Tag Archives: editors

Call and Response

Below are two haikus. The first one is written by Bob Deck, who posts at least one a day on his twitter account. His Twitter account name is bdeck. The second haiku is my response to his.

Email offer boasts
“Luxury Bronze Spray Sculpt Tan”
stupid as I look?

Your body now bronze
Success and neighbor envy.
Talk in muted tones.



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You have your book written — what now?

If anyone is interested in publishing a book — fiction or nonfiction — the Knoxville Writers’ Guild has a great workshop this Saturday.

Chris Hebert is an acquisitions editor at the University of Michigan Press. He’s the guy at the receiving end of author query letters and can provide invaluable advice on what works and what doesn’t. He also knows what it’s like from the author’s end: HarperCollins is publishing his first novel, The Boiling Season, next year. (His wife has also published a novel with Simon & Schuster).

This is a rare chance to talk at length with a publishing insider about selling a book.

The workshop will be held from 1 to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 4 at the Redeemer Church, 1642 Highland Ave., Knoxville, TN. Cost is $20 for members and $25 for nonmembers. To register, go to http://www.knoxvillewritersguild.org/orderpaypal.htm

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Guest Blogger Mark Twain on Words to be Wary of

Mark Twain photo

photo of Mark Twain

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” —Mark Twain

Unfortunately, there are fewer editors around these days, the victims of corporate downsizing many of them, so you will probably have to do this yourself, but it might just work. Every time you want to write “very,” write “damn” instead, then read the story out loud. Just don’t do it at an open mike night.

To learn more about Mark Twain: Mark Twain.


Filed under advice, editor, humor, Mark Twain, words, words to be wary of, writer, writing, writing tip

So, you want to be a writer? Watch and learn

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Filed under agents, editor, humor, novel, Perils of writing, pitches, publishers, Random Access Thoughts, words, writing, writing tip

A flightless mind in a myopic world


January 6, 2011

Light Out, Huck, They Still Want to Sivilize You


“All modern American literature,” Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “comes from one book by MarkTwain called ‘Huckleberry Finn.’ ”

Being an iconic classic, however, hasn’t protected “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” from being banned, bowdlerized and bleeped. It hasn’t protected the novel from being cleaned up, updated and “improved.”

A new effort to sanitize “Huckleberry Finn” comes from Alan Gribben, a professor of English at Auburn University, at Montgomery, Ala., who has produced a new edition of Twain’s novel that replaces the word “nigger” with “slave.” Nigger, which appears in the book more than 200 times, was a common racial epithet in the antebellum South, used by Twain as part of his characters’ vernacular speech and as a reflection of mid-19th-century social attitudes along the Mississippi River.

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Filed under Huckleberry Finn, insanity, Mark Twain, Perils of writing, publishers, Random Access Thoughts, story, words, writing

Pictures at an exhibition

Below are a few photos of agents and editors taken while at Killer Nashville this past August 20 – 22, 2010. Consider this visual reference for the names of people mentioned in some of my earlier posts on pitching your novel to editors or agents.

From left, agents Jill Marr, Cari Foulk, and Jeff Gerecke. Beth Terrell, author and Killer Nashville Executive Driector, leaning over behind them.

Jill Marr (seated left) and Cari Foulk listening to a question at Killer Nashville 2010.

Jill Marr (seated left) and Cari Foulk listening to a question at Killer Nashville 2010.

Agents Jill Marr (left) and Cari Foulk standing for a few moments after listening to pitches.

Agents Jill Marr (left) and Cari Foulk standing for a few moments after listening to pitches.

Agent Jill Marr walking out of the Pitch Room.

Agent Jill Marr walking out of the Pitch Room at Killer Nashville 2010.

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The pitches

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Killer Nashville badge

Below are two of my pitches. I used the The Painted Beast pitch on all the agents and editors I talked with at Killer Nashville. I was able to use The Small Resurrection pitch once or twice.

Two pieces of advice, one I have said before: Practice the pitch and make it as natural as you can. Two: Think of a pitch as a spoken version of the back-cover blurb you read on many paperback books.

The Painted Beast

Ex-cop Stephen York was once a hero. Decorated and lionized from uncovering corruption in the police department and bringing down a criminal enterprise, he now works two or three menial jobs in order to hold body and soul together, not only for himself but also his thirteen-year-old step-daughter and eight-year-old daughter. One night his ex-wife, who has escaped from prison, returns home and terrorizes him. He escapes from her and she from him, but shortly thereafter she kidnaps their daughters. In order to save them, Stephen has to kill her, which puts him under suspicion for murder and under the thumb of a police detective who has personal as well as professional reasons for wanting to grind Stephen down further. In addition, his step-daughter’s biological father steps forward to kidnap her with the intention of leading her into a life of child pornography and prostitution in order to get money to help re-establish the criminal empire that Stephen had helped take down. This time, in order to save his step-daughter, Stephen, who has not been a particularly good father, has to offer his life in order to save his step-daughter’s. In so doing, he learns another definition of hero. At its core this novel’s theme asks and answers the question: Can a fallen hero be a hero again?

Limerick version:
There once was an ex-cop who did poorly
At being a father and what’s more he
Killed his ex-wife,
Then offered up his life
To save his daughter from a life in pornography.


A Small Resurrection

Is believing in what you see the same thing as seeing what you believe in?

Knoxville, Tennessee, is the last place T. Xavier Gabriel wants to be. But the director of the 8th highest grossing film in Hollywood has come to town to ask his ex-wife for forbearance in paying the large alimony and possibly also for a loan to help restart his fallen career. She, however, has other plans. She wants him to

Pitching your novel

Use conversational voice when talking about your novel

rescue their 22-year-old daughter from the undue influences of a 24-year-old evangelical preacher. Gabriel wants nothing to do with that, having already admitted to be a failure once as a father, he doesn’t want a second bite of the apple. But when he finds his daughter keeping company with a resurrected Rod Serling, he sees a chance to use this Serling look-alike to resurrect his own career. But getting Serling away from his daughter puts her in jeopardy, and Gabriel must decide if he is going to save her or save his career. To save her, he must enlist the aid of Serling, who is not quite sure who he is or why he has been resurrected, and in saving her he puts an end ever resurrecting his career.

Limerick version:
There once was a director named Gabriel
Whose life was a broken down fable
Then along came Rod Serling
And an offer so sterling
That it could save Gabe if he was able.

Two final notes:
1) The limerick versions were not something I pitched, though I thought about it. It was my way of have a pitch that could be done in 15 seconds or less.

2) Some pitch advice says you need to have antecedents as part of your pitch. Antecedents are novels that are like yours. Something similar to your novel. This is supposed to show that you know about your novel’s market and where it might fit. While I had that prepared for The Painted Beast, it did not seem to be something those I pitched to at Killer Nashville were interested in. That could have been a mistake on my part. But I had the feeling that these agents wanted to be the ones to decide where it belongs.

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