A Month of Letters

Hugo Award-winning author and professional puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal started a delightful challenge, during a month-long hiatus from the Internet in 2010, to correspond with her via letter. That has grown to become A Month of Letters, which runs for the whole of February. During the next month, I and the other 6,000 people who’ve signed up to participate will be writing letters, post cards, and doing other creative things and dropping them into the mail.

I love to write longhand — the feel of the paper beneath my fingers, the consideration that goes into inscribing each character — and this gives me a wonderful reason to do so. That’s where you come in. I’m looking for more people to write to — the more the merrier. If you would like to receive a genuine, hand-written letter from yours truly, send me your address. Email me, message me on Twitter or Facebook, or use my contact form.

This is an opportunity to rekindle friendships and make new ones, without the limitations of Twitter or the haste of email. Let’s write!


Adam Israel is a talented writer and a longtime member of AW. He blogs at http://www.adamisrael.com, and you can find him on Facebook and Twitter.

If you’re too shy to write a letter to Adam, but you want to write a letter to someone who really needs one? Maybe you could write a Letter to Noah. — Mac


ETA: Submitomancy fell short of the funding goal, unfortunately, so isn’t going to happen. (Thank you, Zac, for your suggestion that we add a note about the project’s status.)

Guest Post by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley

I first experienced the magical power of recent responses on Absolute Write. I had just started sending out my first novel (now wrapped in lavender-scented tissue paper and trunked) and I discovered the treasure trove of agent information here on the forums. It was like I’d gained entry into a secret club. Suddenly I knew that this agent was a quick responder and that one often gave personal responses and how long the previous person had been waiting for a response. I got great insight on what specific agents were looking for and the type of novels that were getting full requests. And most importantly, I didn’t feel so alone.

When I shifted to short stories, I looked for similar resources. I discovered tracking short stories was a bit more complicated than novel submissions. I ended up with a combination solution: I had a spreadsheet, a website and a piece of software called Sonar3 in order to try to track all of the information that was important to me. When the admins of that website changed their system, I suddenly realised, you know what? I can do better than this.

I started a list of everything I wanted: manuscript data, submission history, market listings, recent responses, contract and payment information for every sale, exclusivity clauses, reprint options… it was a long list. And before I knew it, I was writing a detailed design specification for my perfect system: Submitomancy.

The project needed two things: development funds and a critical mass of users. And yet, I wanted to keep it free. It was an easy decision to start with the crowd-funding model, which would defray development costs and also gain a commitment from a starter group who wanted the service.

If the campaign succeeds, then the core development is out of the way before we start. The free services will encourage users to enter their data in return for a basic tracking service. This will include a basic search of the market listings, submission tracking and average response times per market.

But if you subscribe, you get access to the fun stuff! Lots of reports and data, of course: expanded manuscript tracking, power search, recent responses, market alerts and personalised notifications. But you also get access to social options like profile pages, status updates and badges! Badges might not seem an obvious feature for a submission tracker, I know.  But having been a part of such a powerful community, I wanted to make it easy to share the our successes and struggles with each other.

If there’s enough interest in Submitomancy then I’ll be refining the details with the Early Access subscribers. But the reports and the support can only be as good as the people who take part. That’s why I’m exploring this with you as a no-risk project right now. If you think you’d enjoy being a part of Submitomancy, then please support the campaign and tell your friends.


Thrillerfest 2013!

Dive Into The World of Thrillers at THRILLERFEST

Guest Post, by Alma Katsu 

If you write commercial fiction and are looking for a great writing conference, I recommend you check out the International Thriller Writers (ITW) annual event, ThrillerFest. It’s a four-day extravaganza held every year in early July in New York City, close to the publishing industry to ensure participation by editors and agents as well as lots of published authors. If you’re looking for a way to become part of the mystery and thriller genre, you might find that this is the conference you’ve been waiting for.

There are two things that most writers want when they’re at the pre-publication stage: advice on how to make their stories better, and opportunities to meet the editors and literary agents who will make their dreams come true. Craftfest and Agentfest, part of Thrillerfest, are designed to fill those needs.

At Craftfest, you’ll attend sessions on the craft of writing commercial fiction, taught by bestselling authors and some of the top editors in the field. There aren’t many conferences where you’ll learn about dramatic structure or characterization from Lee Child, John Sandford, Steve Berry, or acclaimed agent Donald Maass. While the line-up of presenters changes from year to year  at Craftfest, you’ll find that every instructor at is of the same high caliber.

There are typically over 50 agents at Agentfest to take your pitches. You can see some of the agents who’ve attended in the past here: if you’re looking to pitch to the top agents representing mystery, thriller and suspense, this is where you’ll find them all in one place. And if you’ve never pitched before, don’t worry, there’s a workshop beforehand to teach you the ropes.

At Thrillerfest, you’ll get two days of multiple tracks of panels and spotlight interviews with the biggest names in the field, all designed to teach you about the business of writing commercial fiction. You’ll find panels with some of the most respected editors from the Big Six Publishers: Neil Nyren, senior vice-president and publisher of Putnam, and Mark Tavani, senior editor at Ballantine Books, have been speakers in past years. There are also workshops on related subjects—everything from martial arts to the espionage business—taught by experts.

One of the best things about Thrillerfest is that you get the opportunity to network with authors of all levels of experience—from long-time bestsellers to novices. At my first Thrillerfest, imagine my surprise when I was joined at breakfast by Erica Spindler and Heather Graham! That’s one of the most amazing things about Thrillerfest: everyone is approachable and open.

And while the opportunity to meet big name authors in your genre is a pretty compelling reason to attend, an even better one is that at Thrillerfest you have the chance to meet writers just like you who will likely go on to be your ally in the industry throughout your career—and I can attest to that myself. I met legal thriller writer Allison Leotta when we sat next to each other on stage for the 2011 Debut Author class and today we’re best buds, calling each other for advice and appearing at events together.

As a matter of fact, that’s why I volunteered to write this guest post for ITW: I’ve gotten a lot from Thrillerfest over the years and I wanted to give something back by spreading the word. If you’ve been looking for a writer’s conference that will open doors for you, you might want to read about a few of Thrillerfest’s success stories:

  • Boyd Morrison, author of THE ROSWELL CONSPIRACY, THE CATALYST, ROGUE WAVE and THE VAULT (Pocket Books)

Are you ready to find out more? Click on the links above to go to the Thrillerfest website; you’ll find everything you need. And if you come to Thrillerfest in July, make sure to look for me and say hello!

Alma Katsu is the author of THE TAKER and THE RECKONING, paranormal thrillers published by Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster. THE TAKER was an ALA Top Ten Debut Novel of 2011 and has rights that have been sold in 15 languages. 

Looking for a 2013 Writing Workshop?

I just got this press release, so I thought I’d pass it along to all of you.


About Odyssey
Since its founding in 1996, Odyssey has become one of the most respected workshops in the fantasy, science fiction, and horror writing community. Odyssey is for developing writers whose work is approaching publication quality and for published writers who want to improve their work. The six-week workshop combines advanced lectures, exercises, extensive writing, and in-depth feedback on student manuscripts. Top authors, editors, and agents have served as guest lecturers, including George R. R. Martin, Harlan Ellison, Jane Yolen, Terry Brooks, Robert J. Sawyer, Ben Bova, Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Hand, Jeff VanderMeer, Donald Maass, Sheila Williams, Shawna McCarthy, Carrie Vaughn, and Dan Simmons. Fifty-eight percent of Odyssey graduates go on to professional publication.

The program is held every summer on Saint Anselm College‘s beautiful campus in Manchester, NH. Saint Anselm is one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the country, dedicated to excellence in education, and its campus provides a peaceful setting and state-of-the-art facilities for Odyssey students. College credit is available upon request.

Jeanne Cavelos, Odyssey’s director and primary instructor, is a best-selling author and a former senior editor at Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing, where she won the World Fantasy Award for her work. As an editor, Cavelos gained a reputation for discovering and nurturing new writers. She provides students with detailed, concrete, constructive critiques of their work. Cavelos said, “I’ve worked with many different writers, and I know that each writer thinks and works differently. We limit attendance at Odyssey to sixteen, so I can become deeply familiar with the work of each student and provide assessments of strengths and weaknesses. I work individually with each student, helping each to find the best writing process for him, suggesting specific tools to target weaknesses, and charting progress over the six weeks.” Her critiques average over 1,200 words, and her handwritten line edits on manuscripts are extensive.

Odyssey class time is split between workshopping sessions and lectures. An advanced, comprehensive curriculum covers the elements of fiction writing in depth. While feedback reveals the weaknesses in students’ manuscripts, lectures teach the tools and techniques necessary to strengthen them.

The workshop runs from June 10 to July 19, 2013. Class meets for four hours in the morning, five days a week. Students spend about eight hours more per day writing and critiquing each other’s work. Prospective students, aged eighteen and up, apply from all over the world. The early action application deadline is JANUARY 31, and the regular admission deadline is APRIL 8. Tuition is $1,920, and housing is $790 for a double room in a campus apartment and $1,580 for a single room.

This year, Odyssey graduate Sara King is sponsoring the Parasite Publications Character Awards to provide financial assistance to three character-based writers wishing to attend. The Parasite Publications Character Awards, three scholarships in the amounts of $1,920 (full tuition), $500, and $300, will be awarded to the three members of the incoming class who are deemed extraordinarily strong character writers, creating powerful, emotional characters that grab the reader and don’t let go.

Meet Our 2013 Writer-in-Residence
Odyssey’s 2013 writer-in-residence, Nancy Holder, is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of adult, young adult, middle grade, and early reader work, both fiction and nonfiction. She has sold approximately 80 novels and 200 short stories, comic books, and essays in various genres. She has taught creative writing classes at the University of California at San Diego, the Maui Writers Retreat and Conference, and other conferences and colleges, and has been on the faculty of the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing for seven years.

Other Guest Lecturers
Lecturers for the 2013 workshop include some of the best teachers in the field: award-winning authors Holly Black, Patricia Bray, Adam-Troy Castro, and Jack Ketchum; and the two-time Hugo Award-winning editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, Sheila Williams.

Odyssey Graduates
Graduates of the Odyssey Writing Workshop have been published in the top fiction magazines and by the top book publishers in the field. Their stories have appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog, Asimov’s, Realms of Fantasy, Weird Tales, Lightspeed, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Clarkesworld. Some of the recent novels published by Odyssey graduates are Kitty Steals the Show by Carrie Vaughn, published by Tor Books; Lies & Omens: A Shadows Inquiries Novel by Lyn Benedict, published by Ace Books; Spellcrossed by Barbara Ashford, published by DAW; Silver by Rhiannon Held, published by Tor Books; and Clean: A Mindspace Investigations Novel by Alex Hughes, published by Roc Books.

Comments from the Class of 2012
“I learned more in six weeks at Odyssey than I did in three years in an MFA program.” – Jessie Robie

“Jeanne is the most thorough and hard-working instructor I’ve ever met. Odyssey has changed me as a writer. I can’t imagine a finer education or experience.” – James Khan

“I was afraid Odyssey would change my writing and take away what made it mine and unique, but I was so wrong. At Odyssey, I developed a sense of control over those gut feelings I used to have—when I sensed something was off but just could not figure out what it was. . . . Odyssey is like a writer paradise. You might not want to change when you get here, but you will. Later, you won’t want to leave, but when you do, you leave with a purpose.” – Jessica May Lin

Other Odyssey Resources and Services
The Odyssey Web site, www.odysseyworkshop.org, offers many resources for writers, including online classes, a critique service, free podcasts, writing and publishing tips, and a monthly blog. Those interested in applying to the workshop should visit the Web site, phone (603) 673-6234, or e-mail jcavelos@sff.net.

Calling Authors

So I’ve had a fabulous email exchange this week with writer Elizabeth West, who has recently started running the author-advertiser program for The-Cheap.net. I asked her to send me a release about a holiday promotion they’re doing, because I thought it might be of interest to a number of you AWers out there looking for good ways to promote your book.

She’s quite generously done so, with permission for me to share it with all of you:

The Piggies are proud to announce Santa Sampler, an ebook sample reading competition for their readers that will provide raw market data back to every author who signs up. And the prizes for the readers are gift cards (so they can hopefully buy books, they already own ereaders).

“Our readers have enjoyed our recent ebook giveaways where they read the sample and answer a trivia question. We are suspending these after September to support the Santa Sampler. The question and answer keeps the giveaways focused on our loyal readers who are part of our community, not every stranger clicking a link to just enter as many giveaways as possible,” said Ms. West.

Each book in the Santa Sampler will have the ebook sample rated on a very simple premise: how likely on a scale of 1-10 would the reader read the rest of the book? Additionally, readers will identify how often they read the book’s genre. The voting part of the promotion runs from September 30, 2012 until November 10, 2012 with $2,000 in gift card prizes for the readers.

After the rating process, the books move into the holiday promotion part of the Santa Sampler. From November 18, 2012 until January 5, 2012, each book will be promoted for one week on The-Cheap.net and in their Facebook pages, and will also be part of special Reindeer Games – activities for the readers to interact with that week’s books.

“We’re really opening up holiday promotions beyond just the Christmas story. Each week has a theme, such as the Naughty List, Villains so Evil, They Aren’t Even Getting a Lump of Coal! That could be thriller books, horror books etc,” said Ms. West. “When I first pitched the idea to our readers, they loved the idea of a community vetted To Be Read list.”

And that’s the last piece of the Santa Sampler, the ebook specific holiday catalogs. Each book, with the best rating information it received, will be featured in a Kindle or Nook in an ebook file. This catalog, or technically an ebook, will be sideloaded by the readers so they can shop The-Cheap.net’s TBR pile right inside their ereader through links.

“Santa Sampler is long tail promotion to get your ebook title familiar to over 23,000 readers. If a reader is an elf, they will likely check out your sample. If they just hang out with us for deals, they’ll see your book during the Reindeer Games or in the catalog. And really the most important part is getting that raw data from the votes on real reader opinions on your book sample, plus find out if you’re appealing to readers across genres,” said Ms. West.

Registration for The-Cheap.net’s Santa Sampler is open now, with limited spots available for $95 and regular priced spots available for $125. This price is for 7 total weeks of promotion, six weeks of voting, one week of promotion during the holiday season. Registrations will close September 25, 2012 or when all 200 spots have sold out.

To view the promotional video that went out to readers, click here.

So you heard it here, AWers! For more information, check out the Santa Sampler Holiday Promotion on The-Cheap.net.

Writers’ Conferences: Are They All They Should Be?

By Jessica McCurdy-Crooks

What is a Writers’ Conference?

This is a gathering of writers, whether amateur or professional, discussing a particular subject or general information about writing, selling a novel, articles or even poetry or fiction readings. There are as many different types of writers’ conferences as there are different types of writers, such as Christian Writers’ Conference, fiction writers’ conferences, conferences for people who write for children — you get the picture. Whether or not they are useful depends on a number of factors. Perceptions and expectations are the deciding factor as to whether or not they are worthwhile. If you attend a conference expecting to sell your novel or get a major contract, then be prepared for some disappointment. Very few attendees at conferences end up selling a story.

Who attends These Conferences?

Attendees vary, from beginners to seasoned, many-time published writers. This coming together of people from such widely different writing backgrounds and experiences can add to the benefits to be derived from attending such a gathering.

Writers’ conference attendees fall into two main groups: students and teachers. Sometimes the lines between both can become blurred. A fellow writer noted that apart from teachers, students fall into three distinct groups, namely:

  • Professionals who are seeking further networking opportunities
  • Serious writers who have not yet been published
  • Those who want to ‘feel’ like writers


What to Wear?

Dress codes vary as widely as these conferences do. For some semi-formal is fine; for most, however, the safe bet is “casual business.” Writer Del Stone is most comfortable in khaki slacks and a polo shirt; I find that a nice shirt and jeans normally go over well. There are dinners that might require that one be dressy, while at meetings something more casual can be worn. Workshops, on the other hand, allow for flexibility in dressing.

Some conferences will provide information on what to bring and wear, so it is a wise move to get brochures on the conferences you plan on attending.

What to Expect

Do keep your expectations realistic — don’t expect to come away as an award-winning writer. Your skill level as a writer will also impact on your experiences at a writers’ conference, especially if it is your first such foray. Marie Stone, a freelance writer from Oregon, noted that as a student, she “missed a lot because [she] was too busy being star-struck.” This happens to many first-timers, and even professionals are not above being dazzled by being in the same location as their heroes. However, try to remain focused on what is happening. How else will you learn?

Expect to work if you intend to get the most from attending. Work, work, work is the order of the day. Be prepared for this by taking along note pads, pencils, pens and other implements that you think you may need. Also, do not shy away from critique sessions — the feedback can help make your career.

Value / Networking Opportunities

The assertion that your expectations are the prime factor in determining “value received” is reiterated again and again by fellow writers, and even by speakers at such conferences. One professional writer, who also speaks at writers’ conferences, noted that “value for money” in terms of writers’ conferences is to some extent dependent on the attendee’s skill level as a writer, and his or her willingness to participate in class discussions.

Other factors that will impact on what you take away with you from these gatherings include:

  • The opportunities that exist for networking with other writers, publishers, editors
  • How “good” the presenters are
  • How keen the students are, as this will make for interesting interactions in critique sessions, etc.

If you will be incurring major expenses, try to find people who have attended this particular conference before and get feedback from them. This can save you from disappointment and feeling that you have been cheated.

Additionally, one can significantly improve his/her collection of writing resources from the many offerings on sale. In the final analysis, though, the true value is your own sense of accomplishment or satisfaction.

The most valuable reward is that of making contacts; these networking opportunities can be just the lead you need to break into a particular market. Do not believe that you only need these contacts with editors and publishers; other writers are just as important as contacts. Many writers have gotten work from being recommended to a publisher from writers they have met at conferences. How to network successfully takes skill and tact. Try to be attentive to what is being said, even if it is not what you want to hear. If you look beyond the words, something useful might be gleaned, or better yet, you can arrange to have further discussions with the speaker. You should leave a conference with e-mail contacts and business cards, but be sure to tell the people that you will be in touch. One last word of advice about networking: be polite — people will remember.

Should you Pitch your Work?

This is the most important question on the mind of most people planning on attending a conference for the first time. The opinions on this vary widely — some writers advise against this, while others emphatically say “yes, yes, yes.” Whether or not to pitch your idea or work will depend on the conference.

Those against feel that opportunities should be used to socialize, so that publishers will be able to associate your face with a name the next time you submit to them. This, they feel, can have a positive effect on the response to your query.

Writer Charles Pekow recommends that while it is possible to pitch one’s work, subtlety should be used. His words of wisdom are to, while socializing, “enquire as to their services, jobs and interests so that you will know if what you have to offer is what they need.”

Some conferences actually have time set aside for this activity, so if it is important to you, select conferences that offer this as part of the package. If in doubt, call to find out. Be prepared; as such, select your best work(s) and write a memo or query to give to the editors/publishers you plan to approach. Having your story/article well thought out will save you wasting both your own time and that of other people. It will also show your professionalism and commitment.

One final word of caution: do not give in to the urge to just approach editors and pitch your work — it can be a major turn-off and presents future obstacles to your landing work with that company. You do not want to build a reputation of being difficult.


Those who get the most from attending writers’ conferences are those individuals who are serious about their craft, and as such are prepared for the conference and know their expectations before attending. One thing is sure– even if you do not get a solid lead to work, the networking opportunities to be resulting from attending are unparalleled.

Jessica McCurdy-Crooks trained as a librarian, but notes that “these days I provide this service only on a part-time basis. I started writing poetry as my first love, but started writing reviews on Jamaican hotels, restaurants, etc. for an online company and found that I actually enjoyed writing.

Clarion Write-A-Thon

Clarion Go For It!

There’s still time!

What is a write-a-thon, anyway? It’s just like a walk-a-thon. But instead of walking, we’re writing, and instead of making pledges per mile, we’re making pledges per word, chapter, or story.

Writers get support, encouragement and motivation, and the option of joining a team with a writing mentor! Those who care about the writers in their life get a way to show their support. And money is raised for a literally fantastic cause — the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. All donations are made through The Clarion Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, EIN #20-3114945.

Everybody wins!

Writing begins officially on June 24, and ends on August 4, same dates as the 2012 Clarion Workshop. Just by signing up, you’ll get the bonus of providing moral support for this summer’s Clarion Workshop students.

This year, there’s something new: Once you have $20 in donations, you’ll have the option of joining a small group of eight Write-a-Thon writers. Each group is mentored by a Clarion Workshop instructor or graduate, ready and waiting with advice and encouragement.

All the details are at http://clarionwriteathon.org/