query letters, Writing

The Writer’s Voice

I’m excited to participate in The Writer’s Voice round one. I’m required to post my query and the first 250 words of the manuscript. The kind and generous hosts, Brenda Drake, Krista Van Dolzer, and friends sponsored this contest.

(Readers, you can leave me a comment. I’m always trying to improve my writing).

Query for Strong Women Grow Here:

Dear Ms. Agent,

The journey to the American dream becomes a nightmare when naive 17-year-old Juana Maria Ivanov runs from her abusive husband who falls on a staircase while chasing her one night. When she returns home, he’s dead, and she is sent to prison.

With no family in the U.S and limited English skills, Juana struggles to retain custody of her baby while trying to convince staff she is innocent of her husband’s death. Correctional staff want Juana to take responsibility for her crime or she will receive a lengthier sentence.

The staff and gang rules confuse her as do the young women in the prison, who grew up different from her own experiences. The adjustment to gangs, drugs, and violence, and the memories of her baby and husband cause frustration and depression.

When Juana begins to hear her dead mother’s voice, this not only haunts her but gives her hope and she finds help for her plight in an unlikely place with unlikely people. In the process, she learns empathy, friendship, and self-responsibility. Themes of family, coming of age, and race are explored.

STRONG WOMEN GROW HERE is a YA novel of 69,000 words. I bring professional knowledge to this debut novel with my 28-year career working with the California Department of Corrections where I began as a correctional counselor. A Room of Her Own Foundation (AROHO) has twice accepted me into their writing retreat and I participated in the Association of Writers Program (AWP) mentor-mentee program. I also am a member of SCBWI. Thank you for your consideration.

First 250 words:

     I didn’t run because I killed him. I ran because I didn’t. The police found Alek dead and said I was to blame, but I’m innocent. I would have done anything to change the events which led me to prison.

     We left Centre Juvenile Hall for the San Bueno Correctional Facility before sunrise. The van chugged down the side streets, through the mist, and sped up the freeway ramp. The cold handcuff on my left wrist rattled against the bottom of the passenger window. Two other girls sat in handcuffs, one behind me, and the other across from me. We looked like goats going to market, tied to the corners of a truck bed.

     Blurred white lights and shadows darted by my window. I couldn’t remember the route if I tried. The van swerved and pitched me forward until the metal handcuff yanked me back into my seat. My free hand flew to the neck of my jumpsuit, where my crucifix used to be. I pressed damp fingers against my mouth. Sour saliva flooded my tongue.

    The tattooed girl, next to me, scrunched up her nose while her lips curled against crooked teeth. She shifted her husky body, leaned her shoulder against the window. Blue-black letters at the bottom of her fleshy neck came into view, spelling WF 13. I’d seen those marks before on the buildings from my seat on the L.A. city buses. They were symbols of gangs and their territories, a reminder to be careful. 

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to see the full list of Round 1 winners, click here. 

Encouragement, Inspiration, poetry, query letters, Writers, Writing, Writing classes, writing conferences, Writing groups, writing tips

Four Secrets to Poetic Prose-Part 2

Secrets-gettyimages.com
Secrets-gettyimages.com

 

I have to tell you, I want to be a better writer.

I have stories to tell the world, and I’m tired of  my seven member critique group being the only ones to read them.

They may be tired of them too.

For almost six years, I’ve been writing stories which became an Adult Contemporary and two YA manuscripts.

I’ve spent the last year sending out queries, synopsis’, revising, and doing it all again. Still, no agent.

If you’re a writer, you might have a similar scenario to tell.

Until that ‘golden’ e-mail or phone call, I need to keep writing and improve what I’ve written.

I will not quit and neither should you.

 

That’s why I look for low cost classes. So many of us can’t afford to get an MFA or attend $400-$600 conferences.

But don’t let high prices stop you from improving your writing.

 

A few days ago, I posted the first two secrets to poetic prose, as described by author and poet, Sonya Sones.

Poetic prose refers to a narrative with some of the technical or literary qualities of poetry such as rhythm, patterned structure, or emotional heightening.

Let’s continue with the last two secrets:

 

3. The Rhythm of Three:

All sound breaks down into some sort of pattern of sounds. The syllables are either unstressed or stressed, pronounced more strongly, which gives us a beat and type of melody. 

In the children’s book, Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger, the entire book is almost all written with a rhythm of three (there are ‘non-three’ lines between the rhythm of three):

When the day is done, he closes his book, combs his beard and puts on his jacket.

He lifts the strand, takes one pearl from it, and closes the chest again. 

Can you hear the rhythm?

 

4. The Use of Trochiac:

Low vowel sounds evoke sadness. Use the ooh, o, um, and ah sounds.

Tell me not in mournful numbers  

Words such as  lost, roam, lunatics, olive, watching, rocking are examples of a trochee.

Lost Dog-gettyimages.com
Lost Dog-gettyimages.com

Ms. Sones gave us a prompt: “My dog is gone,” and gave us five minutes to write a few lines using trochee:

My dog is gone, lost, not loaned,
did he roam, lose his way home?
Does he groan somewhere, all alone?
A romp in the grass, and now he’s gone
Is he far from home?
No nuzzles, no cuddles, no paw raised high
Does he wait, watch for me, all alone?

 

It’s not the best 5 minute poem, but it does sound sad.  Using low vowel sounds is a useful and fairly easy way to express a  mournful or sad scene.

So there it is, four ways to enrich your writing.

Keep looking for courses you can afford, keep reading and happy writing.

 

 

 

" Strenght, Agents, Authors, Books, Encouragement, poetry, poets, Publishing, query letters, Wisdom, Writing

Seven Actions To Take After A Rejection Letter

Debbie Ohi knows.
Debbie Ohi knows.

Rejection letters can knock you on your butt. And that’s okay, it happens, stuff hurts, rejection sucks. But you can’t stay on the floor, rubbing your a**.

1.  Get your butt off the floor and go do something nice for yourself. Take a walk, draw, watch a comedy, play with your kids or pet. This includes eating or drinking-5 minute limit. Put on the timer.

After 30+ ‘thank you, but no thank you’ emails on one manuscript and going on 20 for another, I’ve numbed out when I begin  reading text that begins with “Dear Author.” (As I type, I swear another ‘Dear Author’ email blurb popped up on my screen).

Mona AlvaradoFrazier-Dear Author
Mona AlvaradoFrazier-Dear Author

2. Don’t stuff your feelings. I usually say, “Ah, crap,” or “Pftttt.” Sometimes I whine, “I’m never going to get published….” You can ‘wau-wau’ ‘boo-boo,’ but only for five minutes-again, put on the timer.

3. Think of the ‘no thank you,’ like James Lee Burke (his novels have been made into films):

“Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work.”
—James Lee Burke

I’ve also had many more emails that begin with my actual name and say some nice things before the ‘NO’ comes. The agent tries to soften the blow. Bless his/her little heart. 

4. With each rejection, I file the email in my little folder and then I either re-read the MS, or ask my writing sisters for more critique. Keep trying.

Twice, out of 50+ times, I’ve had what felt like B-12 shots to the heart.

“I’d love to read more, please send the entire manuscript…”

Six weeks later I get another type of shot, one in the butt.

“After careful consideration….Uh, no.” Well that’s not entirely true. One rejection felt like that while the other was thoughtful.

5. If someone gives you specific criticism, regard it as a gift. Let them know you appreciate their comments. 

This agent took the time to explain why she didn’t accept the MS. She supplied some examples, some suggestions, all in a couple of paragraphs. I felt respected, overjoyed, and then grateful.

I shared the agents comments with my writing sisters. They were happy for me. Why? Because I know, we know, that I am much farther along the road to getting an acceptance than I once thought. I’m going to work on those weak areas for the next month or until I get it right.

“An absolutely necessary part of a writer’s equipment, almost as necessary as talent, is the ability to stand up under punishment, both the punishment the world hands out and the punishment he inflicts upon himself.”
—Irwin Shaw

Rejection letters are part of the process of writing. That’s just the way it is, for writers, for everybody. It takes a strong woman/man, a bien chingona to keep writing pass the hill of rejection letters. 

6. Turn your rejection around and see what you can gain. Go get the timer again. Shut off your computer. Now, write out your feelings, huff and puff, or boo-hoo on paper. Rip it to shreds if you want. Slam dunk it into the wastebasket. Or put it away for when you need that kind of emotion in one of your stories or poems.

7. Keep growing. Attend a critique group. Enroll in online or offline classes. Keep reading. Attend at least one conference a year. Spend more time on your writing work than on social media. (You can devote more time to that area after you’re published). 

I know you can do it. Keep on writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Room of Her Own, AROHO, Developmental editor, Editorial Freelancers Association, finding professional editor, query letters, Rachelle Gardner, Revision, Writing

Four Ways to Find a Professional Editor

123rf.com

Five months ago I thought I was ready to jump in and send out query letters for a manuscript I thought I had completed. Doesn’t ten revisions and your critique groups nod of approval mean your MS is ready?

NO. 

The MS was not ready, and neither was the query letter. 

If I had followed my “hindsight is 20/20” advice and utilized the five tools after writing “The End,” I would have saved myself months of time, the rejection letter depression, and needless work. But that’s all in the past and that experience is lessons learned for the future. 

In the last post I covered the first four suggestions to get your manuscript ready. (Disclaimer: these suggestions are based on my own experience).

The fifth tool to implement in revising your manuscript is finding a professional editor for your work. 

123rf.com




This can be like looking for that proverbial needle in a haystack. 

You can shift through 25 million Google results, that you’ll receive 44 seconds after pressing ‘enter,’ or you can use another plan of shifting through the abyss of results. 

Before you start your search, decide on what type of editing you want for your MS and your budget. 

Do you want a developmental editor to tell you where you have plot holes, where to revise, critique your characters, help your flow? Do you want pages of notes, chapter by chapter? 

Or do you want a line/copy editing, where the editor addresses grammar and style but not the structure of the book, the voice or tone. 


Are you willing and able to spend $500, $1000, or $2,000+ for an editor. If you can’t afford this perhaps sending in 100 pages of your novel will suffice and the editor’s comments can lead you in the right direction. 

I decided on hiring a developmental editor. I wanted notes on plot structure, pacing, characters, and suggestions for revision. My budget was $1000. 

After you’ve answered the above questions, you can start your search for a professional editor. Here is where I looked:

  • Agents who blog– I follow Rachelle Gardners blog and found this list of freelance editors. Find which ones seem appropriate for the job.
  • Genre freelance editors– Editors specialize. Use your search engine to find a freelance editor in your genre, i.e Christian Historical Fiction freelance editor. Under that search ‘only’ 1 million results are returned (just go to the first five or 10 names and research).
  • Editorial Freelancers Association: This directory narrows your search.
  • Ask a writer-On Facebook I follow several writers whose books I really enjoy. I picked three of them, who write in similar genres, and asked them who their editor was or if they could suggest an editor. 

I thought the last one, ‘ask a writer,’ was a long shot, but this is how I found my editor, an author of three novels (two award winning), an MFA college instructor in creative writing, and who knew, but she is a freelance editor also. On her author page she listed her services. 


In less than a week the author/editor agreed, in writing, on what I wanted from the developmental edit, the price, and the turn around time. Half of the price was upfront and the other half on completion. After the edit I could also meet with her for an hour to discuss, in person or via phone, the edited MS. Luckily she was an hour away from my home town so I availed myself of this consultation.

Three weeks later I received three typed pages of comments on Character Development for each character, Plot/Structure, Conflict, Descriptions, Pacing, and Voice. 

This was followed by 18 page by page, chapter by chapter notes. On 240 pages of MS there were notes in the margins, questions or highlights on some prose she thought was poignant or well stated. We met in person soon after, and she answered the questions I had.

Two months later I finished the revisions. I felt so good about the work I decided to apply for a writing fellowship for the writing retreat sponsored by A Room Of Her Own, AROHO. 


Part of the application was to send in the first 10 pages of your manuscript. I did and was accepted. Here’s my mug and a rambling bio (rambling because I was still stupified) on the AROHO “Participating Writers” page. I’m in awe of the company in which I share the page.

With the AROHO acceptance I decided that it was time to revise my query letter again (eighth time), and I sent 10 queries out. Within three days I received a request for a full manuscript. Yup, I was jazzed and stupified now. 

Alas, three weeks later I received the rejection letter from the agent. After reading the MS she decided she wasn’t the agent for the work. I felt like the girl who was asked out by her crush, the date made, no phone call, then the “it’s not you, it’s me,” line. 

But no boo-hoo’s here. Back to butt in chair. 

It’s time to gather up another 10-20 agent names and send out another batch of query letters. 

If you have any suggestions to add to this list, please feel free to tell us about your recommendations.