Tales from The Critique Wars or What Not to Do or You Might Tick Someone Off

As most you know I'm an old hand at the SCWW Conference. This is the fifth or sixth year I've worked the conference. This is the second year, in a row, that I've handled critiques.

Since the deadline for submitting your materials is LOOMING (September 1), I thought I'd take the time to highlight a few of the don't and explain them.

1. Don't send anything that requires my signature. It makes things really difficult when I've got fifty large envelopes in my hand and I have to take the little yellow slip from the box, stand in line, sign three times for the envelope and then add it to the pile and schlep it to my car. Standing in line at the post office is not how I want to spend my lunch hour, nor is it the way I want to spend time I could be writing. I have a complete list of attendees and I will know if I don't get your materials. I will then email or call you and request that you send it. In addition, I confirm receipt of each hard copy and electronic copy. You will know when I get it. Please don't make me stand in line.

2.  Don't include report covers or any other type of binding in your hard copies. I just throw these away. It's a waste of your money and a waste of energy and trees. The only thing that should be in your envelope is two copies of your submission, bound with rubber bands, paperclips or binder clips.

3.  Send ONLY what's asked. If you bought a standard, send ONLY ten pages and the optional one page synopisis. Same deal with extended:  thirty pages and an optional one page synopisis. If you send more, I'll have to contact you and request you send it again. For legal and contractual reasons, I cannot alter your submission in any way. That means I can't delete a few pages from the version you sent me. I can't just trash a couple of pages either. SEND a maximum of 11 pages or 31 pages.

4. Don't put so much tape on the envelope that I have to get out an electric knife to open it. Small pieces of tape at the sealing flap will suffice. Again, if I get something that is torn, dogearred or otherwise damaged, I will give you the chance to resubmit.

5. Don't try to play with spacing and margins to get more out of your critique. I'm a writer. I will notice this. In a 10K submission, 1.5 spacing will result in an additional seven or eight pages. Double-spaced means double-spaced. If you send it to me with wonky spacing, guess what?  I'll request another copy. Same thing with margins. Keep them to 1". Again, I'm a writer. I know the difference between a 1" margin and 0.75 margin. Our agreements with faculty members are very specific. I can't break my word to them. And what if everyone tried to cheat a bit?  You're talking about hundred of additional pages.

Having said all that, FEAR NOT. If your package require a signature, I'll sign. I have an electric knife. I will ask you to resubmit if your critique is single-spaced.

I know this sounds like nothing but a rant but here's the take-away message: 


If you get into the habit now, you've got less to worry about in the future. Use me for practice. Please.

Mark Your Calendars: ANGI MORGAN DAY

Tuesday, September 14 is Angi Morgan Day!

Join us as we celebrate the release of her first book, HILL COUNTRY HOLDUP.

We'll have prizes!

Join us for discussion, raffles and fun. Angi may even stop by for a quick hello.

So get your hands on a copy---it's available already as an e-book---and meet us here September 14!

Do Your Homework

As you prepare for the upcoming conference you probably have lots of questions. One of those questions may be: how do I prepare for a conference? The answer: Do Your Homework.

At a conference a few years ago, I spoke with a first timer who bragged about having read a book by each author attending the conference. How clever, I thought, I wished I’d had the forethought to do the same. Later, she confessed that in some cases she only read the first two or three chapters of a book. Even then she was far ahead of my own pre-conference homework.

You may not have time or the money to read a book by each member of the faculty, maybe not even two whole chapters. But you should make time to read websites and blogs by each faculty member. If you have a library at your disposal, at least read a few pages of their books. At least then you have some frame of reference when selecting sessions to attend or the person best suited to critique your manuscript.

We’re writers; that’s what we tell ourselves as we pour over the tenth revision of our roman a clef. One thing writers do is research. We research things so we sound like we know what we’re talking about, even when we don’t. If you’ve never been to Pocatello, Idaho, you’ll have to research it before you can credibly write a scene that takes place there.

Treat your conference experience the same way. While you make your plans for the conference also take a few minutes and look over the list of faculty members. On the conference page click on each name and you’ll find some basic background information. For more details, visit the websites and blogs of our faculty members. And of course, there is always Facebook and Twitter. You can learn a lot about faculty members from their social networking presence on the web.

This post is titled “Do Your Homework” that’s what you have to do, your homework. Write down your questions, all the crazy and not-so crazy things you’ve always wanted to ask an editor, agent or published author. If you come prepared, you’ll be less likely to forget to ask that one thing you most want to know.

Find out what books the authors have available, you may want to purchase these for the book signing we have on Saturday afternoon. Review agency websites to see what books an agent sold and decide how closely it may match your own genre of manuscript.

Research the faculty members, you don’t need to know their favorite colors or how they eat their eggs, but you should know what genres they write in or what genres they represent. If you do nothing else I’ve suggested, at least find out the names of the books the authors have written and the name of the firm where the editors and agents work.

Also, work on that elevator pitch. If you can get it down to less than a minute, you’ll be ready when someone asks, “What are you writing?” If the past is any example, you’ll get to answer that question a lot over the weekend. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll get to answer that question for the editor or agent of your dreams.


It’s been a few weeks, but thanks SCWW for having me back again.

Shortly after midnight on August 1st someone handed me a phone. And I saw my book for sale for the very first time. Sitting in the lobby of the Dolphin hotel in Walt Disney World, three hours after the same story had won RWA’s Golden Heart.

Amazing, astounding, wonderful, remarkable, fantastic, brilliant... I feel like Jane in Hill Country Holdup reciting every synonym for GREAT she can remember. It was unbelievable. Holding that phone in the palm of my hand and knowing that people all over the world could download my book this month from eHarlequin.com. I haven’t held the book in my hand yet. And I haven’t opened it up to fan through the pages. It won’t be on book shelves until September 14th.

I got a message from Mary Beth yesterday. She told me she’d bought the book and couldn’t want to read it. Oh My Gosh! Ladies and Gentlemen, someone outside my family and critique partners has my book. And a librarian at conference told me they’d processed the book the week before.

I’m not trying to brag. Totally not my intention.

But this is real. My book has been printed and shipped to libraries and stores. It’s like being the last one at an amusement park and no one else is in line. The attendants let you just keep riding and riding and riding. I don’t want to get off.

I’m submitting my second book to my editor tomorrow. A little more elbow grease and .38 Caliber Cover-Up is ready to go. Now the wild round of publicity begins, then book signings, more edits, writing the next proposal and selling it. Writing the book, submitting, over and over again....

I have to admit that I’ve worked hard earning the right to be on this ride. I’m glad I put in the work and stood in line. Glad I can finally enjoy the thrills of 4 Star reviews and book awards.

More than anything else...I’m glad to be doing something I absolutely love...writing.

THIS WEEK’S LESSON LEARNED: Set your goals and believe you can obtain them. These are more than words. BELIEVE.

Til next time,
Angi Morgan


A Writer's Ephiphany or I Got the T-Shirt?

A couple of days ago I was watching a show on the History Channel about Hannibal---the one with the elephants in the Alps, who camped outside the gates of Rome. I'd forgotten how compelling his story was. As a product of Catholic schools, I took a lot of Latin. Believe it or not I still find reading in Latin relaxing. I have a copy of Caesar's Gallic Wars on the bookshelf beside my bed. I'm only short a few hours of Greek and I could have a BA in Classics. After watching the two hour show, I went to the "haven't read pile" and selected a couple books set in Rome. They didn't keep my interest. They were either too infused with unimportant historical detail---like reading a textbook---or too lurid like the HBO show called Rome. So, disgusted with my reading choices, and re-inspired by the idea of Hannibal and what he represented to the Romans, I did what any bored woman does. I went to complain to Mr Husband.

The conversation went a bit like this:

ME:  "I don't understand why no one can write a book that really brings the Roman Republic to life. They're all either too academic or too lurid. I want something smart but also exciting and compelling. Something like Gabaldon mixed with Colleen McCullough mixed with Lindsay Davis but also some fluid writing like CW Gortner. And I wouldn't mind a dash of humor too like Ruth Downie. And world-building like George RR Martin. But I don't want a fantasy, and or a mystery or a romance. Just a really cool book that brings the Punic Wars into this century."

HIM:  "What are you talking about?"

ME:  "Hannibal. I'm talking about Hannibal."

HIM:  "Silence of the Lambs Hannibal?" (Takes his eyes off the TV here.)

ME: "No. The Carthaginian one who terrorized Rome. I want a book about him."

HIM:  "So write one. You're a writer, right?" (Eyes back on the TV.)

ME:  "I can't write that. There would be too much research involved and I'd want to get it right."

HIM:  (Powers off the TV.)  "Isn't that book on your bedside table in Latin?"

ME:  "What does that have to do with anything?'

HIM:  You read Latin for pleasure when you have stacks and stacks of perfectly good books in English. Doesn't seem to me like the research would be that much of a hardship. Just start writing. See where it goes. Couldn't hurt right?" (Walks to the kitchen to fix a sandwich.)

ME:  (Following him to the kitchen.) "You really think I could write that?"

HIM:  "Turn around."

ME:  (Turning my back to him.) "What is it, a spider?'

HIM:  (Reading aloud SLOWLY as he runs his index finger along my back.) "If there is a book you really want to read that hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. Toni Morrison. Right here on the T-shirt you wear all the time." (Definite SMIRK.)

Oh, yeah. Last year's conference T-shirt.  The quote I adored. The quote that emphasizes the importance of each individual and distinct voice. The quote that pushes writers to experiment and write about people and places that interest them, inspire them, intrigue them. Like my Romans.

Why not? Why can't I write what I want to read? Who says I can't? (Sticking my tongue out at the world.)

See why I keep Mr Husband around? He makes things so much simpler.  Who knew I would actually need someone to READ my T-shirt ALOUD to me?