My Favorite Part of the Kindle: The Integrated Dictionary

Palimpsestcover_small Last week, I started reading the book Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente on my Kindle. It's a beautiful and intricate novel about four strangers connected to one another through a strange, fairy tale like city that they can only visit in their dreams.

Valente is an intimidatingly skilled writer who describes the fantastic city using a vocabulary almost as astounding as the wild trains and floating houses that populate its streets. Consequently, there were a lot of words I didn't understand (including the title.)

Luckily, I was reading Palimsest on my Kindle and a bit on the Kindle app for my iPhone, both of which come with a built-in dictionary. For each mysterious word I read, I needed only to move my cursor (or finger, for the phone) over it and the definition popped up at the bottom of my screen—fast and easy. In each case, knowing the exact definition of the word, instead of guestimating it, made my reading experience richer. 

For many other books, this feature wouldn't have been as crucial. A stray word that leaves me reaching for a dictionary isn't a big deal. However, Valente uses so many off-beat words that if I hadn't had the built in dictionary, I would have either disrupted my reading experience with repeated dictionary safaris, or stopped looking them up altogether. In either case, I know I would not be enjoying Palimpsest nearly as much as I am on my Kindle. 

So, while I can sympathize with the physical book enthusiasts at times, this was a situation where the Kindle gave me a noticeably better reading experience. I liked this, and I'm excited to see what new features e-readers bring to the reading experience in general as the technology continues to improve. 

That's my two cents. Anyone had a similar experience? Other Kindle features you like? Any that you hate?


P.S. In case you were curious, here are some of the words (and definitions) that I had to look up:


1. A manuscript, typically of papyrus or parchment, that has been written on more than once, with the earlier writing incompletely erased and often legible.

2. An object, place, or area that reflects its history.


1. To leap about playfully; frolic.


1. characterized by vehemence, clamour, or noisiness 
2. making an outcry or loud noises; clamorous


1. of or relating to reversion to a former or more primitive type


1. Of, relating to, or being a speech sound produced by complete closure of the oral passage and subsequent release accompanied by a burst of air

Winners of Writing Contest "The 'Cheating' Challenge" Announced

20100216writingchallengeblog Oh, what tangled webs you WEbookers have weaved, as you practiced to enter this writing challenge! The 179 entries to The 'Cheating' Challenge showed characters engaging in all kinds of moral debasement, from skimping on diets, dodging the grim reaper, to old fashioned adultery. 

We enjoyed reading all the entries, although it got us thinking, a "Beacon of Moral Fortitude" challenge might be coming soon, just to get some good vibes flowing through here again.

The Winners:

Smoke, Mirrors, and Water Balloons by onelazysummer
Sweet Seduction by akbmuse

Benign by Sagira

Honorable Mention:

Broken Pieces Fall Apart by AubrieAnne

Congratulations, you will receive your PageToFame coupon via direct message shortly.

The Travel Scene Challenge is open, start a new chapter on this project to enter.  If we pass 250 submissions for this challenge, we'll award twice as many winners (that's six P2F coupons!). There are only 80 submission so share, share, share!

You can also suggest your own writing challenges in this forum thread. If you've got a good idea, we're all ears!

Before you go off to enjoy the weekend, give onelazysummer's winning entry a read:

Smoke, Mirrors, and Water Balloons

The too-warm water balloon gives a little lurching jiggle in my palm. I have to hold my breath to keep from ralphing. Blegh. I make a mental note to karate chop Cindy in the kneecap next time I see her.

"Passing a drug test? Piece of cake!" Cindy blows a bubble with her chewing gum, pops it with her finger, and folds it back behind her teeth. "You just have to get someone clean to pee in a balloon for you, then sneak it in. Hide it in your panties!"

Seemed like a good idea at the time. And asking around for spare urine wasn't at all awkward. Really. Ugh. Honestly, the fact that I have to do this in the first place is a joke. Because, you know, God forbid the receptionist at a bill-by-the-hour hotel isn't a paragon of morality.

I swear under my breath when I realize I forgot to bring something sharp. Panicking, I scan the room and fumble through my pockets looking for a key, a bobby pin, anything. Nothing. Crap. 

In a foggy moment that I will regret for the rest of my life, I decide to use my teeth.

Literary Agents Representing Young Adult Fiction

Are you writing a Young Adult novel? Have you finished a Young Adult novel, and are now looking for an agent to secure a book deal and get that manuscript on to shelves?

AgentInbox has
42 agents that specialize in Young Adult/Juvenile fiction! That means they already represent some YA authors, have built connections with YA editors and publishers, and they're looking for more!

Here are tidbits about a few of our YA agents and their perspective on the genre. Go here to see the full list of the agents on AgentInbox.

SusannaEinsteinSusanna Einstein, LJK Literary Management: Susanna has worked in publishing since 1995 and is one of the founding agents at LJK. In an interview with Guide to Literary Agents, Susanna explained her attraction to YA books:
"The opportunity to be involved in that process where kids and teens discover their own favorite books is one that I couldn’t pass up. And there’s a joy and creativity in the children’s/YA market that is less present, or at least less visible, in the adult market.  I also think, perhaps naïvely, that there’s a sense of purpose, of good work being done, in finding and selling books that young people will want to read, and that’s important to me."

To see the rest of the interview, go here, or check out Susanna's WEbook profile.

Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary + Media: Mollie began her publishing career as a literary scout, advising foreign publishers regarding the acquisition of rights to American books. She then worked as an editor at Random House before becoming an agent. When
asked what qualities she looks for in a first-time YA author, Mollie said:

"I really enjoy learning something new with every project I take on. And really, what I'm looking for in anything I take on is the same. I'm looking for a book with a unique voice. I'm looking for a great plot and great characters that convey a bigger idea. And I'm looking for a book I can't put down." 

You can see Mollie's WEbook profile here, or check out one of her best known clients' book, Promise of the Wolves.

Tamar  Tamar Rydzinski, Laura Dail Literary Agency: Tamar worked at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates prior to joining the Laura Dail Literary Agency. She is also one of the honorable PageToFame Judges! In a guest blog post at Magical Musings, Tamar talked a bit about her experience representing YA:

"When I started [as an agent], I had never read anything but very literary young adult novels. Now I can’t get enough of them, and I am not talking about the literary stuff. I never would have thought that I would be representing fantasy as it wasn’t a genre I had grown up reading. And that’s the beautiful thing about publishing and books in general. There is just so much learning, exploring and discovery available."

To learn more about Tamar, check out the PageToFame Judges video, or her AgentInbox profile.

That's all the YA fun for now...stay tuned for more AgentInbox highlights. If you're currently writing a YA novel, tell us what it's about!

New Writing Challenge: The Travel Scene

We hope everyone had a wonderful weekend and took full advantage of the deadline extension to The 'Cheating' Challenge, which closes to submissions at 4 pm today. 

CompassfortravelWhile we're busy picking the winners, can get busy working on the newly opened
"Travel Scene Challenge," which was suggested by XAerialJugglerX. For this one, submit a scene where a character is traveling somewhere.

As XAerialJugglerX put it, "It could vary from horrific to funny travel experiences, from beautiful descriptions of exotic lands to a thrilling first person view of a hijacking in progress."

The deadline to submit is September 3, at 4 pm, so start plotting your character's journey now. What will yours be?

Also, if you think you've got a great idea for a writing challenge, post your idea in the brand new forum. We'll cruise through your suggestions and use ones that strike our fancy.

Have a fantastic writing week!   

Writing the Second Novel

6a00e54ff9f2cf88340120a786bd73970b I’m torn. Having recently completed (for now?!) my first novel, I’m scrounging around for another story. I have ideas, lots of them. One is about a guy who gets kidnapped in the Amazon. I’d also like to write a heist story. Or maybe something political and environmental—like about an evil mining or petroleum company that gets their comeuppance after stepping on the little guys for too long. Perhaps another family story—like my last one—only this time instead of making about fathers and sons, it’ll be about a pair of brothers who come together after a lifetime of being at loggerheads.

I got it! The story will be about a guy who tries to free his brother, who works for an oil company, from kidnappers who are holding him to get the company to stop drilling in the rainforest, only the whole thing is a ruse to swindle a fortune in ransom money from the aforementioned multi-national by the brothers, who are in on it together with the kidnappers?

Right…so maybe I need to think about it more. But for how long? And when do I know that I’m ready? That my idea is good enough to begin writing?

For my last manuscript, I started with the following notion: A guy goes back to his hometown after a long time away and finds trouble upon his return. I didn’t have a clue, frankly, about what I needed to do to get the story to the finish line. I knew only that I wanted to write a fictional account based loosely on the town where I grew up. I had no plot and one undefined character. But I was sure this was what I wanted to write so I sat down and started writing.

The result: a mess of a first draft. I managed to come up with a plot and a cast of characters, but both were riddled with holes. I wrote a second draft and didn’t really improve the plot, only the writing. Upon confirmation of this from just about everyone who read it, I put the manuscript away for almost a year. I didn’t start it again until I had a meticulous outline that addressed the myriad flaws in the work.

This time I think I’m going to have a better sense of the story, the characters, the setting, the pacing, etc. before I begin. I’m hoping that I won’t have to write as many drafts this time (though I will, if necessary). I feel like I’m better prepared to execute my next manuscript—if I only had a more concrete idea of what it would be about. Which tempts me to proceed as I did last time, by picking an idea based on a single sentence and plowing forward to let the story find itself? It worked for me once (I hope), but I wonder if the process needs to be so arduous. I’m thinking maybe I should settle on my idea, research it like crazy, let it change and evolve in my mind and then write a hugely detailed outline before I even think about putting fingers to keyboard.

Honestly, I’m not sure. I need your help.

The question(s): What’s your process for getting from idea to execution? Do you let the story tell itself, plan every detail before you begin, or somewhere in between?


JMHammock1 John Meils is currently finishing a first novel, tentatively titled The Warring House. He has written for Elle, Men’s Health, and, among others. To learn more about him, visit

Literary Agent Dawn Frederick Signs AgentInbox Author

The good news keeps rolling in from WEbook authors! Sonia Halbach, North Dakota native and recent college graduate, signed with Dawn Michelle Frederick from Red Sofa Literary through AgentInbox. We're thrilled to share another author success story with the WEbook community.

Even better, Sonia relocated to New York after graduating, so she stopped by the WEbook offices and talked some more about her path to landing a literary agent. (You get to meet Dawn in the video as well!)

The floor is yours, Sonia!

I've tried two methods for writing a book: sculpting and digging.

Sculpting is when I face an undefined stone with nothing but a chisel, and try to transfer my own images onto this gigantic slab of granite. Basically, I attempt to cut a narrative into existence whether it belongs there or not. However, each time I tried this method, the sculpture either became lopsided, or its foundation quickly gave way. If my original concept was a kitten, it usually ended up looking more like a three-legged armadillo.

I prefer digging.

When digging, I take a shovel and a strategically picked plot of land, and attempt to unearth what's already there, just covered up. This experience feels more like a discovery than creation. Instead of bargaining with a granite stone and forcing it to become something it isn't, digging finds something buried beneath the surface, after brushing away all the dirt, emerges intact and in its intended form.

Burning of Crimson is the first novel I ever completed. When looking back at my hundreds of abandoned projects, Burning of Crimson stands apart because it was the only story where I felt like I was organically uncovering the plot instead of chasing an idea around with a chisel and demanding it mold to my partially thought-out vision.

The concept for Burning of Crimson first struck me when I watched a news report on groups that burned Harry Potter books because they thought the novels promoted evil behavior. This deeply affected me not just as an avid Harry Potter reader, but also as a lover of literature. Book banning is not a new topic, but I wanted to expose the more recent issue of immensely popular fantasy books being targeted by censorship. Once I chose to explore this primary theme, the rest of Burning of Crimson just fell into place.

Burning of Crimson sometimes feels like it was a collaboration of two people – the 17 year-old me who pounded out the initial draft during the summer of 2005, and the current me, who with an English degree under her belt, spent the last two years harshly cutting and rewriting every sentence without the first author’s consent.

If high school me could voice her opinion she’d probably support the edits and be pleased that her four years of college (and tuition) didn’t go to waste, because even though the drafts of the book almost equal the amount of followers I have on Twitter, (don’t worry, we’re not talking Ashton Kutcher numbers here), not a whole lot about the story of Burning of Crimson has changed since 2005.

The present and final draft of Burning of Crimson is what I set out to write five years ago, but it's thanks to many amazing professors at Augustana College who helped me grow as a writer, and also thanks to the direction given by my agent, Dawn Frederick, that Burning of Crimson is now ready for the next step in the publishing process.

So I can finally store away my shovel and brush...for now.


Keep an eye out for more new and updates (maybe even another video) as Sonia's journey towards publication continues!

Literary Agent Found: WEbooker Anne Merino Signed With Agent

It was exciting news last week to find out that Josh Vogt, a PageToFame participant, secured representation from a literary agent. And now there's more good news:

Anne Merino recently signed with Bob Mecoy through AgentInbox, WEbook's author-to-agent query service.

Like Josh, Sonia, and Corey, we're excited to have Anne share the details of her success story. But first, here's a quick bio:

AvatarAnne is a former ballerina who has danced for notable classical companies both in the United States and in Europe. While Hawkesmoor is her first novel, she has written a feature film screenplay, and three plays: The Dorian Proxy, The Moon Goddess and The Séance, all of which have been professionally produced in Los Angeles. She has also published theatre criticism with Salem Press.

Take it away, Anne!

Currently, I am represented by literary agent Bob Mecoy and have a vampire novel, Hawkesmoor, out with various editors. I think the novel’s good fun and that eventually a publishing house might be persuaded take it on.

When I think back to when I began writing fiction, a singular moment from the television series Frazier always leaps into my head. It’s a very funny sequence in which Niles and Frazier reminisce about their own boyhood mystery series The Crane Boys.

The scene rang true for me—and probably for many WEbook authors—because I did much the same thing in my youth. Like Frazier and Niles, my early efforts were generally mysteries and clearly influenced by the exciting adventures of Nancy Drew or The Fantastic Five. I remember that my teen detectives were 13 and had special driver's licenses issued to them by grateful law enforcement because they were so clever and cool. Sadly, such taunt, edge-of-your-seat potboilers as The Striped Pillow Murders, The Uninvited Guest and Blood on the Banister have been lost to the literary world.

Anyway, I kept writing. And I continue to write mystery/suspense, more often than not, with a paranormal aspect embedded in the plot.

I wrote Hawkesmoor pretty much like I write all my pieces. I like to focus on one novel at a time. Starting with a fairly loose outline, I try to churn out pages on a regular basis because I like that discipline and structure. I understand there are writers out there who, when flushed with genuine inspiration, hurl themselves into Microsoft Word and after a few epic bouts, produce novels of incandescent brilliance. I am not one of these remarkable creatures. It’s just a daily grind in an attempt to produce good, solid genre fiction. Often after a long, frustrating session, I type in: And then they all died horribly of smallpox and bunk off for a life affirming cocktail. The next day I quietly erase that and start again.

You’d imagine with all the aforementioned discipline and structure, I’d be relaxing in my exquisite New York brownstone awaiting the publication of my 54th novel, quietly hoping that my international book tour would include London at Christmas.

Alas, no. Although I have published in other fields, I have yet to make the coveted leap to published novelist. But I am a good deal closer to joining the ranks of those with Library of Congress numbers, and that’s where WEbook comes into the story.

I stumbled across WEbook while nipping about the internet one night. The site was encouraging and easy to navigate—I had a good look around and noticed AgentInbox. It seemed like a friendly and easy way to send material to a vast number of very glamorous New York literary agents. I took the plunge! A technical moron, I was very impressed by how simple it was to load my submission and send it on its way.

Seemingly overnight, I had three impressive agents very interested in representing Hawkesmoor. What a lovely problem! I decided to go with Bob Mecoy because he had clearly read the novel backwards and forwards—he really gets Hawkesmoor in a way that is incredibly inspiring to me. Beyond that, Bob Mecoy is just a superlative literary agent. He never fails to communicate with news and really sage advice—always with a pithy sense of humor. His genuine love for books and canny knowledge of the publishing business is also very inspiring.

I am, needless to say, a huge WEbook fan. It’s a brilliant tool for aspiring authors. WEbook can literally change a writer’s career in a matter of days. Best of luck to everyone with their literary projects!


Writing Challenge: The "Dear John" Winners

20100216writingchallengeblog Thanks for all of your "Dear John" emails! The WEbook judges had their hearts broken over and over again as they read through the submissions. They're still nursing their wounds, and will be spending this weekend watching Serendipity over and over while eating chocolate-chip cookie dough ice-cream.

The tone of these entries varied a great deal. Some were funny, a lot were sarcastic, and others were sad, bittersweet, and touching. It was great to see so many different approaches to the challenge.  

The Winners:

To You, From Me by tanic17
Neck Beard by Firedrake
Ugh by hollyesque

Honorable Mention:

Hating You by Celidus

Lastly, the Reader's Choice award for the "
Memory Challenge" goes to Biodegradable by MaggieMaCabre.  

Congratulations to all of the winners, you will receive your PageToFame coupons via direct message.

There's still a week left in the next writing challenge, The "Cheating" Challenge. To submit, go to this project and start a new chapter. The deadline is 4 p.m. on August 20th, 2010.   

Have a good weekend! Let us know what you are working on! 

Author Joshua Gaylord on Writing Zombie Books

Last April, Joshua Gaylord wrote about his genre-wandering tendencies. His first book, Hummingbirdswas a Manhattan prep-school novel, and his second book (published under the pseudonym Alden Ball) is a post-apocalyptic southern gothic—with zombies. The Reapers Are the Angels was released in August 2010. We are excited to have Josh back for another post! (This one much more zombie-oriented, of course.)

Whenever, as a storyteller, you decide to tinker with an existing mythology (vampires, werewolves, ghosts, zombies, Catholic schoolgirls), you have a number of decisions ahead of you—most of them having to do with which elements of the traditional mythology you are keeping in place, and which elements you are jettisoning. For example, maybe your vampires have no trouble with daylight but are still sensitive to garlic and holy water. Maybe your zombies are smart enough to have erudite conversations with each other, but they still want to eat your brains.

6a00e54ff9f2cf883401347fa94a45970c-120wiThere are good reasons for both upholding and overturning these traditions. On the one hand, staying true to the mythology is a kind of narrative shortcut that keeps you from having to explain a lot of mundane things. If you introduce a vampire in your story, there are a number of assumptions that your reader will take for granted: drinking blood, immortality, sensitivity to crosses, etc. However, this shorthand fails when you are dealing with readers who aren’t familiar with the traditional mythology. For example, here’s one early non-genre-reader response to a draft of my zombie novel The Reapers Are the Angels: “So, wait, explain it to me again—how are zombies different from vampires?  Aren’t they both dead?” But this is the exception rather than the rule. For the most part, you can rest assured knowing that readers don’t need an explanation for why that shambling, grunting corpse is trying to eat your hero’s guts: that’s just what zombies do.

On the other hand, there’s some satisfaction to be had in surprising your reader by upsetting their expectations and undermining the traditional mythology. From the world of zombies, 28 Days Later gives us an example: for all of us who were used to the undead lurching along at a snail’s pace, it was startling to see them suddenly sprinting after their prey, even leaping across gaps and climbing over fences. Never had zombies been so spry.

Being a lifelong lover of zombie stories, it was a particular thrill for me to sit down and compose my own variation for The Reapers Are the Angels. There were certain zombie laws that I set for myself, some that maintained tradition and some that abandoned it:

1. No nostalgia. One of the background traditions of zombie stories is a built-in nostalgia for the times befo the zombie apocalypse—a dramatic longing for the once-great but now lost civilized world. But I’ve seen enough of that. And I never really believed it anyway; after all, who wouldn’t feel a little pleased to be one of the last survivors in a blighted world and have all that open landscape to yourself?  So in my book, the zombie apocalypse happened a quarter of a century ago, and my protagonist is fifteen years old. As a result, there’s no way she could be nostalgic for the “real world,” because she never experienced it.

2. Zombies defecate. Why wouldn’t they? I mean, they consume, they digest, and the waste product of that process has to go somewhere. It occurred to me that I had never seen a zombie go #2 before, so I thought I would introduce that notion. A proud moment indeed—I felt like handing out cigars.

3. Zombies move slowly. This was part of the tradition I decided to uphold. I like 28 Days Later, but running zombies aren’t for me. Every other monster I can think of is fast-moving—many of them can even fly. The brutally slow pace of a zombie is what makes it unique among other genre monsters. Why would I want to take that distinction away from them?

4. Zombies eat all your viscera, not just your brains. Some zombies are only interested in brains. My zombies aren’t that discerning. They’ll eat all your gooey parts. Why? I think if zombies are only interested in brains, it gives them some iconic purpose or significance. The body metaphorically consuming the mind; maybe the mass culture’s threat to your creative individuality. I wanted my zombies to be more animalistic. They wouldn’t make distinctions between various kinds of offal in the same way that a jackal wouldn’t.

5. No smart zombies.  A lot of zombie stories (even George Romero’s) are interested in the idea of zombies learning and evolving, figuring out how to use tools, even beginning to communicate. But for my money, humanizing a zombie is bad business. The great thing about most zombie stories is that the zombies themselves are little more than background—which always makes the human story much more compelling by contrast. The more time you spend turning your zombies into characters, the less time you spend turning your characters into characters.

6. Zombies aren’t evil—and they’re not even really that scary. This is something that’s already implied by a lot of traditional zombie stories. Unlike soulless vampires or morally soiled werewolves, I like my zombies sans moral implication. They aren’t coming back from the dead because they’re evil: instead they’re just the result of an unfortunate glitch somewhere in the system. Their violence is like animal violence—you can’t really blame it. And (one of my favorite things about traditional zombie stories), they’re really only a threat in large groups.

So those were my rules. As you can see, my zombies are more traditional than not—which opens me up for criticisms of being derivative. But, then again, one of the reasons I rely so heavily on the existing mythology is that I don’t think the book is actually about zombies. And I don’t think this makes me unique. Most monster stories aren’t about the monsters themselves: they simply use the monsters as vehicles for what the story is really about. Dawn of the Dead is about the pitfalls of consumerism. 28 Days Later is about reckoning with your past. And The Reapers Are the Angels is about faith, sin and redemption.  

Ultimately, the zombies are just decoration, like rotting, corpse-smelling, blood-thirsty Christmas ornaments.



JoshBook1Joshua Gaylord is the author of two novels, Hummingbirds and The Reapers Are the Angelswhich was released in August 2010. Josh graduated from Berkeley with a degree in English and a minor in creative writing. In 2000, he received his Master’s and Ph.D. in English at New York University, specializing in twentieth-century American and British literature. He teaches high school English in NYC.

PageToFame Participant Gets a Literary Agent

Great news, WEbook member and Round 3 PageToFame participant Josh Vogt was recently scooped up by a literary agent!

Josh was the featured WEbook member in the March newsletter, and we're glad to see one of our rising stars continue to have success. Here's a bit more background:

JVogt - Headshot2Josh Vogt has seen many sides of the publishing industry, including a stint with Simon & Schuster out in NYC. He’s currently working with Scott Hoffman of Folio Literary Management to get his urban fantasy novel, Enter the Janitor, on the shelves. His personal website is, and he also covers science fiction and fantasy news, book reviews and author interviews as the Speculative Fiction Examiner. Follow him on Twitter @JRVogt.

You can also read an excerpt from Enter the Janitor on his PageToFame book page, here.

Take it away, Josh! 

I've always heard a lot about persistence being vital to finding a literary agent and getting published. “Well that’s good,” I told myself. “I’m persistent enough to finish a novel, and doubly so in querying agents. It’s only a matter of time…” However, rejections piled up until I had to start a spreadsheet to keep track of them.

In an effort to discover what I might be doing wrong, I attended conferences and participated in online review forums—and quickly realized my mistake. While I persisted through the writing and querying, I’d been hasty when it came to revisions. I didn’t take the proper time and effort to get a true sense of where my stories failed and how they could be reworked into something an agent would want to represent.

Determined to rectify this, I started taking steps such as posting chapters on WEbook to get reader feedback and agent insights. Other efforts included beta readers, and learning how to edit my writing objectively. This all paid off at last when I crossed paths with Scott Hoffman, of Folio Literary Agency.

Meeting Scott:

I went to the 2010 Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference armed with a heavily revised manuscript and a list of all the attending agents and editors who represented fantasy and science fiction. I ended up being assigned to Scott Hoffman (one of the names on my list) for my scheduled pitch session. I went to the session with the first five pages of my manuscript tucked into my notebook. I didn’t expect to actually bring them out, but I wanted to be prepared for anything.

After I pitched my novel to Scott, he pointed at the pages and asked if they were from that particular story and if he could see them. After an impressive feat of speed-reading, he said he’d like to see the whole manuscript, and that he enjoyed what he saw so far. This left me in a great mood for the rest of the conference, and I emailed him the novel almost the instant I got home.

Following up:

Two months passed. After building up the courage, I emailed Scott just to make sure the manuscript hadn’t ended up in a spam filter. He replied a day later, saying he had indeed received and read it. He’d also given the manuscript to Rachel Vater, another Folio Lit agent, and they’d get back to me once she finished reading it.

Over the following week, I did everything possible to keep myself from obsessing over what their decision would be. Scott emailed me on Monday, asking when I might be available to speak on the phone. We set up an appointment for Wednesday, and I once more distracted myself until the day arrived.

The call came, and Scott started off by saying he and Rachel loved the book and wanted to offer representation. Having taken the call right outside my office, I tried to keep from celebrating too loudly to avoid frightening my coworkers. Afterwards, I had to walk a couple of blocks around the office building to get rid of all the nervous energy. I called my wife to let her know the news, and then my parents right after, as they’d been great supporters of my writing dreams.

Since then, I’ve worked on further revisions based on Scott and Rachel’s feedback and also drawn up a synopsis for a sequel. All the brewing potential is nothing short of thrilling, and I look forward to discovering the new writing and publishing challenges persistence will see me through.


Your WEbook Weekend

I know what everyone is thinking right now: It's Friday, the weekend has arrived, what kind of cool stuff can I do on WEbook? Well, here's the answer:

Submit to the latest writing challenge: "The "Cheating" Challenge

Writing challenge cheatingFor this challenge, authors must Write a short scene in which a character "cheats." That could mean a whole bunch of things, right? Well, go here to get some more details and submit your own entry. WEbook will pick 3 winners and award them free entry to PageToFame. The deadline to submit is August 20th, 2010.

If you're curious about the writing challenges in general, you can read some of the past winners here, here, here, here, and here!

The "Dear John" Email Writing Challenge has just closed, and the winners will be announced on the blog next week.

911bookcoverIf by some miracle of time-management you still have some weekend left over after expertly crafting your submission to The "Cheating" Challenge, you can also submit a tip to our 911 Writers Block project. If your submission knocks our socks off, we'll add it the actual 911 Writers Block tool, and you could help thousands of writers find their inspiration!

Have a good weekend!


Writer John Meils: On Patience During the Query Process

6a00e54ff9f2cf88340120a786bd73970b I finished my novel. Really, I did. It’s okay to hate me a little. If I was reading this and I hadn’t finished my novel, I’d curse me too. Here’s another reason to despise me: A well-respected agent is currently reading it.

At least I think he is.

I gave it to him two weeks ago. We know each other a little, so after he read my query he asked for the whole manuscript. I haven’t heard from him since. So about now I should panic, right? I mean, I started this thing four years ago. I wrote more drafts than I care to admit. I’m ready for my eye-popping check followed by a celebrated publication. I am fully prepared for rocket-like sales followed by another hefty advance for my yet-unwritten second novel. Oh, and a movie deal. Can’t forget Hollywood.

Am I delusional? Absolutely. Does that mean none of this will happen? No, but. I’m still checking my email too much. I’m still fishing for compliments from people who’ve read my manuscript and told me it was good. I was a book editor once. I should know better. The publication process is typically slower than a snail on holiday. When I was an editor, I made agents wait while I did frivolous things. I’ve asked authors to re-write their manuscripts wholesale months before publication. I’ve taken years to prepare a single book before releasing it to press. Yet I expect the publishing world to stop because I’m finally ready.

Maybe this is payback for past transgressions. It’s possible. I was a decent editor but by no means the best. I figure I’ll give the agent in question another week. It’s August, after all, and the publishing world practically shuts down this time of year. Or it used to anyway. I’ve debated sending the agent an email. You know, one of those “How’s it going?” missives. But that would be annoying. That would indicate I might not be the ideal author to work with and I don’t want to give this agent the slightest reason to fret signing me as a client.

So I sit and wait. Sort of. I’ve recently moved to yet-another new country, this one for a while. I’ve got stuff to do—learn a language, plan my next novel, buy sheets and towels. While I’m doing this of course I’m thinking about when I’ll check my email next. How could I not? I was impatient to finish the book (which cost me my first agent). I was impatient while plotting and re-drafting the book (which undoubtedly cost me an extra draft or two). Now that I think about it, I’ve been impatient all along.

We all are, aren’t we? This is funny, I think, or ironic. Because writing (and publishing) if anything is a game of patience. Rush your writing and it suffers. Show your work too soon and its flaws will leap off the page. We all love to write first and foremost and yet the great shiny beacon of publication is usually at odds with producing our best work.

Here’s the question: What do you do to slow yourself down when trying to produce, pitch, or otherwise get your work published?

JMHammock1 John Meils is currently finishing a first novel, tentatively titled The Warring House. He has written for Elle, Men’s Health, and, among others. To learn more about him, visit

Good God Bird's Flight to a New Name!

Goodgodbird_publicationAs I discussed in a previous post, "What's In a Name?", the title of my forthcoming novel has been something of a mystery for the last few months. Originally titled Good God Bird, my editor and I both felt that a new title was needed to properly and perfectly capture the tone and message of the story.  

For weeks I scanned over page after page of the novel, searching for ideas. I went from biblically inspired titles to ones taken from poems and song lyrics. None of them quite fit like one of my earliest ideas, taken from a chapter title in the novel: The Place Where Things Come Back.

For a while, it seemed this would be the one. I said it over and over again in my head and aloud—trying to get used to a title that would follow me for years to come. I wanted to love it; for it to roll off the tongue with the same pride that Good God Bird had done. I’ll be honest, even after a few weeks, I was still struggling to not use the original name. Then, my editor suggested we drop the first two words of the title. And, though it seems so simple, that was it.  

Where Things Come Back is the official title of my debut novel and I couldn’t be happier about it. I thought about writing a long, drawn-out explanation on how the title fits the story so well, but I instead I’ll let the work speak for itself instead.

I’m happy to say that you can now pre-order Where Things Come Back, which hits bookshelves on May 3, 2011, on and other websites. Below is the editorial description of the novel:

Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . .

In the summer before Cullen's junior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots the ivory-billed woodpecker--a species thought to be extinct since the 1940s--in Lily, Arkansas. His rediscovery of the so-called Lazarus Woodpecker sparks a flurry of press and woodpecker-mania. Soon all the kids are getting woodpecker haircuts and everyone's eating "Lazarus burgers." But as absurd as the town's carnival atmosphere has become, nothing is more startling than the realization that Cullen’s sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother Gabriel has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared.

While Cullen navigates his way through a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young missionary in Africa, who has lost his faith, is searching for any semblance of meaning wherever he can find it. As distant as the two stories seem at the start, they are thoughtfully woven ever closer together and through masterful plotting, brought face to face in a surprising and harrowing climax.

Complex but truly extraordinary, tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, this novel finds wonder in the ordinary and emerges as ultimately hopeful. It's about a lot more than what Cullen calls, “that damn bird.” It’s about the dream of second chances.

So that's my experience with changing titles. Have any of you gone through this as well? How do you come up with the titles for your writing? I'm all ears!


Corey Whaley hails from Shreveport, LA, where he teaches eighth grade English. He signed with Ken Wright, a literary agent at Writers House, last fall using WEbook's AgentInbox query service. His debut novel was purchased by Simon & Schuster early in 2010. Read more about Corey's amazing story.

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