued to prevail.

Prior to the Sheehan contest, I didn’t even realize this path was a viable option. If I hadn’t made the somewhat impulsive decision to enter the contest, I would have no idea how much a small press could accomplish. My detour was surprising and rewarding. Most importantly, I grew as a writer.

How can you make contests work for you?

1. Contests motivate you to meet a deadline, validate your work, and help you improve your craft.

National, regional, and local writing groups around the country offer ongoing contests to support and encourage writers. Look for free or low entry fees, and contests that provide cash prizes, free conference tuition/scholarships, access to agents or editors, or feedback.

Many literary agents offer query critiques that help you learn exactly what they’re looking for. Find them on blogs such as http://www.literaryrambles.com/. My agent hosts a monthly query contest on her own blog at http://literarycarrie.blogspot.com/2017/05/query-critique.html.

RWA offers national and regional contests, agents and editors are often the final judges, and you receive feedback. Darcy Woods’s debut YA novel, Summer of Supernovas, was published in 2016 after she won a series of RWA contests.

My SCBWI-MI chapter offers an annual Mentorship Competition alternating between novels, picture books, and illustration. My critique partner, Tracy Bilen, won a one-year mentorship with author Shutta Crum. After her year of writing and revising as Shutta’s mentee, Tracy was offered agent representation, and a publishing contract soon followed. Bonus for me: What Tracy learned during her mentorship, I got to learn right alongside her. I never won one of those mentorships myself, but I was a finalist every time I entered—further assurance that I was on the right track.

2. Contests can lead you to agents.

Those contests judged by agents? You’ve now bypassed their slush pile. Agents are also paying attention to major contest results. Heather Smith Meloche placed first in the Children’s/Young Adult Fiction division of the 80th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. Later that same year, she won the Hunger Mountain Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing. Several agents contacted her, and she chose the best fit. Her winning short story grew into the young adult novel, Ripple, which was published last fall.

3. Contests can lead to publishing credits and even a book deal.

The same year that Heather won the Katherine Paterson Prize, one of my short stories was a finalist, and Hunger Mountain later published my story in their online journal. I earned a bit of money, gained experience working with an editor, and added an extra credit to my query letters.

The Helen Sheehan YA Book Prize led to my novel’s publication, but how do you find reputable contests? And how do you evaluate the legitimacy of a small press?

Here’s a diverse list of free contests from The Write Life ranging from poetry to picture books to crime fiction.

Did you know St. Martin’s Press has a contest for best first mystery novel?

How about Lee and Low’s New Voices Award for a winning picture book manuscript by a writer of color?

Do you write nonfiction? Check out the Graywolf Press NonFiction Prize.

So you’ve zeroed in on a small press opportunity. Before you enter their contest or agree to a publishing contract, read Jane Friedman’s article: How to Smartly Evaluate a Small Press.

What’s the secret to winning a writing contest?

My writer friend Vicky Lorencen wrote a blog post about creating your own luck. Continue to grow your craft and submit your best work. You know the saying: success happens when opportunity meets preparation.

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


Freese-HeadshotIf 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 cris.freese@fwmedia.com.

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Poetry Slam Inc: Poetry Spotlight

One of the great strengths of poetry is its diversity, but I admit that I don’t give quite enough attention to slam poetry. That changes today as I spotlight Poetry Slam Inc.

As always, I appreciate the poetry spotlight ideas people send my way. Keep them coming at robert.brewer@fwmedia.com with the subject line: Poetry Spotlight Idea.

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Order the New Poet’s Market!

The 2017 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 WritersMarket.com. All in all, it’s the best resource for poets looking to secure publication.

Click to continue.

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Poetry Slam Inc.

Poetry Slam, Inc., says its core mission is to “promote the creation and performance of poetry that engages communities and provides a platform for voices to be heard beyond social, cultural, political, and economic barriers.” They accomplish their goals through a combination of live events and online videos, especially via YouTube.

Click here to check out their YouTube channel.

This year’s National Poetry Slam event will be hosted in Denver, Colorado, August 7-12. At this event, four- and five-person teams from around the country compete against each other for the national team title.

Their site says, “The week-long festival is part championship tournament, part poetry summer camp, and part traveling exhibition. NPS is the largest team performance poetry event in the world. Teams from all over North America, and a few from other places, converge in a different city every summer for five days of poetry, revelry and competition.”

Click here to learn more.

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Robert Lee Brewer is the editor of Poet’s Market and author of Solving the World’s Problems. He loves all poetry, including slam and performance poetry. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

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Check out these other poetic posts:

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