Close Your Books and Put Away Your Pencils. This is a TEST.

Submission packages take a lot of time to put together. It's very important to make sure you follow the specific directions on the agent or publisher's website. You have to read every detail. You don't want to go to all the work and shoulder the expense of submissions if it's just going to get tossed in the trash because you didn't follow directions.

Now for the test.

The next paragraph is a set of directions for submitting to a fantasti, albeit completely FAKE, literary agent. We'll call her Ms. Persnickety. Follow the directions perfectly and you'll be put into a drawing for a fantastic SCWW Prize Package. If you don't follow directions, I might use your entry as a teaching tool. I'm not looking for a good hook, clever plot twists, or high concept. We're just seeing how well we follow directions. The book doesn't even have to be real.

All queries should be directed to Ms. Persnickety. (Don't worry about a physical address. She only accepts email.)  The query letter must fit onto one page. Please use one-inch margins. Do not use Calibri font. Please use 12-point Times New Roman or Courier New. Include genre, sub-genre if applicable, word-count and state of completion. Make sure to save your query letter as .RTF or .DOC format and email it, as an attachment,  to The subject line should include the word "query" and the title of your manuscript. If your manuscript is a mystery, include the word chocolate someplace in your query. If it's romance, include the word heart. If it's anything other than romance or mystery, include the word tomato. Please do not sign your real name. Make up a fake one--preferably a clever one. (Ms. Persnickety likes a laugh every now and then.) The query letter should be dated. Please sign your fake name using only lower case letters. All queries must be received by midnight on Friday, January 29.

You have your directions. I'll be blogging about query letters and the importance of following directions next week. The winner will be drawn from a pool of all the 'perfect' letters and announced on the blog.

Good luck!

Writing a Masterpiece in All The Wrong Places

I travel quite a bit. So does my husband. In the early days of our marriage, pre-kid phase, we were constantly on the road, in the air, or riding the rails. Now, the travel is significantly less, but I'm still on the go once or twice a month. It's taught me a lot about writing in strange places. Over the years I've learned to be productive despite uncomfortable or foreign surroundings. We can't always choose our location. We may abhor the decor in the hotel. The bed may be lumpy and uncomfortable.  All these things can suck your creative engery and may deter you from taking advantage of your travel downtime. The key is training your mind to click into creative mode despite the challenges.

Here are some tricks:
1. Take something small from home that feeds the creative vibe. I have a journal I've filled with photos from magazines. Some pages have flowers others have glittery jewels. When I see a photo in a magazine that is pleasing to the eye, I snip it and paste it into the journal. If I get blocked, I can flip through the pages to spur creativity.
2. Keep a pen or pencil, and a small notebook with you at all times. It's not practical to open your laptop every time an idea pops into your head but you can always jot down quick notes and type them up later.
3. When you're stuck in a hotel for several days, it's nice to have a few items that make the room feel more like home. If I'm driving to my destination, I pack a small candle. If I'm flying, I buy one once I get there. I choose a scent that's pleasing to me and it makes my stay much  more productive. Music, either on a CD you can play in your laptop or an MP3 player, also travels well. Not only can it fire creativity but it can also be used to insulate you from distracting sounds.
4. Get a flash drive you can wear as a necklace. You can keep it with you at all times. Even if you don't have a laptop, there are frequently business centers where you can work. If you have the drive, you can write, edit or transpose notes on the go.
5. Take advantage of the views. Don't stay trapped in your room. Take advantage of the various seating areas in the hotel. You may find a really comfortable and inspiring place to work.
6. Use your downtime to write. Manuscripts take hours and hours to complete. You don't have to write a manuscript in one marathon session. Twenty and thirty minute sessions, whether writing or revising, can be very productive.
7. Have food and something to drink in your room. Most hotel rooms have a mini-fridge. If you're staying for a couple of days, stock it with snacks and drinks. Then, if you're really getting a lot of work done, you don't have to stop and go downstairs or off the premises for food. I usually have a few bottles of water, some fruit and a couple of protein bars. Cheap, low-calorie, and no utensils required.

I hope I've given you some ideas that will help you become more productive in environments other than your office or your home. You really can write a masterpiece in all the wrong places.

Angi Morgan: The First Weeks After a Sale

I have a title for my book. YAY! See Jane Run will be published in September 2010 as Harlequin® Intrigue’s® HILL COUNTRY HOLD UP. After knowing this book as See Jane Run for so many years, it’s hard to wrap my head around a new title. But I think I can manage it. *big grin*

I’m not certain my timeline is a-typical for selling since my book is scheduled for such a quick release (ten months after the sale), but I can give you a list of things I’ve needed to complete since mid-November.

My first priority was to deliver the book. Yes, the book was finished. Yes, the editor stated they wouldn’t be asking for revisions. BUT (there’s always a but) they needed a few changes. In my case, they were extremely easy. I still hung onto my book for three weeks. After all, it wasn’t due until January 15th. I had two more people read it for errors (they found 6). I made the changes requested. And on December 15th I went to the post office to mail my manuscript to Harlequin in New York --forgetting the address and calling a critique partner who had to look it up for me. It arrived safely, but I’d forgotten to add a tracking slip so I didn’t know it had arrived safely until January 9th.

Once the book was in the mail I needed to tackle the Art Fact Sheets. These gems are the all important information for marketing: descriptions of the characters, scene descriptions for possible book covers, and a story synopsis. Ah yes, ANOTHER synopsis. I’m certain that each publisher has their own unique way to record this information. In today’s cyber world, Harlequin uses pull-down menus and fill-in-the-blanks. Fairly easy, yes. But nerve-wracking trying to find exactly what “type” of hero you want marketed.

Without asking, I thought the story synopsis was just for the marketing department. Then I spoke with an author who explained it was the paragraph used for potential foreign sales. Whew. I put more emphasis on getting it right.

My editor wanted to be notified when I was finished--and I mean finished. Once you say you’re finished, the information is closed to you, no more changes. She also wanted some personal information: the book dedication, author bio for the inside cover, and a Cast of Characters (for Intrigue). Synopses have never been my strong suite...try writing one about your life in less than 200 words. And you probably should. Practice, that is. A friend of mine advised me to save the different versions of my story synopsis and bio. She stated that she had all sorts of lengths and ways to “slant” herself. (Meaning--cute, serious, long, short, professional, family-oriented, book covers, job experience, contest experience, etc.)

I’ll be sharing more about the Art Fact Sheets and promotional requirements in an additional blog. What do you think of my new title and short book trailer: I’ll have a more detailed trailer after we get the book cover.

This Week’s Lesson Learned: When you sell your first book always, always, take the publisher’s address with you to the post office.

‘Til next time,


Your New Board of Directors

The SCWW Board of Directors met in Columbia last Saturday and elected the 2010 leadership. Here is the new slate:

President -- Lateia Elam Sandifer, Norway
First Vice-President -- Kim Blum-Hyclak, Rock Hill
Vice-President, Conference-Chair -- Carrie McCullough, Augusta
Treasurer -- Jim McFarlane, Greer
Secretary -- Brenda Bevan Remmes, Camden
President, ex-officio -- Barbara V. Evers, Greer

Grants Chair -- Valerie Aartun, Pumpkintown
Quill Editor -- Carrie McCullough, Augusta
Chapter Liasion -- Steve Gordy, Aiken
Petigru Review Editor -- Tibby Plants, Murrells Inlet

At large board members -- Kia Goins (Conference Co-Chair), Columbia, Kay Mortimer, Aiken and Ginny Padgett, Columbia

In addition, several members of the board will be serving as apprentices to current Chairs in order to learn the ropes.

We discussed several important items including the upcoming Book Festival in Columbia and the best way to reach and interface better with all our chapters.In terms of business, we passed a motion stating that membership is open ONLY to people over the age of eighteen. We asked Barbara Evers, President ex-officio, to create an ad hoc bylaws committee to review our current bylaws and report findings to the board in the June meeting.

We will meet again in February to vote on a budget for 2010.We will consider some proposals we've gathered for web-hosting among other agenda items.

Now, more a more personal note, I'm thrilled to be offered the opportunity to lead this organization. I've been a member for more years than I like to count and I've seen all the amazing contributions made by my predecessors. One of my goals this year is to make the Board of Directors more accessible to all our members. I want you to feel like you know us and can call on us to answer questions or address any concerns you might have about the organization. SCWW belongs to you--the members--and I vow to be a good steward of the trust you've placed in me. I'll be writing a monthly column in the Quill as well as serving as a co-chair for the conference. I plan to continue the blog, but hope to bring in a host of new voices to make it more dynamic. 2010 promises to be a very busy year but I'm looking forward to all the positive things it will bring.

The 2010 board is made up of people from all walks of life, with different gifts and unique talents. I couldn't have asked for a more talented group of people. We are from all parts of the state and are very diverse in what we write. I'm confident that this board will work very hard to make sure SCWW remains one of the premier writing organizations in the country.

My inbox is always open. Please don't hesitate to contact me with your thoughts, concerns, ideas and questions. Remember, SCWW belongs to YOU. If you'd like me to visit a chapter meeting, send me the details and I'll do my best to accomodate.

Over the years, I've had the great pleasure to meet or correspond with many of you. The reason SCWW is so incredible is the dedication of our members.

Here's to 2010!

P.S. -- Stay tuned. Tomorrow Angi Morgan will post her latest blog!