Monday, August 30, 2010

Author Interview with Adrienne Barbeau

Today we're excited to talk with Adrienne Barbeau, author of Love Bites (Vampyres of Hollywood).

FQ: With the vampire phenomenon being what it is with the success of books, movies, and television shows like True Blood, are you amazed that this particular subject has turned into such a sensation?

I was amazed 4 years ago, before the Twilight phenomenon, when I started doing research for Vampyres of Hollywood and found an entire wall full of vampire novels at my local scifi bookstore. I mean, floor to ceiling, ten feet across. Romance vampire, historical vampire, erotic vampire, gay vampire - you name it, they had it. And then when Twilighthit, there was no turning back. But it makes sense, especially from a Young Adult perspective - what could be more empowering for teen-agers than to identify with a vampire?

FQ: What would you consider more gratifying --- being an author or an actress? I’m sure each has its benefits, but being that writing is a more solitary pursuit, do you enjoy it as much as acting?

Well, writing doesn’t come as easily to me as acting does because I’m still so new at it, but consequently, when I get a positive response to my writing, that’s all the more gratifying. I do love almost every aspect of acting - even getting up at 4 a.m. for an early call or sitting in my trailer for 4 hours while the crew is getting a difficult stunt filmed. And it’s not as much fun having a writing deadline hanging over my head - like a massive homework assignment. Especially since I don’t know my writing ability well enough to trust I can take a break at night and still make my deadline. So I find the work as a writer to be all encompassing, and I have to be careful to live the rest of my life at times.

FQ: I have to say that the werewolf photographers and paparazzi seem to be as harsh and painful as the real paparazzi. Have people in that particular profession driven you mad over your career, and that’s why they were written as they were?

Honestly, I’ve always had a good relationship with the paparazzi. When we were doingMaude I knew almost all of them by name and they were always gracious and polite. It seems in the last couple of years, as a group they’ve become more insistent and aggressive, but no, I’ve never had a personal experience that was unpleasant. The profession does offer easy parallels to werewolves, though - stalking their prey, traveling in packs.

FQ: I assume over the years you’ve attended many a Hollywood party. Did you ever wonder if there were supernatural species in that particular clique?

I hate to disappoint you, but I avoid Hollywood parties whenever I can. Maybe it’s a sixth sense.

FQ: You, of course, have a background in being a Scream Queen with performances in Swamp Thing, The Fog, Creepshow, and others; can I assume that Ovsanna is close to your heart in that way?

Oh yes, definitely. You know the adage, “Write what you know,” well, I know what it’s like to be a Scream Queen, and that’s what I wrote for Ovsanna. I had a great time coming up with the titles for the films she’s starred in. Vatican Vampyres reminds me of a film I did called The Convent where I played a female Snake Plissken, blowing away nuns with my M-16.

FQ: I have to know and the readers of this book will absolutely burst into laughter at this part of the story. Does the L.A. Coroner’s Office have a gift shop calledSkeletons in the Closet where they sell things like mouse pads decorated with chalk outlines, and Undertaker boxer shorts? (If they don’t, they should. It is a truly hysterical idea.)

They do! I’m not sure that’s one I could make up. You can go online and shop the catalogue. I bought home lunchboxes for my kids with the Coroner’s logo on it - they wouldn’t touch them. Now I use one as a first aid kit for their club soccer team.

To learn more about Love Bites (Vampyres of Hollywood) please visit our website and read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Book Contest

Time is running out to enter this month's book contest.  This month we're featuring a photobio of Cary Grant. Click "Win A Book" icon at for more information and for your chance to win!

Friday Finds

Wow! It's been busy here at Feathered Quill! Check out the books that we're working on now. Visit Feathered Quill soon to read the reviews.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nurture a Growing Reader

How to Nurture a Growing Reader Reading is Fundamental (
Reading doesn't just happen. It is a skill that must be nurtured from a child's earliest years. Once children know how to read, they still need gentle coaxing and support to reach their full potential as readers.                                               
Here are a dozen tips for nurturing your growing readers:
  1. Read with your children at least once every day.
  2. Make sure they have plenty to read. Take them to the library regularly, and keep books and other reading materials in their reach.
  3. Notice what interests your child, then help find books about those things.
  4. Respect your child's choices. There's nothing wrong with series fiction if that's what keeps a young reader turning the pages.
  5. Praise your children's efforts and newly acquired skills.
  6. Help your child build a personal library. Children's books, new or used, make great gifts and appropriate rewards for reading. Designate a bookcase, shelf or box where your children can keep their books.
  7. Check up on your children's progress. Listen to them read aloud, read what they write and ask teachers how they're doing in school.
  8. Go places and do things with your children to build their background knowledge and vocabulary, and to give them a basis for understanding what they read.
  9. Tell stories. It's a fun way to teach values, pass on family history and build your children's listening and thinking skills.
  10. Be a reading role model. Let your children see you read, and share some interesting things with them that you have read about in books, newspapers or magazines.
  11. Continue reading aloud to older children even after they have learned to read by  themselves.
  12. Encourage writing along with reading. Ask children to sign their artwork, add to your shopping list, take messages and make their own books and cards as gifts.

Encourage Children to Read!

20 Ways for Parents to Encourage Reading Reading is Fundamental (

The following are some ways to turn a young reader's reluctance into enthusiasm:

1.  Scout for things your children might like to read.  Use their interests and hobbies as starting points.

2.  Leave all sorts of reading materials including books, magazines, and colorful catalogs in conspicuous places around your home.

3.  Notice what attracts your children's attention, even if they only look at the pictures.  Then build on that interest; read a short selection aloud, or simply bring home more information on the same subject.

4.  Let your children see you reading for pleasure in your spare time.

5.  Take your children to the library regularly.  Explore the children's section together.  Ask a librarian to suggest books and magazines your children might enjoy.

6.  Present reading as an activity with a purpose; a way to gather useful information for, say, making paper airplanes, identifying a doll or stamp in your child's collection, or planning a family trip.

7.  Encourage older children to read to their younger brothers and sisters.  Older children enjoy showing off their skills to an admiring audience.

8.  Play games that are reading-related.  Check your closet for spelling games played with letter tiles or dice, or board games that require players to read spaces, cards, and directions.

9.  Perhaps over dinner, while you're running errands, or in another informal setting, share your reactions to things you read, and encourage your children to do likewise. 

10.  Set aside a regular time for reading in your family, independent of schoolwork, the 20 minutes before lights out, just after dinner, or whatever fits into your household schedule.  As little as 10 minutes of free reading a day can help improve your child's skills and habits. 

11.  Read aloud to your child, especially a child who is discouraged by his or her own poor reading skills.  The pleasure of listening to you read, rather than struggling alone, may restore your child's initial enthusiasm for books and reading.

12.  Encourage your child to read aloud to you an exciting passage in a book, an interesting tidbit in the newspaper, or a joke in a joke book.  When children read aloud, don't feel they have to get every word right.  Even good readers skip or mispronounce words now and then.

13.  On gift-giving occasions, give books and magazines based on your child's current interests.

14.  Set aside a special place for children to keep their own books.

15.  Introduce the bookmark.  Remind your youngster that you don't have to finish a book in one sitting; you can stop after a few pages, or a chapter, and pick up where you left off at another time.  Don't try to persuade your child to finish a book he or she doesn't like.  Recommend putting the book aside and trying another.

16.  Treat your children to an evening of laughter and entertainment featuring books!  Many children (parents, too) regard reading as a serious activity.  A joke book, a story told in riddles, or a funny passage read aloud can reveal another side of reading. 

17.  Extend your child's positive reading experiences.  For example, if your youngster enjoyed a book about dinosaurs, follow up with a visit to a natural history museum.

18.  Offer other special incentives to encourage your child's reading.  Allow your youngster to stay up an extra 15 minutes to finish a chapter; promise to take your child to see a movie after he or she has finished the book on which it was based; relieve your child of a regular chore to free up time for reading.

19.  Limit your children's TV viewing in an effort to make time for other activities, such as reading.  But never use TV as a reward for reading, or a punishment for not reading.

20.  Not all reading takes place between the covers of a book.  What about menus, road signs, food labels, and sheet music?  Take advantage of countless spur-of-the-moment opportunities for reading during the course of your family's busy day.

Leads From Linda - The Art of Googling

The following is provided by Linda F. Radke of Five Star Publications. Please visit her sites (listed below the article). She has many great services for authors as well as wonderful books published through her company for the eager reader.

I did a Google search for "Arizona Library Lists" and discovered a list of free online resources. You can always buy a list or you can let your fingers do the walking through Google and find your way to free resources. You do not need to stop with a list of Arizona libraries - do your own searches and cover the country.

Are you trying to market your book(s) to librarians in Arizona? This link will take you to a list of Arizona libraries. The list includes government and public libraries. Visit each library listing and find the contact area. Pitch your book and your availability to give a library talk.

This list might be a little easier to use. Please note that not all links are active, but addresses and phone numbers are provided.

Arizona Library Association offers a list of libraries on their site.

I recommended mailing a flyer or postcard. Or you might want to consider a flyer with a handful of bookmarks. Often times librarians will give away bookmarks.

Do you feel overwhelmed by these lists? Don't feel that you need to conquer your mailing in one day. Commit yourself to pitching five libraries a day.

Happy Marketing,

(480)940-8182 Fax: (480) 940-8787

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Check out the books currently being read at Feathered Quill. Stop by soon to read the reviews.

"We quietly climbed off our horses, entered the sparse woods, and crept toward the campfire. We didn't make a great effort to hide ourselves, for we knew that after staring at a campfire all night they would only be able to see blackness past the first few trees."

"Randy, don't talk like that. You're scaring me."

The Smurfnapper by: Y. Delporte and Peyo - yes, really, a Smurf comic book. "This one, on the other hand, shrinks you to the size of a thumb. As for this one, it's a violent poison!"

"Or let the teacher choose for herself. People like Ms. Zenobel must have hot peppers for hormones."

2012: The year of changes by: Fabio de Araujo ISBN: 978-1609420246 "For centuries, many people believed that something unusual would happen in 1999 and 2000. The coming of a new millennium aroused a fear of the unknown or apprehensions about any kind of change it might bring."

Ted's heart stopped. He turned around slowly.

The most expensive coffee in the world is Kopi Luwak, which sells for up to $300 a pound. What makes it so expensive?

"It's not over yet," he said, agitated. "Listen carefully. Please. Please."

A slug of blood crawled out of one nostril. He stared up at my face, at the sun behind my head, and then he started to smile.

"I don't know how she knows how to do the things she does; but she does. She can even feel everyone's contentment. She says we purr."

"If Cielis is still around, then why hasn't the Guardian council contacted any of us? Why haven't they helped?"

"I had been commuting for years and I was really tired. I wasn't tired of Miss Kitty - I really liked Kitty..."

Author Interview with Hannah Reed (a.k.a. Deb Baker)

Today we're excited to talk with Hannah Reed (a.k.a. Deb Baker), author of Buzz Off.

FQ: Manny Chapman was Story Fischer’s beekeeping mentor. There are a lot of how-to-do-it books about beekeeping out there, but your incredible knowledge about bees was obvious in Buzz Off. The time spent with your mentor, Andy Hemken, must have been very productive. Can you tell us a bit about how he taught you about the life of bees?

Andy was very receptive from the moment I called him. The guy loves honeybees! So I drove out to his beeyard (aka apiary) where he explained as much as I could absorb while all his bees checked me out. They are naturally curious creatures and gentle. At least his were. I take total responsibility for any mistakes in the book, but it’s hard to focus with a zillion tiny creatures landing on you for a look-see.

FQ: I fell in love with Grams, her laid back mannerisms, and, of course the visuals of her driving her antiquated Cadillac Fleetwood. No doubt everyone will be anxious to get to see her again in this new series. Ummm, was this charmer patterned after someone you know?

Yes, my husband’s grandmother had many of the same characteristics, including the name Grams. She thought well of everyone she met, finding good, spreading kindness, and not letting negative people get her down.

FQ: P. P. Patti Dwyre, otherwise known as Pity-Party Patti, is Moraine, Wisconsin’s incurable town gossip. Do you think she’ll have that telescope aimed toward another murder in Moraine in your next book? Just a little teaser, please!

You can count on P.P. Patti and her snoopy ways. She also plays an integral part in Mind Your Own Business, book two in the series. Patti will do anything to get a job with the local newspaper, and her schemes cause all kinds of problems for Story Fischer.

When Story was on the Oconomowoc river she said, “Kayaking was like meditation to me.” What are some of your favorite things to do when you need to meditate, unwind, and watch the world go by?

I’m a lot like Story in that respect. Water is a big draw. Kayaking, sailing, sitting on a bench and watching the river flow. I actually live close to the Oconomowoc River.

FQ: Story’s business, the Wild Clover, would be a dream business for many of your readers. Is this the kind of store you love to browse? What would you put in your cart if you were in the Wild Clover?

You ask interesting questions! The Wild Clover specializes in Wisconsin products, so Door County wine, for sure. A few artisan cheeses, a big bouquet of flowers for my kitchen table, packages of dried lemon balm for tea, and of course, honey products – beeswax candles, a jar of cranberry honey, that wonderful honey candy with the soft centers...

FQ: Story claimed that “Not only are bullet points important in my life, so are priority lists.” Writing can be very hectic at times with deadlines, rewrites, and 101 other details that need attending to. How do you keep up with everything?

I’m organizationally obsessed. I write a certain number of words every day. I strategically plot my promotional efforts, which are incredibly time-consuming. Lots of to-do lists. And I make sure I have time for hanging out with old and new friends on Facebook. Although I had to give up Farmville. It was taking over my mind and life.

FQ: In Buzz Off you exhibit an endearing, quirky sense of humor in your writing. In ‘real life’ are you known for having a good sense of humor?

Not at all! I can’t tell the simplest joke without botching it. I think my characters just take over and do their own things, dragging me along on their adventures and misadventures.

FQ: You’ve penned two successful series under your real name, Deb Baker. TheQueen Bee mystery series looks like it will be a winner! How did you come about creating the charming name, Hannah Reed?

My publisher bought my concept to write a beekeeping mystery in a matter of days. Agreeing on a pen name took much longer. When my agent finally would like a name, my editor wouldn’t. So we went around and around until I combined two family names. That clicked with all of us.

FQ: You obviously are in love with the marvelous state of Wisconsin and call yourself a Yooper. Can you briefly tell us a few of its most endearing qualities and why you love it?

A Yooper is someone lucky enough to have been born in, or living in, the Michigan Upper Peninsula. I was born in Escanaba, Michigan, still have connections there, and wrote about the Finns and Swedes I grew up with in Murder Passes the Buck. But Wisconsin has been my home for many, many years. We are much more than flat farm fields, cows, and cheeseheads. I love the season changes, the open spaces, waterways, friendliness of our communities, all the wildlife. Life is good here.

FQ: It’s not easy to be a successful writer, but you’re now breaking into the big time, so to speak. Do you have a ‘rejection slip’ type story you’d like to share with us?

It took several years of constant rejections. At one point, I gave up on ever having a writing career and ran for public office, because that was the only other place I could still make up stuff. I lost the race, but right after that, a publisher picked up my first mystery.Buzz Off is book number eight for me with a contract for two more.

To learn more about Buzz Off please visit our website and read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Call for Papers

Call for Papers

The Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) will hold the 46th Annual Convention at the Marriott Chateau Champlain in Montreal, Quebec June 19-22, 2011.  Librarians, archivists, scholars, educators, authors and others will meet to share their interest in Judaica librarianship and related topics.

AJL is soliciting proposals for papers and presentations on aspects of Judaica librarianship as it pertains to libraries, archives, museums, schools, synagogues and related institutions.  Past topics have included literature and other resources, collection management, programming, reader advisory services, special and rare collections, cataloging and classification, digital and electronic resources, technology and local Jewish history.

A special focus this year will be the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Montreal Jewish community.

Submissions should include the following:

Presenter's name, address, affiliation, telephone and email contacts.
Brief  biography.
Title of proposed presentation.
Summary of proposal.
Specific technology or equipment requirements, if any.

All submissions must be received by November 30, 2010.  Please submit proposals by email to:

or by mail to:

Marsha Lustigman,
Bialik Library,
6500 Kildare Rd.,
Cote St. Luc, QC, Canada, H4W 3B8

Proposals will be reviewed by the Program Planning Committee, which is composed of national and local AJL members.  Notification will be made in January, 2011.

About The Association of Jewish Libraries
The Association of Jewish Libraries promotes Jewish literacy through enhancement of libraries and library resources and through leadership for the profession and practitioners of Judaica librarianship. The Association fosters access to information, learning, teaching and research relating to Jews, Judaism, the Jewish experience and Israel. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Author Interview with Wendy Lyn Watson

Today we're excited to talk with Wendy Lyn Watson, author of Scoop to Kill: A Mystery a La Mode.

FQ: Tallulah “Tally” Jones is quite a wacky, but totally lovable character. Most of us have met someone like her, but in your mind’s eye is she patterned after someone you’ve met? No names please!

Oh yes...she's sort of me. We don't have the same backstory or the same vocabulary, but our neuroses are basically identical. With all my other characters, I have to work to put myself in their heads, but I slip into Tally like a favorite sweatshirt.

FQ: Bree can belt out songs with aplomb at Bar None on karayoke night. Have you ever been daring enough to get up in front of an audience and sing?

 Absolutely not! Trust me, no one wants to hear me sing. It's gruesome. If Tally is me as I really am, Bree is who I want to be. She's the daring side of my soul that rarely shows up in real life. Always has a zinger, flaunts what her mama gave her, sings her heart out...she's my hero!

FQ: Tally, Bree, and Alice ane the Ben and Jerry’s of Dalliance, Texas. If you were to place an order, what would you order? Favorite flavor? One scoop or two?

Definitely two scoops. A scoop of raspberry mascarpone and a scoop of coconut, with dark hot fudge, whipped cream, and a cherry. Hold the nuts.

FQ: We see that Tally has a cat named Sherbert who unfortunately had to have a “yarnectomy.” Is he any relation to Miss Marple in Lorna Barrett’s Booktown mysteries? Any relation to the hordes of felines in Leann Sweeney's, A Cats in Trouble mysteries?

No relation to Miss Marple, Merlot, Syrah, or least not genetic. I think animals play an important role in mysteries. We have to create such complex humans, capable of doing really bad things, and the pets we give our heroines are the antidote -- pure sweetness. Sherbet and his yarnectomy is, alas, ripped from the headlines of my life. Our youngest (and dorkiest) cat, Squeak-a-Doodle (aka Doodlebug) wolfed down a huge length of yarn when he was little. Took a good 10 years off my life.

FQ: We got a brief glimpse at Grandma Peachy, whom you claimed was as “healthy as a horse and ornery as a friend toad.” Will we be seeing more of her in this series? (Say yes, pretty please!)

Definitely! In the third book (tentatively titled A Parfait Murder), Peachy's in town for a visit. I love Peachy. She's not your typical grandma - she smokes a pipe, spits, swears, flirts with young men, and is quite a rascal. I'm glad she's finally in the thick of things.

FQ: You talk about the academic community as easily as you do the women with penny bright hair who frequent places like Bar None. Have you spent a lot of time in an academic environment?

LOL - yes! My day job is teaching government to college kids. It was fun bringing the ivory tower and the courthouse square together.

FQ: There is just the right amount of romance thrown in Scoop to Kill. Fickle Tally has both Finn Harper and Detective Cal McCormack drooling over her. Is she going to be seen with one more than the other in your next book? Give us a little teaser...

I don't want to give away any secrets, but Tally starts A Parfait Murder with one of the fellas. I won't say whether they make it through the book, but her love life is definitely not dead.

FQ: Remember the A-la-mode had a “new Flamin’ Hot Chile-Pineapple ice cream.” I’m not so sure I’d want to try that one, but your Pink Pepperberry Milk Shakes sounds delicious. Do you actually experiment with recipes in the book?

Absolutely. The Pink Pepperberry Milkshake was a bit of a gamble, but Mr. Wendy approved. And the Flamin' Hot Chile-Pineapple Ice Cream recipe is on my website ( It was developed by a brilliant 10-year-old aspiring chef and won a local contest for recipes that use Hatch chiles (a seasonal delicacy). I was skeptical, but it's really good. To sum up, my ice cream maker gets quite a workout!

FQ: Can you tell us how you came about creating this wild, wacky, and wonderful cast of characters in this book?

Wow. I wish I could answer that. Tally and Bree, as I said earlier, are the angel and devil of my own soul. Everyone else? I get little bits of inspiration from the people I know (though no one I know would actually kill someone -- I don't think). But otherwise, it's sort of a mystery to me. I do know that some of these characters -- Deena Silver, Grandma Peachy, Kyle Mason, Finn and Cal -- have taken on a life of their own for me. In my mind, they're people I know, inside and out. They're a joy to write about.

FQ: Last of all, can you tell us about yourself and your obvious passion for writing?

I came to the writing game a little late in life. I wrote (horrible poetry and wretched fantasy) in high school and dabbled in college, but put it away for years afterward. When I did decide to return to fiction, I started by trying to write romance. I have such respect for the authors who weave beautiful love stories, but I quickly learned that I couldn't carry a whole novel on the back of a romance. Writing cozies allows me to meld the intellectual puzzle of the mystery with that luscious taste of knee-melting romance.
Apart from writing, let's see...I live in Texas (in a town that bears a suspicious resemblance to Dalliance) with my husband and four cats. I'm originally a Midwestern girl (Michigan, Ohio, and Minnesota). I earn my keep by teaching at the local university, and in the little bit of spare time I have left, I love to cook, quilt, and go to movies. I watch an embarrassing amount of reality TV. Oh, and I belly dance. Really badly, and rarely in public, but I do it. It's as close to "Breedom" as I get in real life!

To learn more about Scoop to Kill: A Mystery a La Mode please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Reviewer's Tip - Format for pre-teen books

We see a lot of wonderful preteen books from self-publishers.  Besides a great story, there's something else they need to attract the eyes of young readers.  Preteen books need to be formatted in a kid friendly way.  What does this mean?

Many of these self-published books are formatted by the authors, probably using Word or WordPerfect.  Unfortunately, the text is small, the chapter headings boring, and page headers are either dull or non-existent.  Now, this is fine for books meant for an adult audience.  But youngsters need some encouragement to pick up that book.  Consider using a larger size font (looks less intimidating to reluctant readers).  Dress up your chapter headings.  For example, my preteen horse books have a small horse jumping through/around the chapter number.  Page headers are great too as they help kids find the chapter they're currently reading when it's time to resume reading.  Take a look at other chapter books to see what your competitors do.  Your young readers will be glad you did!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

DIY Conference

The Original Cross-Genre Convention and Festival bringing together authors, book publishers, musicians, filmmakers and other DIY innovators
LOS ANGELES (August 20, 2010)_ The 2011 DIY Convention: Do It Yourself in Film, Music & Books will feature special showcases, screenings, celebrations and industry-centric salons to celebrate its tenth anniversary.
Set for late February, 2011 (exact date TBA), the 2011 DIY Convention again celebrates independent artistic achievement in its festival series:
*** The DIY Book Festival will consider self-published or independent publisher non-fiction, fiction, biography/autobiography, children's books, teenage, how-to, cookbooks, science fiction, audio/spoken word, photography, art, comics, 'zines, fan fiction, poetry and e-books published on or after Jan. 1, 2007. All entries must be in English and have been self-published or issued by an independent publishing house.
*** The DIY Music Festival will again partner with Bug Music, North America’s largest independent music publisher, for its annual music supervisor lunch showcase. Selected bands will also have an intimate dinner with major industry players and get the opportunity to ask questions in a relaxed and comfortable setting rather than a hurried post-panel frenzy.
***The DIY Film Festival again showcases its commitment to independently-produced films with a major screening and reception in Hollywood in front of invited guests.
Highlighting the tenth annual celebration will be an invitation-only salon for select attendees where they can discuss the industry-centric issues of the day in roundtable discussions with experienced hands.
Details on all events are available by visiting the DIY Convention web site at

On-Line Conference

Aspiring Authors Attend WriteOnCon Conference--at Home    

By Sally Lodge

Without incurring travel expenses, lining up childcare, and battling crowds, more than 11,000 aspiring children’s and young adult authors attended WriteOnCon, a free online writing conference held from August 10-12. From the comfort of home, they were able to log onto the conference's Web site and view blogs, vlogs, panel discussions, workshops, and live streaming presented by literary agents, editors, and published authors. Visitors to the site could also submit questions to industry professionals participating in live panel discussions each evening of the conference. The site also linked attendees to a forum where they could submit query letters and sample pages to be critiqued by fellow conference attendees and by literary agents.
WriteOnCon was the brainchild of aspiring YA author Casey McCormick, who contacted Elana Johnson, an author she knew through the online writing community. “I knew I could not organize a conference myself, since I didn’t have the necessary contacts,” McCormick says, “and I knew Elana has a strong online presence. I emailed her and she loved the idea.” The two brought on board five other writers—Jamie Harrington, Shannon Messenger, Jen Stayrook, and Lisa and Laura Roecker—to help organize the event.
The aspiring authors who organized the WriteOnCon conference (clockwise from top l.): Casey McCormick, Elana Johnson, Jennifer Stayrook, Lisa and Laura Roecker, Shannon Messenger, and Jamie Harrington.
After brainstorming via e-mail (McCormick estimates there were “hundreds if not thousands” of e-mails exchanged), the team pulled together WriteOnCom in less than four months. Knowing that input from literary agents would be a key component of this conference, McCormick mentioned the event in an e-mail to Steven Malk of Writers House, who liked the idea and agreed to participate.
His response encouraged the organizers to contact industry professionals they had dealt with, and they then reached out to other agents, editors, and authors they didn’t necessarily have a personal connection with. “Most of the people we contacted wanted to be involved, McCormick says, “including a number of debut authors who loved the idea of giving back,” Among these were Josh Berk (The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin), Kimberly Derting (The Body Finder), and Rachel Hawkins (Hex Hall). At final count, 37 authors and illustrators, and 22 agents and editors, participated in the conference’s programs.
One of the presenters was Mary Kole, associate agent at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and founder of, a Web site for writers trying to break into children’s books. She learned about WriteOnCom from Jamie Harrington, who became her client last April. “Jamie has a vigorous Web presence, which is a very important part of being an author in today’s market,” Kole says. “I grew up in the Silicon Valley and have worked at dot.coms, so online issues are very close to my heart. When Jamie asked if I’d do a chat and a blog during the conference, I was happy to oblige.”
Kole notes that, despite an early glitch (with the unexpectedly large volume of traffic, the site crashed on the first day and the organizers had to switch servers quickly), the conference was informative and productive. “I used the forum to great effect as an agent,” she says. Writers who posted manuscript pages got feedback from other attendees and it was very much a workshop atmosphere. I went through posts and treated them as submissions. I contacted some authors, and in fact am just now reading one of the manuscripts I found through the conference. I am very excited about it.”
Though Kole doesn’t discount the value of in-person writers’ conferences, she observes that this online counterpart “had none of actual conferences’ potential awkwardness.” Programs like speed dating and pitch sessions can create a lot of pressure, she says. “Here I was able to pay more attention to individual attendees, which is not to say that I don’t usually do that, but this made it easier to control the situation. Authors and agents got to connect on a more personal level, which is ironic since the contact wasn’t made in person.”
McCormick says that the number of WriteOnCon registrants far exceeded the expectations of the organizers. “It is very gratifying,” she remarks. “We plan to make it an annual event and have already started to talk about what we can improve on next year.” Meanwhile, the content from the conference has been archived on the conference’s schedule of events.
Kole says that she travels to writers’ conferences all over the country and has “never seen such a positive response from writers.” Asked whether she thinks that online conferences will become more common in the future, she responds: “I hope WriteOnCon is the only one out there for a while, since I want the organizers to be rewarded for their visionary product. I know that there are so many writers there who aren’t able to take advantage of the benefits of in-person conferences. This was definitely an itch that needed scratching.”