My friend Kimberly posted a tweet for #MuseMon:

She took her broken pieces and threw them into the hottest part of the fire.

“Giving up?” they asked.

“Reforging,” she said.


I printed her luxurious words out the moment I read them and pinned them in front of my computer so I can look at them when I feel discouraged.

I’m currently querying a YA manuscript. Querying isn’t for the weak. Writing isn’t for the laissez faire. Both take courage and flexibility, but this week had too many ups and downs. My well of strength is running dry. I feel parched and spent.

I don’t feel good about myself, doubt my abilities, and creative worth.

As a writer, I know revisions take compromise and time. It can take me days or weeks to settle into notes I receive. My ego must be quieted and then I have to let my creativity find a way to tackle an issue.

The thing is, I’ve made the changes to my book I was asked for, was told I did a fantastic job, and still got turned down. I’m hardly the first writer who dealt with the ego crushing, “I’m sorry it’s a pass for me,” email.

But while reading those words I swear I saw parts of me crack and fall off as if I was being chipped away. Made to watch my own demise.

Then I looked at Kimberly’s words and I remembered who I am.

I’m a badass.

I pulled my big girl business panties on and gathered my broken parts scattered around my desk and kitchen floors, laying flat between dirty laundry, picked up the fragments left between the pages of revisions and taped myself back together enough to allow my character to shine, a bit of my quirk to sparkle, my humor and determination to pulsate before putting it all into the fire.

So don’t mind me, sizzling in these searing orange flames, a phoenix regenerating, forged in my trial by fire.

I can’t wait to see what I’ll look like when I rise.


Hope you’re doing well, too.







PitchSlam Team Obi-Wan and the Wookies

Team Obiwan2.jpg

This morning I woke up and found I made the PitchSlam Kimberly Vanderhorst team Obi-Wan and the Wookies and I immediately began shaking and crying tears of happiness.

Thank you Pitch Slam Jedi masters for taking the time to create this contest, for reading and critiquing all the entries sharing your feedback and rocking the Force in general.

And congrats to everyone who entered because that’s a huge deal. You were brave and you put yourself out there. I hope your books all find an audience.

Happy to be included with these fine #OWW writers.


Kimberly VanderHorst
#TeamOww@WritingIzzy @jessikafleck@IrateJabberwock

@shaunaholyoak@hgirlla @N_Poindexter @anomisting

@DebraSpiegel @ABusico ❤ #PitchSlam

Day 2: Editor Nicole Ayers

Have you wondered what it’s like to work with an editor? Have a few questions about how an editor may help your work? Nicole Ayers of Ayers Edits answers questions about the editorial process and what writers should consider before working with an editor.


Q: How do you know if you can work with a writer?

NA: I communicate a lot with prospective clients. I share information about my process, offer sample edits, ask questions about their wants and experiences, and invite questions. I make myself available via email, phone, and/or Skype. And while part of all this is to give the person the information they need to know about working with me, the back-and-forth gives me insight about them. If someone’s not responsive or kind, then I know we won’t be a good fit. The sample edit also helps me decide if we can work together. Sometimes a manuscript includes content I prefer not to edit, or I see that the scope of work needed is very different than what the prospective client has requested. And I’ve learned to trust my gut. If the project doesn’t feel like a good fit for me, I politely pass.

Q: What is your process as you read through a clients work and do you read once through before making any edits?

NA: My process depends on the type of edit I’m performing. If it’s a developmental edit or manuscript evaluation, I read the entire manuscript and jot down first-impression notes when I finish. I let some time pass (usually several days at least) while ideas marinate, then I begin a close read of the manuscript, jotting down notes and ideas as I go. When working at the word level, I also make two passes, but I’m editing from the first word read.

Q:  What should a writer ask an editor before working with her or him?

NA: I wrote a blog post once that compared finding the right editor to a blind date. It’s important to ask lots of questions. Obvious ones include pricing, availability, and timelines. But other questions to consider asking include the editor’s prior experience with your genre, whether or not they use an agreement or contract, and how often they’ll communicate with you during the process. Ask what support is offered/available once edits are returned. I’ve also been asked why I’m an editor, what I like most and least about my job, and other questions that all attempt to show the writer if I can be trusted with their work.

Q: If the story isn’t ready to submit- even after edits- do you tell the writer?

NA: Yes, if. And that can be a big if because I don’t see the entire manuscript after the author makes revisions unless they hire me to complete a second-pass edit or we negotiate a review in our original agreement.

Q: What are common mistakes writers make that they can learn to fix themselves.

NA: Oh, there are lots. As a former teacher, I think writers can learn many self-editing tricks with the right instruction. Dialogue is a biggie—from a grammatical standpoint as well as a stylistic issue. Writers can learn appropriate formatting of dialogue, and they can learn how to make it sound authentic to their characters.

Q: Typically, how long does a writer have to wait to receive notes from you?

NA: That depends on several factors, including length of manuscript, type of edit, complexity of the edit, and my schedule. It can be as few as two weeks and as many as eight. Do keep in mind that the clock doesn’t start ticking until I actually start the manuscript. My calendar books out months in advance. Writers don’t usually look for an editor before their manuscript is ready. Then they have to wait for the editor they want to work with to have an opening, or they have to work with someone else whose schedule has more availability.

Q. Any advice for writers struggling with being ready to submit when their manuscript is not?

NA: Yoga. Meditation. Deep breathing. Really what they’re struggling with is patience and humility, which is so hard to practice. But if you can master patience in small ways, like holding a yoga pose, then you can transfer it to the bigger things in life.

An idea more specific to writing is to work on shorter pieces that can be submitted to contests or for publication in journals and the like. It gives the writer good practice with the submission process and feeds that need without putting the manuscript out there when it’s not ready.

Q:. What’s your opinion on writers critique groups and conferences?

NA: Those are two different animals. I’ll start with conferences. If the conference is well organized, it can be a great experience. You can attend workshops and panels with valuable take-aways. You can network with all sorts of people. And you can gain exposure for yourself if you present or find some other way to participate. So I say yes to conferences. Just be sure to do your research before you choose one.

My feelings about writing critique groups are mixed. If you’re with the “right” group, then you can grow tremendously as a writer. The problem comes when you’re not in the right group. And finding the “right” group can be tough. Look for writers in your genre, the more specific the better. Also, try to find writers that are better than you. You’ll learn a lot from them. If you’re the strongest writer, it will be a lot harder for you to grow. And beware the nitpickers (unless, of course, you’ve asked for that sort of feedback).

Also, think about your purpose for joining the group. If it’s to spend time with other writers, learn new skills, practice craft, and/or learn how to handle constructive criticism, go for it. If you’re trying to ready a specific manuscript for publication, think twice. Rarely will you share your entire manuscript at once—usually you share a couple of chapters at a time—and the process can take months. There are other issues with continuity and pacing that come up when revising like this as well. If your goal is to get a particular manuscript ready without hiring an editor, think about finding one partner that you trust to trade manuscripts with or consider beta readers.

Q: What do editorial notes look like?

NA: Again it depends on the type of edit. For line and copyedits, I use Track Changes to mark all edits. I also use the Comments feature to make queries or explain my editing suggestions. I also provide a style sheet that tracks spellings, treatment of proper nouns and numbers, as well as “rules” followed. For developmental edits, I use the Comments feature in the manuscript, and I write a multi-page editorial summary broken into the following sections: characters, point of view, setting, timeline, story arc (including ideas for revisions, elaborations, and deletions), pacing, tone, and my favorite things.

Follow Nicole on Twitter @AyersEdits.

Lisa Mantchev Interview

Lisa Mantchev is kicking off the my interview series with authors, editors, agents and a librarian.


Washington state author Lisa Mantchev is best known as the author of the young adult fantasy trilogy, The Théâtre Illuminata, which includes the Andre Norton and Mythopoeic awards-nominated EYES LIKE STARS. Her steampunk young adult novel, TICKER, was a Kindle #1 Bestseller, and her first picture book, STRICTLY NO ELEPHANTS, was named a 2016 NCTE Charlotte Huck Award Honorable Mention. Her picture books SISTER DAY!, JINX AND THE DOOM FIGHT CRIME, NARWHAL IN A FISHBOWL, and ODDITIES are also forthcoming from Paula Wiseman/S&S

I met Lisa through our mutual friend and author Christopher Ledbetter. We bonded over toe shoes, steampunk, Dr. Who and writing. Lisa is an artist, author and shares her creativity freely on FB.

And now she’s sharing her insights as an author with us:

Q: When did you first start writing?

LM: I remember packing around a pink unicorn Trapper Keeper full of story ideas and snippets that I wrote, which would have been the third grade.

Q: How long did it take to write your first book?

LM: Three months. It was on a dare from a friend who felt like it was time I leveled up from short stories.

Q: Are you a panster or plotter?

LM: Both. I do loose outlines that inevitably change or get thrown out completely. I also believe that if you have solid characters and world-building, you don’t need as much of an outline, and that leaves more room to surprise yourself as you go.

Q: Do you have critique partners?

LM: With the collaborations, my other-author buddy and I crit as we go. On the solo projects, my literary agent is my primary, but I still have four or five people I can always count on for feedback.

Q: Are you a member of SCBWI? Do you think it helps?

LM: I am not currently a member, no.

Q: Where do your ideas come from?

LM: Everywhere. Social media, for certain. I use Pinterest a lot, not just for inspiration but for storyboarding. Everyday life with two active kids is also inspiring, especially for the picture books (JINX AND THE DOOM FIGHT CRIME is directly based off them) and now I am hugely motivated by the vintage typewriters I’ve amassed.

Q: Are you an introvert or extrovert?

LM: Both. I love being around people, but there’s a reason I live on 7 acres of trees.

Q: What is your writing routine?

LM: We’re on summer vacation right now, so I’m taking the opportunity to learn sketching and writing microfiction for my Patreon account. With the kids home, I have to cram it in around everything else, and working from home means there are constant interruptions (phone calls, laundry timers, lunch, snacks, craft projects.) When school starts up again, I’ll tackle the middle grade idea that’s been percolating.

Q: Do you have a favorite topic to write about?

LM: Everything I do has a performance aspect to it. Theater was my first love.

Q: How many drafts do you typically write before submitting to your critique partner, agent or publisher?

LM: One completed draft (which might include rewriting) and an editorial pass.

Q: What word did you delete the most from the last draft you revised?

LM: I have a tic in every manuscript. In one, everyone was nodding, all the time. I’m surprised their heads didn’t fall off. In another, everything was either tiny or enormous. And in another, everything happened “after a moment.” I’m on the constant alert for the next tic.

Q: How do you keep self-motivated?

LM: At the end of the day, I can have a blank page, or I can have words. Nine times out of ten, I choose to have words on that page. Plus, I am competitive as heck.

Q: How do you cope with rejection?

LM: I joke at conventions that I got out of theater and into publishing because I just couldn’t take the rejection anymore, and inevitably it gets a huge laugh. I don’t enjoy rejections, but they are part of the process. Some rejections are easier to shrug off than others. Some require ice cream, and others require rolling myself into a tiny ball and pulling a blanket over my head.

Q: How do you cope with reviews?

LM: The rule is that we aren’t supposed to read them, right? I try to avoid them, for the most part. Nice ones get pointed out to me, and thankfully, most reviewers have been very kind to the picture book.

Q: What’s the last book you read?

LM: “Creative Girl: Mixed Media Techniques for an Artful Life” by Danielle Donaldson. I’m trying to teach myself to art so that I can illustrate some of my own picture books. It’s been glorious and challenging, and good grief, art supplies are expensive and take up a lot of room!


Interview Series with Agents, Authors and Editors

The amazing Brenda Drake inspired me. She does so much to help writers I wanted to help, too.

So I sent out queries asking agents, authors and editors if they’d be interested in answering my questions. And you know what- they are!

Beginning July 25 I will post a new interview every day.

Are you curious? Here are just a few of the amazing and talented people who will appear:

Lisa Mantchev, Author

Anne Eisenstein, Author

Sarah Davies, Agent, The Greenhouse Literary Agency

Alan Gratz, Author

Tricia Skinner, Associate Agent, Fuse Literary

Monica Hoffman, Author

Nicole Ayers, Editor

Come back to find out who else will be here in a week!



Fail Better or Succeed

I’m a writer. I must cope with rejections on a daily basis. Some days it makes me want to quit. Except the need to tell stories and share them is intrinsic to my soul and happiness. So after the bad days, the days full of discappointment and rejection – the ones that have me thinking I ought to quit- I get up and I get back to work. Because I never know if today will be the day I fail better or succeed.

Listen to Peter Dinklage talk about it:

revise and return

Working on my R&R. Took a little over a week to process the suggestions. I used the time to be scared. I was afraid by making the edits my MC voice would change. I was afraid the agent would believe I could just write stories without looping around and repeating myself (MC does this- I hear her this way and apparently like to loop around and repeat myself on the page) I was terrified that I wasn’t good enough and I’d lose the MC voice while simultaneously wanting to try.

I wrote the best book I could. I love it. Really admire my MC, her journey. I can’t believe I came up with the imagery, dediated myself for years on crafting the story without pay, or anyone telling me to write. My ass was in a chair every day working. If not for my friendships with Nicole Garcia, Vanitha Sankaran and Lorin Oberweger I’d be too solitary to create anything worthwhile. I went to workshops, beta readers generously gave me their time and attention. I improved what I loved based on their feedback. Yet, it still isn’t enough…yet.

I recognize the gift the R&R is. I cried. Her notes are in opposition to another agents feedback. (subjective business) But they are concrete. They are doable. I’m gonna do this.

I began making changes. Moving through my resistance. I rearranged chapters amplifying the MC motivation- cutting lots in order to crank up the tension. I am desperately trying to cut passive voice. (curse you passive voice!)

Moving chapters is brutal. Dialogue must be completely rewritten because cause and effect changed. I’m taking my time with these edits. Becasue they may just be the magic pill that helps Dear Dead Drunk Girl get into the hands of readers.

Or I can do all this and the agent may still say, “No.”

And that’ll make me cry- but you know what? I’m a badass mother-f—er and I’m gonna fight the good fight. And I’m going to revise this book and you’re gonna love it!

Good News

The past few weeks have been a blur of activity for me. I opened the doors to my new business and got generous feedback from a literary agent.

The new business:

The first two young adult books I wrote were about dead girls. They are not ghost stories. I suppose I’m drawn to the idea because I’m a medium and intuitive healer. So seeing and hearing things most people don’t and interacting with them is my normal. And being dead and being a ghost are two very different things.

After studying to hone in my gifts, my mentor encouraged me to open my own practice of spiritual healing. I was scared to come out of the woo-woo closet. It’s an uncomfortable place to be- exposed with all of my beliefs laid at people’s feet to judge.

But the irony of my fear is this– I’ve been booked for weeks. My community including complete strangers (wo are now new clients) came to see me and support me. And in return my clients tell me I’m giving them a sense of peace. They say I help them feel lighter. I’m so happy my gifts are helping them!

If you’re curious about intuitive healing please visit my other site:

In other good news:

It appears I sold an essay to the link goes live- I’ll let you know.

The BEST gift I got this week was…(yes, I buried the lead)

An agent I’ve been waiting to hear back from said I piqued her interest and asked for a full. I mean, really- this is FANTASTIC NEWS.

I received the email after fusion class. I couldn’t get home fast enough. Afraid of sending the version of my manuscript I made sure to bathe, eat and take a deep breath before hitting send. Within a few short hours she wrote back. It was a no from her for now, but she gave me concise notes and said if I revise she’d be open to reading it again.

HELL YES! This is an enormous gift and I’m going to take it.

First my ego had to be swept up an coddled. She didn’t love it enough to continue. And I love my book. But publishing is a business.

I let my ego have a pity party and got to work. I printed out her notes and now I’m gonna kill my darlings. Murder them. Strip down my language and find a way to move things along.

My biggest fear is my MC will lose her voice. That the tenderness I worked so hard on will lay on the cutting room floor. The changes a critique partner asked for were an issue too. Other things require my brain to bend. I’m up for that challenge, too. Writing, revising and editing are hard work. My brain may bleed a bit and that’s okay.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to revise and resubmit. Wish me luck!


Building a Solid Writing Practice

Veronica Rossi shares her thoughts on setting goals and what it took for her to write her Young Adult series Under the Never Sky and her newest Riders, which releases on February 16th.

Her second YA series begins with Riders. It’s a modern-day fantasy about four teens who unwittingly become incarnations of the four horsemen. These poor guys—War, Death, Famine, and Conquest—do not want to be what they’ve become but the only way to change their situation is to complete a mission. With the help of a visionary girl, they must protect a sacred object from some truly bad baddies.


Vist Tor/Forge to read about her process and leave a comment


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