Discover Pitch Wars by YA author Brenda Drake

"Alone we can do so little; together, we can do so much." Helen Keller
Our chapter of the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators had the honor of welcoming New York Times bestselling YA author Brenda Drake for our August ShopTalk meeting. Brenda is the founder of Pitch Wars, Pitch Madness, and #PitMad. In 2012 the idea came to her while watching an episode of "Cupcake Wars" on TV. On the Pitch Wars’ website, Brenda writes, “["Cupcake Wars" is] a show where bakers have an assistant help them prepare the best cupcakes possible for a round of judges. While watching all the yummy creations come together, I thought it would be great to have a publishing contest where agented/published authors, those who are a few steps ahead, could mentor authors’ full manuscripts and guide them through the publishing trenches.” But even before the "Cupcake Wars," Brenda started her first contest in 2010, described on the website as “Pitch Wars . . . a legacy,” which developed into the contest called “Pitch Madness.”
Today, Pitch Wars is a mentoring program for Middle Grade, Young Adults, New Adult or Adult manuscripts, described on the website:“where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions on how to make the manuscript shine for an agent showcase. Pitch Wars is open to completed and polished full-length fiction manuscripts only. The mentor also helps edit their mentee’s pitch for the contest and their query letter for submitting to agents.”

Pitch Wars has developed into a community of authors, editors, agents and more who come together to help each other by offering advice, with the eventual goal of publication. One of the authors in our SCBWI chapter found her critique partners in the community. After participating in the mentorship program, the idea for her second book came to her fast. And she says, the information you learn will stay with you.

How Can You Participate?
•    Do your research. Study the Pitch Wars website. Begin on the page, “New? Start Here.” This page offers step-by-step instructions on how to get involved, how to find a mentor, to prepare your submission, submit and join social media. Also, the page provides the Pitch Wars schedule.
•    Click on “About #PitMad,” which is a pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their completed polished and unpublished manuscripts. All genres are welcomed. Agents and editors make requests by liking/favoriting the tweeted pitch. Every unagented writer is welcome to pitch. All genres/categories are welcomed. #PitMad occurs quarterly and upcoming dates are posted.
•    Go to the Pitch Wars Blog to learn more about the Pitch Madness contests.

Take a few moments and visit Brenda’s website,, take the “Library Jumpers Mystik World Tour,” and check out her other books in a second series, “The Fated;” and her latest standalone book, dubbed “a fast-paced romantic adventure” by Kirkus Review, “Analiese Rising.” One peek at Amazon Reviewers for Thief of Lies, the first book in the Library Jumpers series tells it all: “This has to be one of my all-time favorite fantasy books!” and “Conceptually, this book (series) is brilliant.”
Image courtesy of:
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter and is working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

805 Writers Conference in November 2019

What's better than having a working vacation?

805 Writers Conference will be back on the beach at Mandalay Beach Resort in Oxnard Shores on November 2nd and 3rd.

There's only a few days left for early discount registration, so if you think you'd like to attend, sign up now!

With an overwhelmed market, authors need all the help they can get. This conference offers writing workshops, like "How to Reboot Your Book" with our own Carolyn Howard-Johnson, and "The Essentials of Characters" with Toni Lopopolo.

They'll also be lots on self-publishing and marketing books.

All the tools an author needs to write and sell books!

For more details and a registration link, visit:


Platform, Brand and You

What does it take to reach your audience and promote your writing?  Your Platform, your Branding, and your Website

Your Platform and your brand, presented via your website, tell your readers who you are and what you are about. These three, closely aligned will present a consistent message. Readers will return often to ask; “What do they have for me today?” “What more can I do to build my writing business?”

What is Platform?
Your Platform is useful if you are a blogger writing essays, articles, or books. Our success requires visibility, thus we must communicate with our readers. Work to make your message clear and valuable, fostering trust. As for me, I want people to know where I am, what I offer in the way of writing craft, and the pieces I’m working on. How do they connect with me? My Website.

OK, so what is my Brand?
You Are! You are your brand. We build brands through words, images and actions—your actions. Your brand is your promise, so deliver. Be consistent. Know who you are writing for and write to resonate with them. Make sure you send the same message through your words, images and actions. You are establishing an ongoing relationship.

Your writing is your business. Agents represent brands, publishers work with brands, readers buy brands, and companies hire brands. Develop your brand—it’s a strategic business practice.  Newbie’s: it’s not too early to start developing your brand. Get started; people are watching.

How do I get my message out to my readership?

  • Always be authentic, be personal and professional.
  • Provide valuable information; you will build authority in your niche, through communication.
  • Announce your website and purpose on social media sites.
  • When you post to your site, do the same on your social media pages and provide a link to your website.
  • Build an email list by offering subscriptions on your website and send out newsletters.
  • Invite Guests who will contribute to your message by sending you articles to post.
  • Provide added value resources.
  • Take advantage of speaking engagements.
  • Offer on-line courses, webinars and podcasts.

Add value - it’s the best path to grow your readership and promote your work.
 Grow Content = Successful Marketing
Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.

Visit her web-blog:
Facebook at: Deborah Lyn Stanley, Writer

Everyone Starts Small So Get Started

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

When I talk with would-be book authors about starting an email newsletter or an ezine, I often hear, “No one will be interested in my newsletter and my list will be so small.” Or “What in the world will I write about or use to fill the newsletter (or starting a blog)?” Here’s the truth of the matter: everyone starts small. When you start any publication, you put yourself, your spouse and a few close friends to pad your newsletter list and get it going.

The key is to start and then consistently put out your newsletter. It doesn’t have to be often but it does have to be consistent and continually grow. Many people talk about writing and even repeatedly go to writers conferences, but the ones who succeed are the ones who continue to grow in their craft--and they consistently write. They write for magazines and they write fiction and nonfiction but they keep working at their writing.

I’m suggesting you can do the same thing when it comes to growing a newsletter. Over fifteen years ago, I started Right-Writing News I had less than 50 subscribers. Today I have thousands of subscribers and this list continues to grow. Yes, I’ve had a few people unsubscribe but that happens for many reasons and some of them have even unsubscribed then returned. It’s a free newsletter and I’ve produced 54 issues. If you look at the newsletter, I don’t write all of it but get articles from my friends and those articles promote their books and other work. You can do the same with your newsletter. It doesn’t have to be as much work as it appears. I have an  inexpensive Ebook to get you started called My List Building Tycoon. Newsletters, blogs or a book project or any type of consistent writing project takes work. Just keep the big picture in mind and take the plunge. If you struggle to get a publisher’s attention, a newsletter is one means to gain their interest.

New York Times bestselling romance novelist, Debbie Macomber continues to grow her newsletter list and use it. This Christian writer often uses her newsletter to reach her fans to tell them about her newest book plus promote a 20-city tour. Publishers Weekly wrote about a Chicago signing where fans lined up for more than two hours to meet her. Then the magazine says, “Many attendees learned about the signings through e-mails from Macomber. At every appearance, she invites readers to join her e-mail list--already over 90,000 names. Mira reports 480,000 copies in print (of Twenty Wishes).” Macomber has established a personal connection to her audience.

The value of your list and that direct connection to the author will be evident in your book proposal and pitches to publishers. It will pay off. Are you struggling to get a publisher’s attention? Whether you are a first time author or a much published author, I encourage you to build your newsletter audience and communicate with them on a regular basis.

Years ago when I was a literary agent, I sold a book project to Harvest House Publishers. This author has a newsletter list with 10,000 people. He travels the world and teaches but collected this database of people and regularly communicated with them. The publisher could see potential book sales because this author was connected with his audience. He’s now published several books with the same publisher.

A newsletter does not have to consume hours of your time or attention. You do need to send it on a regular basis. I encourage you to imagine yourself as a magazine editor. Collect stories from others and write your own stories on a topic—and build your audience through your newsletter.

As you take action, you will become a more proactive author and increase your visibility in the marketplace. Do you have an email list and use it consistently? Let me know in the comments below.


With an email list, everyone starts small so get started. Get insights and encouragement in this article. (ClickToTweet)


W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  One of his books for writers is Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success. One of Terry's most popular free ebooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. He lives in Colorado and has over 205,000 twitter followers 

Market Research--Horror Tree

For those of you looking for markets to submit your fiction to, especially if you write horror or other speculative genres, here's a resource for you:

Horror Tree  (

It's a blog that includes various types of posts, including interviews with authors.  

I like it for its postings of magazines accepting submissions.  One thing I really appreciate is how clearly it outlines the pay structure (or lack thereof).  Other pertinent information (deadlines, what they're looking for, word count, etc) is also very clear.  It's a great resource.  On the left, you can also narrow your search.  

If you're a writer of speculative fiction, I challenge you to go check this out and submit at least one story to a magazine you find here.

Melinda Brasher's fiction and travel writing appear most recently in Hippocampus (May/June), Leading Edge (Volume 73) and Deep Magic (Spring 2019).  Her newest non-fiction book, Hiking Alaska from Cruise Ports is available on Amazon.    

She loves hiking and taking photographs of nature's small miracles.  

Visit her online at

5 Good Reasons to Write Short Stories

If you’re a person who wants to write a novel, good for you.

But did you know that many famous authors got their start writing short stories?

Stephen King, Mark Twain, and Ernest Hemingway started their writing careers with short stories.

You might want to try this route, too, because there are loads of reasons you should be writing short stories.

Here are just a few:

1. Writing short stories will help you discover and learn more about the kind of writing you really enjoy.

You can try different genres to see which ones you enjoy the most.

You can also find out if you prefer writing in 1st person or 3rd person.

2. Writing short stories will help you become a better writer.

Short stories require you to write “tight” since they have fewer words than novels.

And when you write short stories in specific genres you get better and better at writing within these genres.

You also gain more skill with each of the story elements.

3. Writing short stories requires less of a commitment in terms of time and energy than novels.

Maybe you don’t have long stretches of time to work on a novel, but you can write a little every day or a little a few days a week.

You can easily complete a short story every month without committing to months of work.

4. Writing short stories can help you earn income and also develop a readership.

When you learn to write “marketable” short stories, and you understand which markets are best for your stories, you can start selling your stories to these markets.

You might also decide to turn your stories into Kindle Singles and start your own little publishing empire!

Either way, you’ll gain visibility as a writer and start building your readership.

5. Writing short stories allows you to develop many ideas in a short amount of time.

Most writers have all sorts of ideas.

So many ideas, in fact, that they never develop them all.

If you write just one short story each month, by the end of a year, you’ll have developed 12 ideas into finished pieces.

And by the time you’ve written 12 marketable short stories, your writing skills will have improved a great deal, and you’ll probably be ready to start writing that novel you’ve been wanting to write.

If you need a little help starting a short story, accept our free Cooking Up a Short Story Challenge at, and you’ll get four weeks worth of tips, lessons, and resources so you write a “marketable” short story in just one month.

Try it!

For more tips and resources to help you become a better writer, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge.

Suzanne Lieurance is the author of over 35 published books, a writing coach, and editor at

Branding Checkup

Branding Checkup

No matter what your business, branding is essential. Your name, your theme, your visuals. It's what sets you apart, so prospects, clients, your audience, fans, etc. can easily identify who you are and what you do.

Perhaps the most important part of your brand is you: your personality, expertise, and your niche. When you take the time to plan and create your elements, and add your authentic self in the mix, it's a recipe for branding success.

If you can't remember the last time you did a branding checkup, it's likely way overdue. You don't necessarily need to change or update anything. However, it never hurts to touch base with yourself, in case it's time for minor changes, a pivot, or a complete overhaul.

Your Brand Elements

Your brand is composed of numerous areas - some are tangible, while others are just part of your businesses model. 

Business Name: Your business name should be consistent with your blog name, podcast, and any other content you create to promote your business.

Mission Statement: Who you are plus what you do encompass your mission statement. Does your business still reflect your mission? Does your mission reflect your business? Or is it time to make adjustments?

Tagline: Your tagline is a simplified, catchy version of your mission simplified. Think of it as a touchstone for all of your potential business activities.

Logo: Whether your logo is an image or stylized text, it should be a reflection of your brand. A modern company vs tech vs financial services vs creative industry will all have different approaches to logo. 

Fonts: See notes on logo.

Colors: Like logos and fonts, your brand colors should be consistent ... and all go together. 

Imagery: Branded images range from your website and blog images to your social media backgrounds and post templates. Use the same type of image - for instance, all illustrations or all modern photographs - throughout. And don't forget to incorporate your logo, especially when it comes to social media headers and shareable blog posts.

When you evaluate your branding, remember consistency is key. You want all of your personas, links, social media accounts to connect to you and to each other. 

Follow this simple rule: "Be yourself - your brand - everywhere." And that's really all there is to it!

For more on Branding, read the #GoalChat recap on the topic.

* * *

How important is branding? What other elements do you incorporate in your branding? And how do you set yourself apart? Please share in the comments.

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Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of The D*E*B Method: Goal Setting Simplified and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. Like the Write On Online Facebook Page and join the Facebook Group.  Debra is the author of Your Goal Guide, being released by Mango in January 2020, as well as Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages. She is host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat and the Guided Goals Podcast, and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

The Fine Art of Asking for Reviews, Blurbs, and Anything Else

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Excerpted and Adapted from the third in the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career

To find even more support for your book or your career, we often need to get more comfortable with asking. You can put your reporter’s hat on and ask—tactfully—questions that will help your career or for favors that will help you expand your base (including reviews, blurbs, advice, etc.). Make the point that your contact’s answer or help is a gift to you, and that you would be pleased to reciprocate when the need arises. Try some of these possibilities:

•    Ask fellow attendees at writers’ or other conferences.

•    Ask directors of conferences if they offer a review exchange or provide an area where you can distribute fliers or sell your books. If the answer, is no, ask if they have other suggestions or know of other resources that might help you.

•    Ask instructors and presenters if they have a list of pertinent resources or know where you can find one.

•    When you’re on the Web, look at the resource pages of the Websites owned by bloggers and other online entities to glean ideas and help. Use the contact feature to ask questions or send queries.

•    Think about classes you have taken. The instructors may have a policy against reviewing students’ work but may be a resource for other needs; , ditto for your fellow students. (I hope you would try to do the same for them!)

•    Ask members of your critique groups or business/professional organizations.

•    When you read, make a note of books and their authors, columnists, experts in your field. Almost all magazines, newspapers and journals list publishers, editors, columnists, etc. and you might be surprised at how many might say “yes” to a request for a blurb or a mention of your service or book as a resource.


This little how-to article was extracted and adapted from my giant (415 pages) of How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career third in the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers by Carolyn Howard-Johnson. There is just so much to know about putting reviews to work for your book and endorsements (for your book or business!) Learn more about my books for writers and visit my free Writers’ Resources pages at It’s also easy to use my review blog. Just follow the submission guidelines in the left column at

Want to Self-Publish a Rhyming Children’s Book? Read This First

As a children's ghostwriter I deal with lots of new ‘authors.’ One scenario I come across now and then is when someone sends me a story with rhyme in it. And, it seems lately I'm getting more clients who try to rhyme their drafts.

When this happens, it’s never done right and it’s my job to guide these authors.

I recently received two such manuscripts. One had rhyming here and there throughout the story. The other rhymed every other line.

Unfortunately, some of the rhyming words were forced. What this means is to make two words rhyme, the sentence is put together awkwardly (unnaturally) or one of the rhyming words is used unnaturally just to make it rhyme.

Two examples of awkward rhyme is:
Whenever I go to the park,
I run around and sing like a lark.

The forced rhyme below is from The Turtles’ “Happy Together” (1967):
"So happy together. And how is the weather?"

Notice the unnatural way these sentences sound.  They don’t make sense. It’s easy to see that they’re put together simply to rhyme the last two words. This causes the reader to pause. Pausing is never a good thing, especially in children’s books.

Along with causing the young reader to pause, 'bad' rhyme can even cause confusion
When a child gets the rhyme hook, she will be anticipating that rhythm and pattern throughout the story. At the first spot when it’s not there, you’ve caused a PAUSE. And, if you’ve got rhyme awkwardly here and there, you’ve lost the focus of the story. You’ve lost the message you were trying to convey.

You never-ever want to cause a pause or confusion in a story, especially a children’s story.

But, what if you REALLY want to rhyme?

Below is a slightly more natural way to do this:

Now it’s time to close your eyes my dear. (8 syllables)
Beside you lies your favorite bear. (8 syllables if you if you say favorite as fav-rit)
(Taken from “Days End Lullaby.”)

Keep in mind that even this verse has its problems. For one thing, ‘favorite’ is used with two syllables in that verse: fav rit. Technically, ‘favorite’ has three syllables: fav or ite.

So, you can see that while getting two words to rhyme isn’t that difficult, there’s lots more involved in rhyming ‘right.’

The bare-bottom elements of children’s rhyme:

•    Each sentence needs to be relevant to the story and move the story forward.
•    There needs to be a continuing rhythm or beat to the sentences. This has to do with the stressed and unstressed syllables of each word used.
•    There needs to be a pattern throughout the story.
•    It should be written without forcing words – without using unnatural sounding sentences or unnatural meanings.
•    And, it should all be wrapped up in a great story.

Bottom line.

Taking all this into account, if you’re thinking of writing a rhyming children’s book, read lots and lots of traditionally published rhyming books. And, read those from the major publishers. Analyze how they’re written. Break them down.

You might even take an offline or online course on rhyming for children.

You can also check out Dori Chaconas’ website. She has an example of a syllable template you can use. Find it at: Icing the Cake (it’s at the bottom of the page).

Rhyming can be fun and kids LOVE it, but please take care to do it right.


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children.

And, get your copy of Walking Through Walls (a middle-grade fantasy adventure set in 16th century China. Honored with the Children’s Literary Classics Silver Award.


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