Author Archives: Brian A. Klems

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.

You’re Having Twins

The ultrasound come in and it turns out you and your spouse are having twins. Write the scene where you tell your family, especially your mother who for years has jokingly asked you to have twins. Post your response (500 words or less) in the comments below.

Returning to Campus

On the 10th anniversary of your college graduation, you and your closest college friends decide to return to campus for a weekend to relive your “glory days.” Things go awry, though, when late in the evening one of your friends runs into an ex-girlfriend. Post your response (500 words or less) in the comments...

Your Uncle’s Will

After living for years paycheck to paycheck, a windfall of money comes your way from a distant uncle. But in order to receive the money, you must complete a mission from your uncle’s will. What’s the mission and did you do it? Post your response (500 words or less) in the comments below.

Losing a Loved One

Someone who you are extremely close to unexpectedly dies. Write that person a letter explaining what you will miss most about him or her. Post your response (500 words or less) in the comments below.

Not Your Real Mother

Mother’s Day is over and you’ve just finished a nice dinner with your mom when you receive a phone call. An unfamiliar female voice is on the other end and says, “Stop celebrating with her! I’m your real mother.” Write this scene. Post your response (500 words or less) in the comments below.

An Apple’s Point of View

Write a story from the point of view of an apple, sitting in a fruit basket on your kitchen counter, observing life around it. Post your response (500 words or less) in the comments below.

The Morning After

You are out partying with friends when one slips something into your drink. The next thing you know, it’s the morning and you don’t remember anything—though you have a collection of mysterious items surrounding you and you have a new tattoo. Your friend stops by and explains, much to your surprise, what happened. Post...

Mystery Cookie

One day you come into work and find a cookie mysteriously placed on your desk. Grateful to whoever left this anonymous cookie, you eat it. The next morning you come in and find another cookie. This continues for months until one day a different object is left–and this time there’s a note. Post your...

Computer Woes

One morning you are sitting in front of your computer working on your novel when, suddenly, the computer starts talking to you. What does it say? Does it deliver an important message or just want to chat? Post your response (500 words or less) in the comments below.

Mistaken Surgery

You are in the operating room and are slowly being put under to have your gall bladder removed. Just as you are dosing off, you notice the doctor entering the room isn’t the doctor scheduled to operate on you. When you awake, your gall bladder is still there, but something else about you has...