Tag Archives: RMFW

Go to it! (Pursue what makes you come alive!)

I read the most touching article last week. Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, a well known children’s author and filmmaker. It was titled, “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” It was written along the lines of a match.com profile, and it described the charms, kindnesses, and deep expressions of love her husband had shown her over their 26-year marriage.

Eight days later, Amy, 51, would pass away from ovarian cancer.

Tragic, yes, but what I discovered about Amy after reading the article made me think of my RMFW friends, and the joys and challenges inherent with the creative path we’ve all chosen.

One of Amy’s tenets was included in her obituary. “I tend to believe whatever you decide to look for you will find, whatever you beckon will eventually beckon you,” she said during a 2012 TED talk.

I watched that TED talk and her message inspired me, so I am sharing it with you.

Amy begins by talking about coincidences such as the proliferation of “7” in our lives—seven days in the week, seven colors in the rainbow, seven wonders of the world. Seven music notes. Her TED talk is called “Seven Notes on Life.”

She mentioned walking the beach with her mother-in-law, when she discovered a heart-shaped pebble. Once she had seen that first one, she looked for another, and found many heart-shaped pebbles. Her mother-in-law was astonished, but Amy was not. She had observed many times that we find that which we seek out. “When our eyes are open, there is a subtle shifting of awareness.”

To demonstrate, she told the TED audience that she would imagine that she was speaking to a totally red audience, and once she focused on that, she would see instantly all the red clothing there.

She went through the seven musical notes. “F” stood for, “Figure it out as you go.” We don’t have to have it all mapped out before we embark on something new. Get a good idea, invest in it, and learn and adjust as we go.

These thoughts and others inspired me, but what left the lasting impression—the one that made me feel connected to you, my RMFW friends, was this: All the cell phones, iPads, laptops, and other technical devices create a huge amount of technical “noise” in our lives. All that modern noise demands something from us—a reaction.  Once we turn off the cell phones and all the technical “noise” in our lives, we become disconnected from the chatter, and are left with empty space. And what do we find in that newly empty space?

It is no coincidence, she pointed out, that with the individual letters rearranged, another important word emerges from “reaction.”

REACTION {changes to} ….. CREATION.

She ended the talk with a quote from Howard Thurman:

Ask not what the world needs.

            Ask what makes you come alive.

            And go to it.

What we need is people who have come alive. What, Amy asked, makes you come alive?

Go to it. Move toward what makes you come alive.


A Chicago native and longtime resident, Rosenthal completed more than 30 books, including journals, memoirs and the best-selling picture stories “Uni the Unicorn” and “Duck! Rabbit!” She made short films and YouTube videos, gave TED talks and provided radio commentary for NPR, among others. Her loving optimism will be missed.

Read more: http://www.haaretz.com/us-news/1.777097

The TED talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxWgIccldh4

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Do fiction readers have better social skills?

These guys must have recently read some good fiction novels!(Photo courtesy pixabay.com)

These guys must have recently read some good fiction novels!(Photo courtesy pixabay.com)

I read a fascinating research report from The Wall Street Journal on March 8th. According to a study published by Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, reading fiction can  improve one’s social skills or social cognition.

The Harvard University study involved 16 women and 10 men ages 19 to 26. They underwent MRI scans of their brains while reading excerpts from novels and magazines.

The fiction readers showed enhanced activities in regions associated with reading about people, and such enhanced activity was linked to higher scores on social cognition assessments.

This could explain why I love my fans, my book club discussion groups and writer conferences–because the people are so interesting.

You can read more about the study at http://science.sciencemag.org/content/342/6156/377

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March 14, 2016 · 9:58 am

Agent panel at Colorado Gold – agent tips and secrets

by Janet Lane

RMFW (Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers) annual conference offers a wealth of educational workshops and editor/agent panels to help aspiring writers get published. Go to rmfw.org and click on 'conference' to learn more about next September's conference.

Agents at the RMFW conference this year gave us insight and tips that may change the way you target agents, and when and how you query.

Agents on the panel:

Rachelle Gardner, Wordserve Literary Group

Sara Megibow of the Nelson Literary Agency

Rebecca Strauss of the McIntosh & Otis, Inc. Literary Agency

Sandra Bond of the Sandra Bond Literary Agency

Here’s a peek into the Q&A session.

 Don’t get caught doing this!

When asked what not to do when sending a query, Rachelle Gardner advised that you don’t start with a rhetorical question, or try to be cute. Follow the submission guidelines for that particular agent.

Sara Megibow suggested that you don’t sub in a genre she doesn’t represent.  Write a blurb that will make her want to read the book.  “I want your query letter to sound like the back cover of the novel,” Sara said.

When trying to suggest an audience for your work, Rebecca Strauss suggested you avoid saying, “I’m the next Faulker.”  Instead, try some content comparison with a known author.  Example:  “My work is along the lines of  X Author.” She said it helps to research what the agents represent. Her example:  “I enjoyed Tempest Rising, and my book is similar to that.”  That, Rebecca said, will make her love you.  “Our books are like our children.  If you compliment them you compliment us.”

Does location matter?

Located in New York, Rebecca is in contact by email and phone, but enjoys the convenience of meeting with editors.  “It’s fun to get drinks with them.”  With personal meetings, she feels they open up more about their editorial needs.  She meets with editors once or twice a week.

Sara’s son loves the New York taxicabs. She travels there for business but “I don’t wine and dine editors in New York.  You can live in the North Pole, but what you want to ask, if you are offered representation, is, ‘Will you represent my book and get it sold?’ Not, ‘Do you buy editors beer?’”

Rachelle loves being able to live here and do her job. She sells mainstream fiction to general markets and to Christian publishers. There are four major Christian  publishers in Denver and in Nashville.  She attends conferences and meets editors there. “When I pitch a book, the main thing is will it get read?” she said. “I don’t have any editors ignoring me.  It won’t be based on where I live.  If I were having trouble getting an editor to pay attention to me that would be a problem, but it’s not.”

Sandra noted that agents live all over the place, and editors know that. “Your job is to target the appropriate agent who is right for your book and our job is to target the right editor for your book,” she said.  “It doesn’t matter where we live.  We do also attend many conferences and meet editors, and go to New York and meet with the editors when we need to.  I have specific editors with whom I want to meet.  But I’m also very good at phone relationships.  Authors, too, are all over the place.  I have authors I haven’t met before.”

 E-publishing – panacea, or the death of publishing?

E-publishing is, they agreed, another format of a book, like an audio book.

We may have fewer printed books, but they’ll never ever go away. Yes, there’ll be lots of e-books, but it’s still a book.

Rachelle noted that everyone in the industry is trying to discover how all who are involved in publishing are going to continue to make money from the written word. We can try to re-invent the wheel every day but we still don’t know the answer to that question.  How much readers will pay for the written word is the new question.

Sara agreed.  “The question is: an author may have 25 rejections and ask, ‘Shall I self-publish?’”  Avoid making an emotionally based decision (To heck with you, I can publish and make my millions without you). Don’t e-publish because you don’t like New York, or don’t like not having control of your career.  “Be careful.”

Rebecca observed that we’re all trying to figure it out every day, trying to guess how we’re going to stay in business, all working hard to get negotiating language in contracts which limits time, where standing royalty rates are in effect and re-evaluate in two years.

Coming next:  bidding wars, age discrimination and surprising insights

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Editor panel reveals how submissions rise out of the slush pile and how to query

(Part two of editor panel news from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s Conference)

by Janet Lane

The editor panel this year featured–

Moshe Feder, Consulting Editor for Tor Books

Latoya Smith, Assistant Editor for Grand Central Publishing

Angela James, Executive Editor of Carina Press (Harlequin digital)

Brian Farrey, Acquiring Editor for Flux, Llewellyn’s Young Adult (YA)

Lindsey Faber, Managing Editor for Samhain Publishing.

How submissions rise out of the slush pile

At Samhain, there’s an agent pile and a slush pile.  “One person logs and sends the sub to an initial reader,” Lindsey said.  “The acquiring editor can make decision independently and doesn’t need a committee. “

At Flux, submissions used to be open to unagented mat’l but it became too overwhelming.  Since March they accept no unagented submissions.  “I prioritize my in-box by what’s I’m looking for, not chronologically,Brian said. He was a book publicist before he became an editor, and this publishing background helps him. “I can put on my publicist hat and present a full package.  I’d love it to always be about the brilliant writing, but this is why I think it will succeed.  I ask myself, ‘How can I sell it if I can’t compare it to anything?’ I have the answers because I know publicity.”

“Our subs hit slush piles for 13 editors,” Angela James said. “We match it to genre and an editor reads it. We do have an acquisition board that includes digital marketing and sales.”   There are eight on the acquisition team.  “We discuss as a team if it’s a book we can get passionately behind.”  She said to think of the process as an  “America Idol” approach of approval.  It’s a go “if two or more people can get behind it, someone on the team who can market and say yes, we can market this book.”

If what Latoya Smith reads is not quite right for her, she passes it along to another reader. If she likes it, she brings it to the editorial board, to either the hard-cover or paperback editor or chief, or to a specific imprint project.  “If I can get them behind me, I can acquire.” Grand Central takes both agented and unagented material.  Every Thursday projects are presented.  And Latoya can’t just love the writing.  “I have to present at least two comparison authors before we can market it.”

Moshe Feder accepts unsolicited subs for Tor, which are read by editorial assistants. The majority of the submissions come from unagented authors.  He often meets writers at sci fi meetings and pitch sessions.  “I’m open to working with new authors.  “It’s not just a question of getting through the acquisition proess, but how I am going to most effectively market this book.  I publish from passion.”

 Nuts and Bolts – How to Query Them

If you wish to submit to Brian Farrey of Flux, you’ll need to have agent representation.  All of the remaining editors accept unagented submissions.  Before submitting, always check the publisher’s website because requirements do vary from publisher to publisher.

Attend conferences, like RMFW’s Colorado Gold, where these gems of information were discovered.  Read articles like these, from RMFW’s Writer newsletter, offered as one of the many benefits of membership in RMFW.

Another tool I find extremely useful is querytracker.net, where you can quickly check an editor’s website and other useful publishing websites and even, if you’re lucky, find interviews that reveal the editor’s current interests and needs.

Now armed with all this information, go forth and create! Write! Polish! And may all of us be blessed with a wealth of opportunity in our quests for publication.

During RMFW’s conference Janet Lane received requests for partials of Traitor’s Moon, her romantic adventure set in 15th century England. Did you receive requests during the conference?  Share your conference success story!



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Colo Gold Conference: Editor panel reveals submissions process

by Janet Lane

RMFW’s conference burst at the seams this year with informative workshops and panels.

For those of you who couldn’t attend, here’s an update.  Enjoy and employ these tips!  –Janet

The editor panel this year featured–

Moshe Feder, Consulting Editor for Tor Books

Latoya Smith, Assistant Editor for Grand Central Publishing

Angela James, Executive Editor of Carina Press (Harlequin digital)

Brian Farrey, Acquiring Editor for Flux, Llewellyn’s Young Adult (YA)

Lindsey Faber, Managing Editor for Samhain Publishing.

Where does your genre fit?

If you write Young Adult (YA), your work will be welcome with Brian Farrey.  He’s looking for YA stories that feature urban fantasy, straight up fantasy, teen romance, and sci fi, but no space opera or high fantasy. He would like to see more realistic books with no fantasy, just teens trying to relate to each other & themselves.

If you write mystery, Carina Press does digital imprints of all genres of adult fiction, so consider querying Angela James when your book is ready to market.  They’re big on mystery among other genres.  Latoya Smith is interested in all adult, commercial fiction.

If your pen produces romance or women’s fiction, your work may find a home with Latoya Smith at Grand Central Publishing.  She’s acquiring romance (mainly paranormal and romantic suspense), women’s fiction, and erotica and African romance, across the board.  Angela James’ Carina Press is also big on romance, as is Lindsey Faber of Samhain.

If Sci Fi’s your genre, do not pass ‘go’ and run directly to the post office (or computer) and send your ready-to-market query to Tom Dougherty of Tor in hard-copy or Angela James at Carina Press, where you can launch your career in digital format.

At the panel, Moshe pointed out that Tor publishes more Sci Fi per year–150 new titles per year—than anyone else.  Their stories run the gamut: epic, high, sociological SF, space opera, military adventure, paranormal romance.  Each of Forge’s three seasons includes 50 sci fi titles and 20 of all other titles.

Have a thriller to market?  Try Carina Press or Grand Central Publishing.

 What they can offer you

As authors, we’re concerned about being lost in the cracks, especially with a debut novel.  Are the publishers too small to afford any promotion?  Will we have to do it all ourselves?  If the publisher is large, are all their promotion dollars used on established authors?  The editors addressed these concerns during the panel.

Latoya Smith mentioned promotional themes and making good use of the online department at Grand Central. “Who are your contacts? How can we combine efforts to make a strong promo effort?”  The author will pay for some of it. “We usually focus efforts on bookmarks, postcards. Most all books get galleys and ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies printed at no cost to the author) to send for blurbs. Some authors go on tour. We offer all of our authors  an on-line blog tour and Twitter parties.” Grand Central also hosts a Forever Fan Page where authors can speak to readers during hour-long book club sessions.

Moshe Feder mentioned Tor’s large PR department.  “Every book has someone in PR who’s associated with it, arranging reviews, interviews, book stores placement.  Tor encourages our authors to participate in the website activities.  They do tour their authors extensively.”  Tor is large, but small, Moshe said.  “We are a family run company who happens to be part of a large corporation.  We work on an informal, friendly basis; no editorial board that has to be run through.  We have strong personal relationships with our authors.”

Lindsey Faber noted they use print, advertising, media, blogs, horror magazines and conference sponsorships to promote their authors.  They do banners and giveaways at Comic Con,  “And we’ve had lots of success with giveaways.” She explained how Samhain offered the first book of a series free for a week which was “hugely successful with many downloads.  Book giveaways are very successful. In a post giveaway week we sold over 2,000 copies.  The second book in the series hit the USA Today best seller list.”

There are advantages to being small.  Flux’s Brian Farrey said they work closely wth authors, doing lots of social media on-line—video streams, Facebook and Twitter.  “We’re a company of 110 years. We target the library market.  We’re all doing the same thing, just with different resources.  Flux prints targeted ARC copy runs of 2,000—more modest runs but more targeted.”  Further, Brian said Flux helps authors understand what they can do so they can have their own voice.  “We educate our authors on proper on-line etiquette.”

“We’re a small press within a larger company,” Angela James said. “We have tools to help you learn how to (promote) yourself because no one’s more passionate about your book than you are. We teach you how to do social media, how to build a web site, and you can take that wherever you may go in your career.  We utilize Net Galley – online digital ARC reviewers, librarians, bookstores – over 30,000 users for review copies.”  Through these resources they are able to reach many people. “Every release gets a release tour.”

Next:  How submissions rise out of the slush pile and how to query.

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WRITER’S CONFERENCE – Top Ten Ways to Prepare for Success!

by Janet Lane

RMFW's 2011 conference starts Friday! Click the balloons to learn about the excellent workshops and attending editors and agents.

Time for conference – exciting!  You may have just begun writing fiction, dancing in the joy that comes with it, or you may be a conference veteran like me with over a decade of attendance under your belt.  Or you may be somewhere in between.

You may have an appointment with an editor or agent.  Along with published authors, they will be mingling with writers at several events – workshops, pitch sessions, panel discussions, and even at our tables during meals.

You may be a contest finalist, heart thumping, wondering if you not only accomplished the significant achievement of reaching the finals, but also won in your genre category.  You may be published, with contests far behind you, wondering how all the drastic changes in the industry will affect your career.

Whatever your circumstances, conference is an opportunity to share and learn.

As we prepare for it, consider ways to take full advantage of the opportunities.  Here are some common conference pitfalls to avoid:

1.  Tame the green-eyed monster. Expressing jealousy, trash-talking or minimizing the accomplishments of that writer who is a finalist in the contest this year, or that writer who just got published, or made a certain best-seller list, because you know your writing is better than his or hers.

2.  Come out of your shell. Fight off the Shyness Dragon and Negativity Dragon!  Don’t let them keep you from mingling, making new friends, sharing and networking about industry news and opportunities that might benefit you.

3.  Squelch your Inner Critic. Face your mirror, give yourself a genuine smile and say, “I can do this!”  If you need more, here are some to speak, loudly and confidently, to silence that ne’er-do-well critic:

▪   I am in control of my own thinking.”

▪   “I think only thoughts that create and fulfill the best in me.”

▪   “My mind is constantly in tune with the positive.”

▪   “I am full of great thoughts and positive ideas.”

▪   “My thoughts are bright, cheerful and enthusiastic.”

▪   “I consciously choose what I think.”

▪   “I always choose thoughts that are most positive and beneficial to me.”

▪   “All of my thoughts create healthiness within me.”

▪   “I remember to think positively all day, every day.”

4.  Know when to speak and when not to.  Conference may inspire dozens of new ideas, but be sure your timing’s right when you wish to share them.  Avoid interrupting a workshop presenter or discussion group because you have very helpful and interesting anecdotes, jokes, research, statistics and/or opinions to share, and you’re so eager to do so that your timing is less than ideal.

5.  Open your mind to new possibilities. Does this sound line you, poking your head in from the hallway and listening to 2 minutes of a workshop and thinking you know all that stuff already, no need to waste your time at that workshop?  Be open to new ideas.  Don’t find yourself sitting in an overstuffed chair in the empty lobby while everyone else is in the workshop rooms visiting, getting to know new writers, authors, industry professionals, and exchanging ideas and knowledge.  Get out!  Meet!  Learn!

6.  Make a list now, before conference begins.  Get your money and editor/agent requests in early, allowing for plenty of time so you can book your most desired professional for a pitch session or workshop. Mark with bold felt-tip ink the workshops you want to attend.  Follow up on your best intentions.  If you think it would be helpful to have business cards when you network with other writers and meet editors and agents, design and print them now so you’ll be ready.  Practice your self-introduction so you’ll be prepared to meet new friends and describe your writing and interests. Familiarize yourself with the conference information packet so you don’t find yourself joining the wrong workshop, or arriving late at a workshop in progress because you don’t know your way around the hotel. If during the year you’ve borrowed books and/or materials from fellow writers, the conference is a convenient place to return them without burning extra time or gas or, worse, keeping your friend’s materials when s/he might need them.

Next up:  the final four tips, including one of the most important tips for conference preparation.


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RMFW’s Broken Links, Mended Lives a finalist in Colo. Book Award

Broken Links, Mended Lives has a special place in my heart. I was one of the editors, and my daughter, Jalena, designed the cover.

I received the most exciting news over the weekend.  Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ third anthology, Broken Links, Mended Lives, has been named a finalist in the Colorado Book Award!  I served as editor for the anthology, along with Susan Smith and Jeanne Stein, talented and dedicated members of RMFW. 

I’m delighted for the authors of this outstanding anthology, and for the top-notch selection committee members who faced no easy project, deciding which to include from among the many excellent short stories submitted.  I’m also pleased for my daughter, Jalena Penaligon, who designed the cover, and for Karen Duvall, who created the book design.  You can read more about the anthology here.

My fingers are crossed for the next step.

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RMFW’s Colo. Gold Contest Open to Entries

My second novel, Emerald Silk, won the Colo. Gold and helped me get my first contract.

RMFW’s Colorado Gold Writing Contest is now OPEN to entries.

I won this contest and caught the eye of my publisher, which led to my first contract, and there are other authors who did the same, including Jessie Wulf and Pamela Nowak.  

Submission consists of the first tenty pages of your manuscript and a synopsis (8-page maximum). 

You may enter in any of the five categories: Mainstream, Mystery, Romance, Action/Thriller,
and Speculative Fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror).
Electronic submissions are now being accepted at www.rmfwcontest.com.

For the Official Rules and Entry Instructions, go to www.rmfwcontest.com.
Enter online. Pay online.  Easy.
Polish. Enter. Get your manuscript in front of an acquiring agent or editor.

Deadline is June 1. I’m sending you good-luck wishes!

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Rocky Mtn Fiction Writer’s Conference

It’s almost here!

One of the nation's best conferences September 11-13

One of the nation's best conferences September 11-13

The last several weeks have brought a whirlwind of activity and preparation for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s annual writer’s conference, to be held this year at the Renaissance Hotel 3801 Quebec, near the former Stapleton Airport.

The Writer of the Year event, part of the pre-conference festivities held on September 3, turned out to be a big success with attendance, prizes and entertainment. Several lucky people won free books by Writer of the Year nominees Kay Bergstrom (writing as Cassie Miles), Pam Nowak, by outgoing Writer of the Year Jeanne Stein, and newly named Writer of the Year Mario Acevedo.  Other very lucky people won breakfast with one of the agents attending this year’s conference (Becca Stumpf, Prospect Agency; Christine Hogrebe of Jane Rotrosen Agency; Emmanuel Alspaugh of Judith Ehrlich Agency; Janet Reid of Fine Print; Jenny Rappaport and Kristin Nelson).  The grand prize drawing was for a free conference, and was awarded amid enthusiastic applause.

I’m one of the editorial co-chairs for Broken Links, Mended Lives, the third anthology released by RMFW Press, so I’ve been very engaged, getting to know the authors and developing promotion related to the book.

The RMFW conference hosts dozens of craft and marketing workshops, as well as a program announcing the winners of the RMFW writing contest.  The official release of Broken Links is scheduled at the Book Signing on Friday, September 11 at 7:30 p.m, where over forty authors are scheduled to sign their novels.

I’ll be presenting two workshops during the conference, one on “Yellow Page Plotting” and another on Twitter and Social Media Marketing.  I’d love to see you at the conference, and at one or both of my workshops, if you can make it.  Hope to see you there!

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Rocky Mtn Fiction Writers Contest now Open for Entries

    Winning the RMFW Colorado Gold Contest helped me catch the attention of an editor who visited the conference and led to my first book contract.

Winning the RMFW Colorado Gold Contest helped me catch the attention of an editor who visited the conference and led to my first book contract.

The 2009 Colorado Gold Writing Contest is now OPEN. Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ annual fiction writing contest is officially open for entries. This is a professionally managed contest with a large stable of experienced, published and multi-published judges.

It also happens to be the contest that led to my first published novel, so I’m thrilled to pass the information on to you. The contest accepts the first twenty pages of your fiction manuscript in the categories of mainstream, mystery, romance, action/thriller and spec fic (science fiction, fantasy, horror).

And new this year, the contest will accept electronic as well as hard-copy submissions, so it’s easier on the contest budget.

Deadline is June 1, 2009.

The Final Round Judges are: Mystery – Charlotte Cook, Editor, Komenar Publishing Speculative Fiction – John Helfers, Editor, 5 Star Publishing Mainstream – Jenny Rappaport, Agent, Rappaport Agency Romance – Becca Stumpf, Agent, Prospect Agency Action/Thriller — To Be Announced

For more information, rules, and an official entry form, go to rmfw.org and click on the Writing Contest link. Enter early, and good luck!

Or if you have other questions about the contest, the conference or RMFW in general, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer any questions.  I’ve been an active member of RMFW for over ten years.

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