Author Archives: Brian A. Klems

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Flat Fees vs. Hourly Rates

My daughters like to play bookstore at our house. They hide behind one of our beds, pull up a giant pile of books and ask me to buy them—and I'm happy to oblige because 1) I love books and 2) it costs me pretend money. And I'm willing to buy nearly anything with pretend...

How to Land Writing Gigs When Meeting Editors

Last fall, author and journalist John Moir redeemed part of his grand prize from WD’s 78th Annual Writing Competition when he traveled to New York City, where his escort from the WD editorial team had arranged for Moir to meet with his wish list of editors from The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, Audubon and...

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It’s Time for #StoryFriday

Two years ago on a hot Friday morning I was feeling burnout and was desperately looking for a fun boost. Scrabble just wasn't going to cut it, I was tired of losing The New Yorker Caption contest, and HR apparently frowns upon booze in the office (I know, I know, silly office rules). I...

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Picture Book Craft Intensive w/ Critique Today @1 EDT

If you're writing a picture book (or have ever considered it) you'll want to check out today's webinar from super agent Mary Kole. My daughters love pictures, so even I'm planning to listen in on this one—Mary Kole is one of the best instructors. All registrants who sign up get a critique of your...

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The Q: Do You Have Writer Envy?

All I've ever wanted to be one of the most clever writers in the world and, thanks to Facebook status updates, I'm not even sure I'm the most clever writer in my house. Not a day goes by where I don't read an article, short story, book or tweet and think to myself, Oh...

Confronting a Childhood Bully

You’re out at restaurant and bump into a childhood bully who used to steal your lunch money. Confront the bully and give him or her a piece of your mind. Post your response (500 words or less) in the comments below.

7 Ways to Structure Your Picture Book

Author and editor L. Rust Hills once said, “The sinister thing about writing is that it starts off seeming so easy and ends up being so hard.” If only this quote weren’t true. But it is. However, we picture book writers are lucky. We have seven wonderful techniques to help us organize our plots...

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Read These Successful Query Letters

Writing a book is fun. Writing a query letter is stressful. In your book, you can add layers of backstory and extra pages to let your full story flow. In a query letter, you basically have four tiny paragraphs to say "PICK ME! PICK ME!" (Holy crap, I'm having grade-school playground flashbacks.) So what's...

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7 Grammar Blunders to Avoid

Nothing is worse than getting in the first edition of our new issue, opening it up and finding a giant grammar mistake plain as day. This doesn't happen often, but when it does it blows my mind. "How did that happen? We read the issue 5 times each, hired an extra copy editor and...

Are Serial Commas Necessary?

Q: When writing a sentence that contains a series of something (e.g., a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker), do I need a comma before the “and” connecting the final two elements? I’ve seen it with and without. Please help. —Anonymous A: The reason you’ve seen it both ways is quite simple: Both...

Plethora Doesn’t Mean “A Lot”

Q: Can you use “plethora” to mean “a lot,” as in, I own a plethora of baseball hats? A: The misuse of “plethora” is a pet peeve of mine. The word “plethora” doesn’t mean “a lot,” it means “too many or an overabundance.” In the example, Many voters feel that there are a plethora...

Are Agents Just Looking for an Excuse to Reject Your Work?

Q: Doesn’t it seem like agents are just looking for excuses to reject work? —Anonymous A: Actually, the complete opposite is true. Agents don’t want to reject your work, they want to accept it and sell it to any publisher willing to take a chance—after all, that’s how they pay their rent. Agents may...

One Simple Question All Writers Should Ask Themselves

In this brief exercise, Douglas Preston, co-author of the bestselling Pendergast novels (Relic) and The Monster of Florence, challenges writers to really write what they know to take their thrillers to the next level. Write what you know. Sure, we’ve all heard it time and again, but many writers still swear by it in...

One Simple Way to Sharpen Your Pitch

As anyone who’s ever tried to come up with one of those vital one-sentence pitches for their book knows, getting it right can be maddening. Here, courtesy of bestseller Jon Land, is one particularly sharp strategy to take your elevator pitch to new heights. ThrillerFest’s AgentFest pitch slam took place yesterday, and literary agents...

Selling Short Story Short: An Interview with ZZ Packer

ZZ Packer is the author of the short-story collection Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, a PEN/Faulkner finalist that was selected for the “Today” show book club by John Updike. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Story, Ploughshares, Zoetrope: All-Story and The Best American Short Stories, and have been read on NPR’s Selected Shorts....

Memoir Spotlight: Jeannette Walls

Jeannette Walls is the author of The Glass Castle, a memoir with more than 3 million copies in print, and Half Broke Horses, a bestselling true-life novel based on her grandmother. She lives in the Virginia piedmont with her husband, John Taylor. Does the type of writing you’re doing (nonfiction, memoir, fiction) alter your...

Women’s Fiction Spotlight: Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah (kristinhannah.com) is The New York Times bestselling author of 18 novels, including the blockbusters Firefly Lane, True Colors and Winter Garden, and, most recently, Night Road. You’ve said the seed of your writing was first planted by your mother, not long before she passed away. Does that still influence the types of...

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Paula McLain

Paula McLain’s latest book is the bestselling The Paris Wife, a fictional account of Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage and upstart years in 1920s Paris, told from the point of view of his wife, Hadley. The author of two poetry collections, a memoir and an earlier novel, McLain holds a Master of Fine Arts in...

Voicemail from Boss

You get into work and find that your boss has left a voicemail message on your phone. The message is urgent. Though, what’s peculiar is that the message is not work related. Write this scene. Post your response (500 words or less) in the comments below.