Eclectic author in it for the thrill

By Faran Fagen

When he began writing “Painted Beauty,” Mark Adduci knew he wanted the antagonist to be a serial killer. He began by researching everything he could get his hands on about the psychology of serial killers.
Just a day in the office for this author of thrillers from Royal Palm Beach.
“I’m an organic writer, meaning I don’t write from an outline and I have no idea where the book will go or how it will end when I start,” Aducci said. “The rest of ‘Painted Beauty,’ like all of my novels, happened because that’s where the characters took me.”
Adduci, writing under the name J.M. LeDuc, is a native Bostonian, who moved to South Florida in 1985. He’s a proud member of the prestigious International Thriller Writers (ITW) as well as the Florida Writers Association (FWA).
His mother, who loved the written word, passed that passion on to him. It is in her maiden name he writes. J.M. LeDuc’s first novel, “Cursed Blessing,” won a Royal Palm Literary Award in 2008.
Since then, he’s written a titillating plethora of thrillers, including “Cornerstone,” which became a No. 1 best-seller on Amazon in November 2015. “Spirits Collide,” the second book in “The Kiche Chronicles,” will be released in January 2018.
As a fiction writer, Adduci’s main objective is to entertain readers. But he also hopes they come away having learned something.
“Most of my novels have a social issue at their core,” Adduci said. “I never want to hit the reader over the head with the issue, but I think it’s important to have a thread of truth, whether it be historical or contemporary, weaving its way through the fabric of the story.”
Adduci always loved to read thrillers, which led them to his genre. He credits the many writing critique groups he’s come across in Palm Beach County, as well as writing conferences, to honing his craft.
He’s on the board of directors for the Cream Literary Alliance, a group of writers from varied genres whose primary focus is to bring literary awareness to South Florida.
He’s grateful for the support of his wife, Sherri, and daughter, Chelsea.
As far as his day job, Aducci, who practiced as a chiropractic physician in Boca Raton for 27 years, is now the Assistant Academic Dean at the Academy for Nursing and Health Occupations in West Palm Beach.
“Research shows that those types of professions are mainly left-brained, whereas writing, or any of the arts, tends to be a right-brained activity. I think keeping both sides
For more, visit his website at maa0043.wixsite.com/jmleduc.
Q & A
Who is your hero?
In my personal life, my mother, the original J.M. LeDuc. I write under her maiden name. I would also add my wife and daughter. They are all remarkable women.
What is your favorite movie?
I like cheesy movies. My wife would tell you that it’s “Armageddon” because I’ve seen it so many times. I would say, “Eddie and the Cruisers.” It’s just one of those films that left a lasting impression on me.
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy going to the gym, but most of the time, if I’m not writing, I’m reading. I love to read.
What do you do to get away or take a break?
My wife and I love to take cruises, although it’s been a while. It’s the only vacation I know where you can actually escape real life for a few days and do as much or as little as you like. We also like to visit historical cities. In my adult years, I’ve become an avid history buff.
What’s your favorite author/book and why?
Overall, it would be a toss-up between Dostoevsky (historical) and R.J. Ellory (current). Dostoevsky for his brilliant portrayal of the psychological thriller in “Crime and Punishment”; Ellory for his ability to write riveting thrillers with a literary, almost poetic structure. I love all his books, but “A Simple Act of Violence” is probably my favorite.
If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?
I’ll answer it in two parts. Dinner with Jesus. I want to see unconditional love in action. Drinks with Hemmingway. I just think that would be an amazing conversation.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Never give up on my dreams. In today’s world, it’s easy to give in to mediocrity, or to give up on your dreams. I’m still striving to make mine a reality, but that’s what makes waking up each day invigorating.
What event in history would you have liked to witness?
I would have liked to have witnessed the building of the pyramids and I wish I could have walked the Library of Alexandria before it was destroyed.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
Spending time with my grandparents. They are immigrants from other countries and were just incredible people. I wish I could go back and ask them all the questions I never did when I was younger.

The truth about writing? Famous authors chime in

By Faran Fagen

Tuesday Tips

For some Tuesday fun, decided to comb the internet for off-the-cuff quotes from famous authors about writing. Some are pretty amazing, others pretty amusing. Enjoy!

1. The first draft of everything is crap.-Ernest Hemingway
2. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass. -David Ogilvy
3. If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy. – Dorothy Parker
4. Notice how many of the Olympic athletes effusively thanked their mothers for their success? “She drove me to my practice at four in the morning,” etc. Writing is not figure skating or skiing. Your mother will not make you a writer. My advice to any young person who wants to write is: leave home. -Paul Theroux
5. I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide. — Harper Lee
6. You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ― Jack London
7. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. — George Orwell
8. There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. ― W. Somerset Maugham
9. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King
10. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman
11. Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die. – Anne Enright
12. If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do. – William Zinsser
13. Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college. – Kurt Vonnegut
14. Prose is architecture, not interior decoration. – Ernest Hemingway
15. Write drunk, edit sober. – Ernest Hemingway
16. Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft. Literally, when I wrote the last page of my first draft of Lincoln’s Melancholy I thought, Oh, shit, now I get the shape of this. But I had wasted years, literally years, writing and re-writing the first third to first half. The old writer’s rule applies: Have the courage to write badly. – Joshua Wolf Shenk
17. 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
18. Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you. ― Neil Gaiman
19. Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. – Oscar Wilde
20. You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ― Ray Bradbury
21. Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously. – Lev Grossman

Eclectic author, a former White House guest, injects fun into writing

By Faran Fagen

No class this Tuesday, so enjoy this profile on local author Shutta Crum:

In 2005, she was invited to read her one of her 15 published children’s books at The White House. She’s also a public speaker, a librarian for 26 years, and taught English and creative writing. Several of her articles about teaching and writing have appeared in professional journals.

For Shutta Crum (pronounced shut-ta, not shoot-a, which she gets a lot), life was “shaped by the written word”. And she couldn’t be more grateful.

“I like sharing my stories with the world,” said the 65-year-old Greenacres resident. “When kids love my books, it makes me feel immortal. Hopefully, the books will continue to exist after I am gone, in the hearts of readers, and in libraries.”

Crum’s schedule is full of school and library visits as well as book festivals, and writing workshops for all ages. She’s done free talks for the schools her grandchildren attend in Palm Beach County (Crum has two children and four grandchildren). Her schedule and history can be found at her website, www.shutta.com.

On Feb. 18, she spoke at the West Boynton Beach Library as part of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and illustrators) monthly author series.

Crum’s workshop, titled “Sound, Shape, Sense: The Work of our Words”, reviewed and discussed techniques that can be used in any genre or format (verse or prose).

Crum feels storytelling is in her blood. Born in the mountains of Kentucky, telling “whoppers” and listening to tall tales long into the night was part of her Appalachian heritage.

“In those dark and scrawny hollers I’d cling to my father’s tall legs and stare wide-eyed as I listened to the hair-raising tales my relatives told.”

Her journey reached its peak when she was invited to the White House’s Easter Egg Roll.

Crum met a number of George Bush’s cabinet. Unfortunately, there was a lightning storm on Easter that year. Although there were many families waiting in the rain, the festivities for that morning were cancelled, so she did not actually get a chance to read her book, Bravest of the Brave, to the crowds.

But in her vast career, Crum has reached a multitude of families through her writing. Her latest, William and the Witch’s Riddle, is about a boy who must solve a witch’s riddle in order to save his family and end a centuries-long curse.

“My books, and the books of others, give young readers a safe space within which to think and to dream,” Crum said. “What I want is for children to come into that space and to see themselves, others, and the wonders that lay before them.”

Q & A:

Who is your hero? My husband, Gerald Clark, always. How he puts up with me, I’ll never understand.

What is your favorite movie? I’m not sure I have an absolute favorite movie. But two of the top ones are: “Young Frankenstein” and “Raising Arizona”. Both are dark, but over-the-top fun. Similar to many of the books I like to read.

What’s your favorite author/book and why? As a librarian, an avid reader and a writer, I have a ton of favorite books—at many different reading levels. So I will only say that right now I am in love with two 2016 picture books; “Frank and Lucky Get Schooled” by Lynne Rae Perkins, and “I Am a Story” by Dan Yaccarino.

If you could meet any person in history, who would it be and why? As a writer, I’ve often thought about the whole puzzle of Shakespeare. Did he really write those plays, or did someone else? I’d like to solve that riddle. But I suspect he’d be a more boring conversationalist than Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare’s fellow playwright, who has been described as a spy, a brawler and a “rakehell.” Have you ever met a rakehell?

What are your hobbies? I quilt and do other “crafty” things like make tiles. I’m absolutely enamored by color. And I often wish I was, also, an illustrator.

What do you do to get away or take a break? I really don’t need to take a break from writing. I usually write for about three hours a day, three to four days a week. But we do enjoy traveling, hiking, and canoeing around Florida.

Changing my approach at the plate

Freestyle Friday

By Faran Fagen

“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.”
One of my favorite and least favorite quotes (it’s from Captain Picard in a Star Trek episode)
Favorite because it’s true, and least favorite because I usually think of it when I follow the right road but still end up at a dead end.
I think we’ve all been there. Adhered to  the cooking instructions and the cake isn’t fluffy enough. Taken the prescribed medicine and laid low and still sick.
In baseball, when I hit a slump, I change my approach at home plate. Hands higher, knees bent lower. Throw in a leg kick? Sure, try that. Eventually, something clicks and swing gets smooth again.
So this school year (I’m a teacher so my writing tends to cycle through each school year), I’m trying a different approach. And it’s already paying dividends.
I’ve made two major changes to my writing that have sent a current through a revision that stemmed from input I got from editors and agents in 2017.
One comes indirectly from Tuesday colleague Jonathan Rosen, who told me (and stated in several interviews) that the biggest thing he did right before he got published was to sit down and write the funniest book he possibly could. In all his rejections, agents and editors always loved his humor, so he decided to focus on that.
That got me thinking, that I’ve had a similar experience with agents in regards to my baseball scenes and my action scenes.
So I’ve pledged to make sure that each scene is full of action and thrills, whether or not it’s on the baseball diamond.
The other adjustment I made comes from a speech I heard from award-winning author Richard Peck at a conference (miss him). He said that above all else, your aim as a writer is for your words and message to permeate a high school library and find that one student who desperately needs your book to survive.
So I’ve mixed the baseball/action thrills with this teen in need at the forefront as I piece together the heart of the story.
I’ve recently revised the strongest beginning of Strike Zone, and submitted it to a contest.
Whether I win or not, the cool thing about this writing gig is that it forces you to think. About what people find interesting and what young people truly need to feel accepted and understood.
So I guess in that respect, writing’s shaped me into a better person, just like I’ve molded my characters. So maybe I haven’t lost after all.

Giving your reader a grand finale

By Faran Fagen
Tuesday Tips

Last Tuesday, I wrote about strong opening chapters and beginnings.

Since I scored Tuesday Tips for the second straight week, why not close with powerful endings?

Once you reach that moment in your writing when you grasp the essence of your story, the evolution of the characters, what you want your reader to experience, you start to get a feel for the ending as well.

You may not know exactly what the ending will be, but you have an idea. All writing is a series of choices, and the ending is no different.

As you get closer to the turning point and climax, the ending should get firmer in your mind.

The ending should wrap the reader in a bubble that contains all the remaining questions of the novel. It should make the reader feel included and smart – like they just solved a very complex puzzle.

The ending should feel one of a kind – like it’s the only ending this book could possibly have. And it should offer a reward for the reader – sort of a here’s-what-you-win for journeying this far.

You want the reader to think “oh, that’s why this happened.” In that vein, it’s important for the main character to learn and grow and seem transformed in some way. You also want to tie up loose ends so the reader feels satisfied. You want to increase the pace but no tricks or surprises. Tie up loose ends quietly.

In the end, the story should give a sense of wonder that bridges to the real world. Like they just took a nice hot shower before going back to life.

A few of my favorite ending lines:
1. “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you just start missing everybody”. – Catcher in the Rye
2. “And the tree was happy.” – The Giving Tree
3. “Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.” – Dr. Seuss

  • What’s your favorite ending line?

Key to first chapters: Just a taste

Tuesday Tips

by Faran Fagen

They say first impressions are everything.

Well, I don’t know if that’s true, but in writing, it is.

I’m revising, and decided to change the setting of the first chapter – again.

This time, though, I’m bringing in the heavy artillery before I run the bases.

In the past week since my critique mates gave me some keen insight, I’ve sorted through notes and handouts from conferences and classes. Some of my favorites mentors and coaches.

Most notably, the information on first chapters and beginnings. And now, in the spirit of Tuesday Tips, I share the highlights with you:

What scene can best dramatize the main character’s ordinary world, showing a lack that can only be corrected by the inciting event?

This comes from a class with my longtime mentor Joyce Sweeney. This one sentence sums up the importance of painting a picture of the character’s ordinary would, coupled with his or her pressing problem that will engage the reader. And the importance to illustrate these elements early on.

Some other quick tips from Joyce: the main job of the first scene is to make readers want to keep reading, should be lively action and allow for reader to bond with main character.

However, one single tip that sticks out comes from another one of my author idols, Chris Crutcher, who I met at a writing conference.
He told me not to reveal my entire hand at the start of the book and always leave my reader wanting more.
I find when I follow that mantra, it often leads to a strong chapter.

“Your character either needs to want something desperately or to avoid something desperately. She/he must then overcome increasingly difficult obstacles that stand in his/her way in order to reach this goal.” – author Donna Gephart.

From agent/editor Lorin Oberweger: Character agency is paramount at the start of a novel. What makes your character act? What is your character in pursuit of? How is the character describing the setting with their attitude?

Author and writing teacher Marjetta Geerling taught me in a class to create a sense of urgency in the first scene, but never make the stakes too high because you need to be able to raise the stakes as the book goes on.

Author and fellow Tuesday Stacie Ramey gave me some invaluable advice last week – don’t use too many internals in the first chapter because the reader doesn’t know your character well enough yet to care about their deep thoughts.

In researching openings, I reread part of “The Magic Words” by editor Cheryl Klein, who edited some of the Harry Potter Books. She suggests that the author should offer hints, little details, and shafts of light to illuminate the characters and world that you’re about to journey into. And help the reader get anchored within that world.

I was reading a former post by Tuesday buddy Jonathan Rosen, and he talked about the success of his debut book stemming from his decision to make his book as funny as possible (if you ever read Jonathan’s new book, Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, you know humor is his strength).
I decided that I was going to write the most powerful, telling sports action scenes, since agents have told me that’s my strength.

Buy my favorite one-liner about beginnings has to come from Klein. At the end of her chapter on book beginnings, she says:
“Write your first chapter like you’re performing a strip tease, not going to a nude beach.”

Writers, like the rest, need be dexterous and deft

By Faran Fagen

Tuesday Tips

“You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.”
– From “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books of all time.
This time of year, as I set up my classroom, get my kids’ school supplies, and re-assess my writing goals, always tests my time management skills.
Every year, it all works out.
If you feel the same, you’ll enjoy these quotes about juggling and balance from writers, celebrities and other famous folks. See if you can guess who said what. A few of the authors are Benjamin Franklin, Ellen Degeneres and comedian Chris Rock. Enjoy!

“Life is a juggling act with your own emotions. The trick is to always keep something in your hand and something in the air.”

“Juggling and balancing effectively required that we make clear, legacy-driven choices about what we’re trying to keep in the air and how we sequence our movements down the beam. Because the ultimate grade in life is not based on how far and fast we’ve walked the beam or how many things we’ve juggled—it’s based on how much we’ve enjoyed the exercise.”

“Most of us have trouble juggling.
The woman who says she doesn’t is someone whom I admire but have never met.”

“Do three things well, not ten things badly.”

“I’m happy when I’m juggling, but I feel like I’ve gonefrom, like, 3 balls to 10 bowling balls. But, that’s a good problem. I don’t really have a complaint about that.”

“Juggling is sometimes called the art of controlling patterns, controlling patterns in time and space.”

“The fact of the matter is, when I’m on tour,
I’m juggling so hard to keep all the balls in the air that I don’t often get to really enjoy what I’m out there doing.”

“The world cannot be governed without juggling.”

“Some scenes you juggle two balls, some scenes you juggle three balls,
some scenes you can juggle five balls.
The key is always to speak in your own voice.”

“Speak the truth.
That’s Acting 101.
Then you start putting layers on top of that.”

“My grandmother was a Jewish juggler:
she used to worry about six things at once.”

“A jazz musician is a juggler who uses harmonies instead of oranges.”

“Motherhood has relaxed me in many ways.
You learn to deal with crisis.
I’ve become a juggler, I suppose.”

“It’s all a big circus, and nobody who knows me believes I can manage, but sometimes I do.”

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.”

“The world cannot be governed without juggling”

“When I hear people talk about juggling, or the sacrifices they make for their children, I look at them like they’re crazy, because ‘sacrifice’ infers that there was something better to do than being with your children.”

“Juggling is an illusion. … In reality, the balls are being independently caught and thrown in rapid succession. … It is actually task switching.”

“You need not feel guilty about not being able to keep your life perfectly balanced.”

“Juggling everything is too difficult. All you really need to do is catch it before it hits the floor.”

“Writing is one of the few careers for which you essentially train yourself, the other two major ones being juggling and acting.”

“I like being busy and juggling a lot of things at the same time. I get bored easily, so I need to do a lot.”

“I need to recharge creatively, and get off the clock of having to be somewhere just because, and having to keep juggling all these things.”

I’ll leave you with this quote about learning from mistakes. One of my favorites:
“Our wisdom comes from our experience, and our experience comes from our foolishness”-Sasha Guitry

Strongest writer warriors: Patience, time

By Faran Fagen
Most Tuesday Tips, we bombard you with craft and publishing advice.
Thought I’d change it up this week and offer some famous words on patience.
In every facet of writing and publishing, our tribe has to rely on patience. Patience to find just the right word, or pacing in our work in progress. Patience to connect with the right agent or publisher.
In this spirit, I combed the internet for some well-known quotes on patience. Hope you find these helpful. You may even recognize some of them (there’s some Emerson, Ben Franklin, Tolstoy, even one from Winnie the Pooh). Have fun trying to think of the author of any of these words:

“A moment of patience in a moment of anger saves a thousand moments of regret.”
“The trees that grow slower bear the greatest fruit.”
“Don’t lose hope, just lose your ego with work and patience.”
“Good things come to those who wait, Better things come to those who try.”
“The hardest tests in life is the patience to wait for the right moment.”
“Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.”
“Patience and silence are two powerful energies. Patience makes you mentally strong, silence makes you emotionally strong.”
“Be patient. Good things come to those who wait.”
“It is very strange that the years teach us patience – that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.”
“Inner peace can be seen as the ultimate benefit of practicing patience.”
“Patience and self-restraint strengthen you. Impatience and self-indulgence weaken you.
Patience is learned through waiting.”
“Be positive, patient and persistent.”
“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”
Patience, grasshopper,” said Maia. “Good things come to those who wait.”
“I always thought that was ‘Good things come to those who do the wave,'” said Simon. “No wonder I’ve been so confused all my life.”
“Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.”
“The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter.”
“There are times to stay put, and what you want will come to you, and there are times to go out into the world and find such a thing for yourself.”
“He that can have patience can have what he will.”
“Patience is a conquering virtue.”
“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”
“Patience Is Not the Ability to Wait: Patience is not the ability to wait. Patience is to be calm no matter what happens, constantly take action to turn it to positive growth opportunities, and have faith to believe that it will all work out in the end while you are waiting.”
“The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.”
“Why is patience so important? Because it makes us pay attention.”
“A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”
“There’s no advantage to hurrying through life.”
“Persistence. Perfection. Patience. Power. Prioritize your passion. It keeps you sane.”

Teens pit Harry Potter vs. Mockingjay at library workshop

Friday Freestyle By Faran Fagen

Identifying with the main character.
Resourcefulness.
Persistence.
Kindness.
These were some of the character traits listed by teens as part of a writing exercise at Thursday’s summer workshop at the Alvin Sherman Library at Nova Southeastern University in Davie.
The exercises began with the group of teens listing a character trait from their favorite fairy tale.
Then, to keep them on their toes, writers Jonathan Rosen and Faran Fagen had the teens do a short story with a twist: rewrite the fairy tale with a main character as the opposite gender.
What resulted was a male Cinderella called Cinder, a merman Ariel and a female Beast from Beauty and the Beast.
The teen series concluded with Jonathan and Faran. Four other pairs of authors and aspiring writers gave workshops through June and July in the second annual series at the library.
On Thursday, teens also read their impromptu work on several writing exercises from Jonathan.
An alphabet game had the teens pair up and write a scene, solely in dialogue, with each sentence beginning with a letter of the alphabet in succession (A-Z).
Teens munched on cookies, candy and soda. Laughter filled the room as the kids struggled with some of the difficult letters like Q.
The workshop culminated in a contest. The group was split in half, and together picked a main character to praise.
After 10 minutes, a spokesman had to prove to the judges which main character was more compelling.
It was Hermione Granger versus Katniss Everdeen. Both spokespeople used several examples from their novels, and pointed out details (Katniss’s loyalty to her sister Prim for instance) that proved the likability of the characters.
In the end, it was a tie, and both groups got prizes.
A question and answer session concluded the final workshop.
One teen asked Jonathan how long it took him to write “Night of the Cuddle Bunnies”, his debut novel which releases in August.
He responded about seven months, but added that it was his fourth time writing a book.
We ended with a discussion about the process of writing, and encouraged the group to write as much as they can. And enjoy it from start to finish.

A closing panel takes place next Thursday to wrap up the successful series.

Querying for the soul

Tuesday Tips

Faran Fagen

Recently, I returned to query mode, and as I hit the send button to each agent, I reflected on the evolution of my query letters.

Here are ten tips I picked up over the years.

1. Start off with a hook that illustrates your interest with the agent. If you met the agent or heard them speak at a conference, lead with that. If it’s a referral, lead with that. I usually try to merge my connection with the agent with a tease to my novel (this usually involves a baseball reference for me) 🙂

2. Spell the agent’s name properly. Seems simple, but if you get it wrong, no matter how good your book is, it will get tossed aside. I never fell victim to this blunder, but I have caught this mistake in proofreading my query a few times (phew!).

3. The hook should be one or two sentences and then get right into a brief synopsis. Here, I follow the advice of one of my writing idols, YA guru Chris Crutcher, who told me in an interview that you reveal to your audience just enough so they want more.

4. An agent once told me that the best format for a synopsis should be two meaty paragraphs about 3-4 sentences each, followed by a 1-2 sentence paragraph that serves as a kicker. Since I tried that format, I got more requests, so guessing that formula works.

5. For the part about yourself, another agent said to keep it short and sweet. You list profession(s), any publishing/writing credentials, and any writing organizations like SCBWI.

6. I usually end with thanking them for the opportunity, and depending on submission guidelines, either “manuscript attached for your convenience”, or “manuscript available by request”.

7. Check all spelling and grammar before sending. I usually read each query three times once it’s finished before I send.

8. Learned this one from my mentor Joyce Sweeney: Send out queries in batches of five. Easier to keep track of so you can follow-up.

9. Research the agent before querying. Some agents are only open to submissions at certain times or have certain requirements.

10. My mom has a phrase: “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.” Querying can get monotonous, so try having fun by spicing up your hook or adding a cool teaser to your synopsis. I know that’s helped me stay in the batter’s box over the years.

Hope these tips are helpful, and best of luck to you on your publishing journey.