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The Rich Writer

The Rich Writer: April 2008

The Rich Writer

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

PPWC Report: Agent Laurie McLean

Personal Stuff: I'm happy to report a Pikes Peak Writer's Conference experience that was all I'd hoped and desired. I've returned home re-energized and recharged for writing--and I have a pile of new writing information to process and play with. Also came home with two awesome books on writing craft and a novel by one of my new favorite fantasy writers, Carol Berg. She lives right here in Colorado. Why hadn't I read her wonderful books before? I raced through Transformation in two days. Wow. Now for the agent stuff....

Laurie McLean: Laurie works with the Larsen Pomada Literary Agency ( in sunny San Francisco. She reps adult genre fiction (the books with labels in the bookstore,) middle grade fiction, and young adult fiction. She does NOT represent picture books or chapter books.

What has she seen too much of?
  • Query letters that say "This is the next Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings"

  • Chick lit (It's hard to sell right now.)

  • Books about 2012, its significance as the end of the Mayan calendar, and the end of the world

  • Traditional old-guy-in-the-castle vampires

What is she not seeing that she'd like to see?

  • Truly different westerns. She always sees the same story with slightly different characters and settings. Wants a new story for a historical western.

  • Urban fantasy without vampires or werewolves (but probably not zombies, because they have no emotional range)

  • Western romance

  • Paranormal romance

  • Dark fantasy--something psychologically spooky and scary (no splatterpunk, no serial killers)

  • Cyberpunk

  • YA romance (but NOT Gossip Girl)

  • YA historical fiction that transcends the era--needs to speak to today's teens. (Note: this is a soft market, so your YA historical really has to stand out!)

Tomorrow: "Take-homes" from Laurie's Read-and-Critique session.

:) Cheryl


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Off to PPWC

Tomorrow early, I'll leave for the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in Colorado Springs. Pretty exciting! I'm reading a passage in a read and critique session with Kate McKean, meeting with Laurie McLean, and hope to hear a bit more about Cecille Goyette's publishing life. I'll report next week on the industry news, inspiration, and information I collect over the next few days!

:) Cheryl

Friday, April 18, 2008

Five Fun Ways to Stimulate Creativity

  1. Hike in a beautiful place. Bring along your latest story thoughts, problems, and ideas. Also bring a pen and small notebook.

  2. Lie in a spot of sun, pen and story in hand, and let yourself drift into that place between waking and sleeping. (But you do have to wake back up to write down any inspirations!)

  3. Read a wonderful book (or ten) similar to what you're writing. (In the past few days, I've flown through Hilari Bell's Shield of Stars, Karen Cushman's The Midwife's Apprentice, David Macaulay's Castle, and Usborne's Medieval World.)

  4. Read an inspirational writing book, such as Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird or Jane Yolen's Take Joy.

  5. Put on a wrist brace and determine that you'll take a few days' break from writing to rest from, say, tendonitis. I find that one particularly floods me with ideas!

:) Cheryl


Thursday, April 17, 2008


I've been meaning to write a post about terrific pens for a while. The pen is an important writing tool and, for those of us who like to write longhand, good pens are essential.

But...that thought has to wait, because I've had my own run-in with improper ergonomics. You know those little mouse pads on many laptops? Turns out they're hard on your index finger if, say, you're writing in PowerPoint and have to do a lot of mouse work. Can you say tendonitis?

So many apologies, but I have to slow down on posts for a week while I try to get this thing to heal!

To quote my friend Julie Peters: "Writing is hard!"

:) Cheryl


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Online Critique Groups: Where to Find Them

If you decide that a private online group is a good fit for you, your next step is to find one. A few sites offer forums specifically devoted to organizing critique groups, such as:
These are great for connecting with existing critique groups. The plus side of an existing group? You're more likely to hook up with more experienced writers. The down side? It take longer to find a spot.

You might consider starting your own online critique group. Even if it consists only of writing neophytes, you'll find that you have a lot to offer one another. And, as the group grows in experience, some members will leave and others will join, giving you the opportunity to find a good mix.

Where do you find potential members? In addition to the above sources, you can advertise in online communities for children’s writers , such as:

Want to learn more? As I was putting this list together, I found another article on critique groups by the wonderful Margot Finke: She provides a lot of great advice about how to find, join, and grow in a critique group.

:) Cheryl

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Critique Groups Part 2: Private Online Groups

A face-to-face group can be wonderful, but it's not the right answer for everyone. When I first needed a critique group, I had an infant at home and lived too far from town for an easy commute. Lucky for me, the Internet offered opportunities for me to connect with other writers.

Online critique groups are a great tool, especially for writers who can't join a face-to-face group. They offer opportunities to share work with other readers; to give feedback on others' writing (an exercise that will strengthen your own writing muscles); and to form connections and friendships with others walking the same writing road.

The primary advantage of an online group is its ease of use; the primary disadvantage is that it offers "low-bandwidth" communication, so that friendships and discussions develop much more slowly than they would face-to-face. However, both types of groups can provide excellent feedback on your writing. I've found that written critiques are generally superior to verbal-only critiques, if only because the written critiques tend to be better thought out. Written critiques work well in both venues.

Different types of groups work better for different people and for different situations. I participated in a series of online critique groups before settling into one that really "fit"--a group that focused on fantasy and wrote primarily for middle-grade and YA audiences. We stayed together for years before going different directions in our writing lives. We no longer function as a critique group, but we keep in touch. Even over "low-bandwidth" e-mail communication, friendships develop when you stick together for four? five? years.

Now I'm in two different face-to-face groups, one large (15 or so members) and one small (3 members). Another friend is in both of those groups plus an online group, where members critique each others' picture books. Critique groups have many different looks, purposes, structures, and expertise. It takes a bit of searching to discover which one is right for you.

If you think that a private online group might fit your current needs, tune in Monday. I'll post some resources for locating an online group or starting one of your own.

:) Cheryl

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Critique Groups Part 1: Face-to-Face Groups

Part 1: Face-to-Face Groups

A face-to-face group offers "high-bandwidth" communication. That is, when you're sitting with a group around a table discussing a piece of work, communication occurs more rapidly and deeply than it can in a written format, including words, voice tone , facial expressions, clarifying questions, and other types of conversational give-and-take. You're more likely to form deep friendships in a face-to-face group, simply because communication occurs more rapidly than it can in writing.

In my opinion, face-to-face groups can the most rewarding in terms of building relationships, but they can also be more difficult to find. They can also be more difficult logistically, because you have to attend the group at a particular time and place, which can be problems for those who have young children or live off the beaten path.

If you think a face-to-face group is the best option for you, get ready to network. In order to join a local group, you need to meet other local writers. Here are some places to start:

  1. Attend local writing conferences and meet other writers. Introduce yourself. Ask around--are there others in your area looking for a group? Are there existing groups willing to take members?

  2. BUT--Don't expect established writing groups to welcome you with open arms. The world is filled with would-be writers, most of whom aren't in the field for the long haul. Expect to demonstrate your commitment (and that you're a decent person) before the invites flood in.

  3. Pay attention to names and, when you get home, read what people wrote. If you like what you read, let them know. Connect with other area writers at book signings, literature readings, poetry corners, writing classes. As you get to know other writers, they begin to know you--and one of them will think of you the next time they hear of a critique group opening.

  4. Check out your local SCBWI chapter. Ours doesn't only sponsor conferences, it sponsors local get-togethers and one-day workshops where you can meet area writing folk.

  5. Consider advertising. Local bookstores and coffee shops are often willing to host writing groups, so put out the word and start your own. Yes, you might get a lot of people with even less talent and experience than you at the beginning :) ...but eventually, you'll meet a few people who click with you and where you are. Eventually, you can get your own fantastic group going.

Have fun!


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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Life and Critique Groups

My life has been extraordinarily busy lately, with lots of writing but very little blogging. One reason for the busy-ness? I attended (and helped out with) my local SCBWI chapter's Spring Workshop last weekend. Wow! What a great weekend of instruction and inspiration! It left me with many thoughts to share, starting with the #1 question I hear from beginning writers:

Where do I find a critique group?

Critique groups are a wonderful tool for writers of all levels, where writers can receive feedback, get new perspectives on their work, and grow as writers--not to mention all the emotional and mental support such groups offer. I've heard frequent presentations on the benefits of a good critique group. How do you find one? That's a bit trickier.

First, what kind of group do you need? There are three general types of critique groups: face-to-face, private online, and large-group online groups. Over the next week, I'll discuss each type and how to find your own writing group. Tomorrow: Face-to-Face Groups.

:) Cheryl

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Monday, April 7, 2008

Why we write...

Why do I write for children?

  • Because the world contains astonishing beauty

  • Because the world contains unanswerable evil

  • Because people surprise me with kindness

  • Because of the gifts of sunrises, babies, boxer pups, and love

  • Because of the times death tears up my insides

  • Because I remember skiing backwards just because it was fun

  • Because I remember the ache of being the "weird kid"

  • Because I remember the joy of standing in the wind on top of a 60 foot silo

  • Because I remember watching a house burn, wondering if the world was ending

  • Because all these things soak through me and force their way out into stories

  • Because I want to help some other kid, somewhere, figure out some of these things

Why do you write? I'd guess we share some of the same reasons. Today, enjoy the gift of writing....


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Thursday, April 3, 2008

How Cheryl writes an article...

Here are the eight steps I use for writing a nonfiction article. Use them at your peril:

  1. Find Idea. (Mood=Ridiculously optimistic) (Actions=brainstorm a million beautiful words)

  2. Begin Research. (Mood=Wow! This is so cool!) (Actions=spend hours collecting and reading articles, get distracted by every available nuance of every available topic)

  3. Write Outline. (Mood=Man, this will be a cinch!) (Actions=daydream in tub)

  4. Write 1st Draft. (Mood=Danger! Danger! What the heck was I thinking?) (Actions=Polish nails, repaint living room, write new blog posts)

  5. Rewrite. (Mood=Man, this is really, really terrible) (Actions=Pick off nail polish, write more blog posts, check flights to Australia)

  6. Rewrite more. (Mood=Maybe this will work...probably not, but it's definitely possible) (Actions=Rearrange commas, read manuscript aloud, get excited by discovery of perfect introduction idea)

  7. Rewrite still more. (Mood=Hey, this is actually getting somewhere!) (Actions=Rewrite more)

  8. Give article final polish. (Mood=Relief) (Actions=resist sending it off before critique group review)

  9. Dream up next projects (Mood=That wasn't so bad! Hey, I should write these other 20 books and articles. Tomorrow. Before breakfast. It'll be a piece of cake!)


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Wednesday, April 2, 2008


And--I can't believe it--I neglected to mention why I'm even MORE anxious to finish rewriting this manuscript. Now it's not just my critique group waiting to see it: it placed first in the PPWC contest, children's division, and the VIP judge has asked to take a look at it!!!

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On Rewriting...

I sat down two days ago to put a lick and polish on Juggling the Keystone chapter 10--and ended up rewriting Chapter 8 instead. Rewriting as in ten pages of completely new pink and purple glitter pen text.

Is the new Chapter 8 better? Definitely. I have a much clearer turning point now (although now that I think about it, I'm not sure if it's turning point #1 or #2...) But this is why I have such a hard time predicting my rewriting time. Rewriting chapter 10 requires that I re-read chapters 8 and 9, to get into the flow and voice; and that makes me realize that Chirp needs a clear change of direction in Chapter 8; and then I notice that I need a really great dragon description and, oh yes, I need to add some sensory details to the scene....and probably none of that makes sense if you don't know the story!

It's a weird, circular process. Sometimes I love it; sometimes, rewriting grinds to a stop and I wonder if I'll ever get through. But I know this: the book is getting a lot better! It's turning into something I might love.

:) Cheryl

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