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Looking for a literary agent?

literary-agents-public-domainI’m not currently looking for an agent, but merely thinking about the process makes me break out in a cold sweat. Finding a good match, writing a stellar query, knowing how to spot a fake… Never mind actually having a polished manuscript to submit!

Fortunately, there are many great resources to help writers along. Websites galore, how-to articles, Facebook groups, manuals, agencies … And every year, Writer’s Digest puts out a new guidebook to help connect writers and agents.wd-guide-to-literary-agents-2017

So if you’re in the market for an agent, check out Chuck Sambuchino‘s blog post, which includes a giveaway for the new 2017 Guide to Literary Agents! Entering is easy – simply comment on his blog. And if you are on Twitter, you can tweet about the giveaway for an extra entry.

Good luck!

Are you looking for an agent? If you’d care to share about the process, let us know in the comment section below!

Time to Celebrate!


Photo from

After participating in the October Platform Challenge hosted by Writer’s Digest and Robert Lee Brewer, I was fortunate to find an amazing list of writers with phenomenal blogs and websites. DMG Byrnes is one of those writers and she was the winner of the Platform Challenge, an honor which included a stack of wonderful writing resources. In true pay-it-forward fashion, DMG offered a giveaway for one of those books – the 2016 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market guide from Writer’s Digest.

And I won!

Yippee! Now we are so happy, we do the dance of joy!  

Okay, I’m dating myself with a Perfect Strangers reference…  Time to move on.

Thank you, Ms. Byrnes, for the giveaway and for the wonderful information you share via your blog.

If you haven’t had the chance to visit DMG’s site, check it out! Tell her I say “hi!”

February Giveaway Winner!

2016 (1)Congratulations to the winner of my February Giveaway, writer S.K. Lamont!  S.K. will receive a new copy of Tom Rob Smith’s bestselling thriller, Child 44 as well as a DVD copy of the movie, which was released in 2015.

Way to go, S.K.!

Didn’t win? Don’t worry – March’s Giveaway is just around the corner!

Top Seven Takeaways from Writing Conferences (Part 4): Logistics Tricks

**Don’t forget to enter my February Giveaway – ends tomorrow (2/12)!**

Ah, the thrill of walking into a room of strangers! Who doesn’t love looking for a place to sit and finding something to occupy yourself with before the action begins? Who doesn’t love negotiating the lunch line, eyeing all of the already-full tables of chatting writers, and trying to figure out who to approach to ask if the seat next to him or her is open?

Uh, the answer to all of the above would be me.

I would not be described by those who know me well as easily intimidated or particularly shy. But that’s because I have faked my way through and around and over my instincts to fear public domain imageavoid people at all costs. Instead, I’ve learned to smile and shake hands and speak with confidence. Still – while I don’t get anxious to the point of paralysis at the idea of mingling with strangers, I do get that uncomfortable flutter in my stomach at the thought of negotiating all of the logistics of events like conferences and open workshops.

That feeling brings me back to my school days. It’s a fear of being excluded, left out, unwanted. It’s a fear of being the last kid picked for a team. Of everyone laughing at a joke you’re not in on. It’s a fear of being the last one in the lunchroom, holding a tray of food and finding every seat is taken.

When I start to feel this way, I remind myself that at some point in school I probably was excluded, left out, and unwanted. I’m sure I was. But I got past it. I’m not twelve. Or even sixteen. I’m … much older. Plus, writing conferences are not like school. Not at all. Sure there are usually desks, and yes there is typically one person doing most of the talking. But trust me – they are different. For one thing, we’re all adults. For another, we’re writers. Writers are a friendly if eclectic and often quirky crowd. And many writers are very introverted. All of this spells good news for the shy peeps among us since there is almost certain to be another Nervous Nellie looking for a place to sit and someone to chat with before the show begins. Look for the person hunched over a smartphone. Chance are she is simply killing time, trying to look busy so she doesn’t look alone.

Of course, none of this meandering narrative provides you with direct help. That’s what the rest of this post is for.

Here are my top five tips (or logistics tricks, if you will) for navigating the less “writerly” part of writing conferences

1. Where do I sit during lectures/workshops?

lecture-hall public domainThe answer is – toward the front. And also on the end of an aisle or as close to one as you can get. Here’s why. You want to be able to hear (not all writers have great speaking voices … or microphones). You want to be able to see (most presenters hold up books, papers, examples, write on the board, or use the smartboard/overhead). You want the presenter to notice you when you raise your hand with a comment or question (if for no other reason than if you don’t, someone else will). And most importantly, you want to be able to get the heck out of Dodge (the presenter might be so awful you have to leave, you might need to use the facility, and after the session you want to be able to dart over to the lecturer with fabulous questions and insights).

2. Where to sit during lunch?

The answer is – sit with people.eating public domain

Okay, that’s an oversimplification. If you didn’t bring friends or acquaintances with you, I have found that one of two options works phenomenally. One, make a point to start a conversation with one or more folks in the session before lunch. If you find this person (or people) interesting, you have a lunch buddy. Two, sit anywhere. I’ve sat by myself a few times (when I was lucky to get to the lunch line in the first wave) and inevitably I was joined by other writers looking for company (or, more likely, a seat). I’ve held my breath and walked over to almost-full tables and been welcomed like a long-lost friend. Remember the first post in the series – networking is key. Make these lunch hours work for you!

3. Speaking of food… Should I bring my own? Risk eating what is provided? Or head out to a restaurant?

lunch public domainThe answer is – it depends.

I’ve done all three. I’m a fan of keeping things simple. And the easiest thing is to eat the food provided. It’s usually included or offered at a reasonable price. That being said, I have food allergies, I have Celiac, and I’m a vegan. You can imagine that standard conference food isn’t usually going to work for me. If you have any food “issues,” I strongly recommend contacting the organizers to make sure the meal you’re paying for will actually be something you can eat. Don’t email. Don’t rely on the box you checked when you registered. Call the organizers. Once I was handed a gluten-free tuna fish sandwich when I marked vegan and allergic to fish. It was gluten-free, but I couldn’t eat it. Lesson learned.

I have brought my own meal on occasion. It was fine, but tedious to carry about or retrieve from the (distant) car. And I went out to lunch exactly one time. I joined a group of women who invited me along. It was a nice experience, but far more costly than eating at the conference. Still, I made connections and had a good time. Of course, not all conferences provide food and in that case the decision is easier.

4. I have choices for different sessions. How do I know which ones to take?

The answer is – narrow down your options, then do some homework.

First, I am a strong believer in signing up for at least one session that will get you writing. There are often workshop-type sessions (easily identified by the words “bring a pencil!” or “we’ll then put xyz to use!” and so on). Even if this session is offered in a genre that you typically avoid I say, take it anyway. In fact, the less familiar you are with the genre the better. You only grow when you stretch yourself. The active sessions are good for something else, too. They break up the day. It can be difficult to sit and only listen for six or more hours. These workshops will engage a different part of the brain and provide a boost to get you through the rest of the day.

Second, it is easy to cross off public-domain-checklist-300x199the things that don’t apply or appeal to you – or that do. If you write in a specific genre, look for genre-specific sessions. I attended a conference that offered sessions on writing thrillers, writing romance, fantasy world building… If those apply to you, grab them with both hands because they will probably fill up fast. Likewise, if you only write nonfiction, a fantasy world building workshop won’t be for you.But invariably, there’s a slot of time in which none of the sessions are appealing – or worse, all are appealing or “must-have” sessions. That’s when it is homework time.


Third, do your homework. Research the presenters before the conference. Look at their publications. Read their bios. Sometimes a session title sounds tedious, but after reading the bio of the presenter you find that the woman leading it is in two rock bands, writes for a television series you love, and does stand-up comedy on the side. You can bank on that session being lively and fun! Or you find out that the session title that sounded amazing is being led by a writer you didn’t know you detested because he writes under a pen name. You don’t want to spend the entire session muttering under your breath and stabbing your notebook out of frustration. Taking a little time to learn about who is going to be holding your attention (or losing it) for an hour or more can be invaluable in choosing how to spend your time.

public-domain_largeAnd finally, know you will probably regret at least one session. You’ll walk out of a session that left you feeling “blah” only to hear laughter and applause coming from the room of the session you almost decided to attend. At lunch, your table mates will gush about how much they enjoyed and are taking away from a session you thought sounded about as appealing as stabbing yourself in the eye. It happens. My advice is to challenge yourself and make a list of at least three things you know now that you didn’t know before the session. For example, I attended one session that was a total letdown. I was angry and frustrated because I felt like I had wasted precious time and money. But I stuck to the challenge and made my list. One of the things on my list was, “I now know that there are forty-six ceiling tiles in room 103.” Sounds pointless. But I filed that away, and actually used that experience when writing a scene in which the character is bored out of her mind during a class. Not ideal, but I no longer see the session as a total waste because the experience was fresh in my mind so my scene was vivid and detailed.

5. When should I arrive? The website says check-in starts at 8am, but the conference doesn’t begin until 9:30am?

time public domainThe answer – as early as possible.

I know, I know. The awkwardness of standing around with nothing to do! The horror of waiting! Or for some of us, the horror of getting up early and anywhere on time! I get it. But here’s why I answer this way… Unless you live across the street, you want to give yourself time to find the place, get parking, sign in, grab a cup of joe (or tea or juice), snag a muffin or doughnut before they’re gone (or if you’re me, a banana), find out where the restrooms are, have time to ask any last minute questions, and study the map of the place to figure out where on earth you’re going. You don’t want to be a sweaty mess that runs in late, hands shaking from the stress of finding the venue and parking, miss the coffee and goodies, and start the day feeling behind. I’ve been that person. It’s not fun. Tell yourself the start time is the earliest time listed for arrival, and unless there is a record-breaking traffic jam or you drive for fifty miles in the wrong direction on the highway, you won’t be late. And you’ll have a little extra time to meet people, familiarize yourself with the schedule, and relax before the day begins.alarm clock public domain

There’s another benefit to arriving early. Most conferences begin with a keynote speaker. If you arrive on the earlier side of the morning, you can actually find a seat that meets the criteria I listed above. You’ll be able to hear. You’ll be able to see (I showed up slightly later – not late, but not early – to a conference this fall and had a great view of a pole for the keynote address). You’ll be able to sneak out to use the restroom – or at least get there first at the break (this is no joke for the ladies room – I’ve seen lines wrapped around the building). And you won’t be the person coming in late to hundreds of eyes that will inevitably turn and stare at you as you try to find a place to sit (or more likely, stand). So set your alarm and be early – not just on time. 

I hope some of this is helpful as you step through the doors of your next conference!

If you’ve been to a writing conference – or anything like a writing conference that presented similar tricky logistics – please share your tips and tricks! What has worked (or not worked) for you?




February Giveaway Ends Friday!

filmDon’t forget to enter my GIVEAWAY! Ends this Friday, 2/12.

In honor of Leap Year, I’m giving away a book (and its DVD partner) that make the leap from novel to screen. Details can by found on the original blog post (click here) or by visiting my Facebook page and using the Giveaway tab (click here).

It is super easy to earn multiple entries, so click away! It only takes seconds!

Good luck to everyone who has entered!

Pondering Poetry: What’s a Poet to Do?

** Don’t forget to enter my February GIVEAWAY! Enter by 2/12 to win! **

Poetry-cover-public-DomainI love to read poetry. It makes me feel in a way that little else does.

I also love to write poetry. If I am honest (and I believe I am an honest person), I think I mostly write bad poetry. Sigh. But every once in a while I get an internal “YES!” from something I’ve written. I wish I could get more of those.

Writing poetry is an interesting thing. If you ever want to stop a conversation in its tracks, mention you write and read poetry. Most Americans (in my experience) steer clear of the neatly-wrapped packages we call poetry. Even very successful poets rarely become rich or famous or widely read. (Don’t believe me? Next time you’re in line getting coffee ask the person in front of you who the current US Poet Laureate is.) And getting published can be challenging – it is often a matter of whether or not the particular poem is a good fit for a publication … or maybe even that issue. Did you just finish a masterpiece on running shoes that elevates this everyday item to the level of the gods? Great! Celebrate your genius! But if the journal has already accepted (or published in the recent past) a poem that mentions shoes, running shoes, running, etc., etc., etc. … keep hitting “submit.”

You may find yourself asking, What’s the point? Why bother writing poetry at all?

There are many answers to this question which come from the physiological to the philosophical arenas. The bottom line for most of us is that we can’t help it. We write it even when we don’t mean to write poetry. Or, you could be in an MFA program and find yourself in a class that requires you to write poetry (eh-hem… present company included). And as I’ve mentioned before, if you’ve never written poetry you can find plenty of reasons to start.

Here are a few articles I read this weekend to keep me motivated and excited about writing poetry.

  1. Five Reasons to Write Poetry by Vic Vosen
    I love things that are short and sweet but full of interesting information. Plus how could I resist an article written by an author with such a cool, alliterative name?
  2. Improving Your Writing through Poetry by Melissa Donovan
    This author explains how doing the work of poetry will help you improve your ability to connect to readers on multiple levels…
  3. Five Ways How to Write a Poem by Robert Lee Brewer
    Another shortie and sweetie. What I like about this article is that it offers concrete jumping-off points to get started…
  4. Un-think Your Poetry: How to Write Better Poems from Writer’s Relief
    Ahhhh… I feel a great weight being lifted just reading this article. This is how I tend to approach poems, and find that when I let go a little I tend to write better …
  5. Ten Tips for Being a Successful Poet from BBC News and Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion
    I was taught that if you want to be successful you should learn from the best, so this weekend I sought out tips from Sir Andrew Motion, poet extraordinaire. His fifth tip especially resonated with me…

Remember: Sharing Is Caring
With that in mind tell me … do you write poetry? Have you read anything that gets you excited about poetry? Or do you detest poetry – please tell me why! Of course, if that’s the case you probably didn’t make it this far. 😉 


GIVEAWAY! Book & DVD combo – Child 44

In honor of Leap Year, I’m hosting a GIVEAWAY with a nod to books that have made the leap (see what I did there?) from the page to the screen!

You can enter at the bottom of my post OR click here to enter now!

filmThere are hundreds of books that have been turned into movies (for an absolutely non-comprehensive, but fun list, check out this site).  Lately, it seems like I can’t read a book without it being turned into a film for the silver screen.

So, how to choose one for my giveaway?

I thought about this while I should have been focusing on an assignment for work (bad cog!). My mind kept dividing the books and movies into two categories: movies that succeeded in bringing the heart of the book to the screen, and movies that did not.  And for me, very few movies land in the first category.

I’m probably too hard on the movie industry, Thumbs_downbut I’m very rarely pleased with a movie after I’ve read the book (not that’s not me to the right – that’s a photo from the public domain … but it sums up my feelings nicely!). Don’t get me wrong – I don’t expect a verbatim depiction of the book. I understand what “adaptation” means. But I like for the movie-to-screen transition to mirror language translations in fiction and poetry – to capture the spirit of that on which it is based, to stay true to the story (with story being defined as the the inner “truth” of the work).

Maybe I expect too much…

The more I thought about (when I was supposed to be working), the more I realized there is a third category: movies that don’t succeed as translations of the book, but are still great movies.

For the giveaway, I was torn about which category to choose for the book/movie duo. And then it hit me – don’t choose. Or rather, choose based on the book and then watch the movie and chime in at the end of the giveaway (hopefully alongside the winner!). In other words, surprise myself.

So that’s what I did.

child 44 bookTHE GIVEAWAYChild 44 by Tom Rob Smith was published in 2011 and the movie release occurred last year (2015). I first read the book in December 2011 for a book club discussion. I was pleasantly surprised. While the book itself is in the genre of popular thriller, there was enough “meat” to the story – plenty of history, social commentary, thematic development – that our normally picky group all agreed that the book was enjoyable, stimulating, and well written. Trust me, this is high praise from this group. We went on to read everything else written by Smith.

Here is a synopsis from the author’s website:

In a country ruled by fear, no one is innocent.

Stalin’s Soviet Union is an official paradise, where citizens live free from crime and fear only one thing: the all-powerful state. Defending this system is idealistic security officer Leo Demidov, a war hero who believes in the iron fist of the law. But when a murderer starts to kill at will and Leo dares to investigate, the State’s obedient servant finds himself demoted and exiled. Now, with only his wife at his side, Leo must fight to uncover shocking truths about a killer — and a country — where “crime” doesn’t exist.

I have not seen the movie (yet), so I do not know if it lives up to child 44 dvdthe spirit of the book. My hope is that the winner of the giveaway will share his or her opinion! And, of course, I will chime in after sending the winner his or her package.

The package includes a copy of BOTH the DVD and the paperback of Child 44. Heck, I might even throw in a bag of microwave popcorn! 😉 

By now, you’re asking, What do I have to do to enter?

It’s simple – to enter, follow the link below. You can earn entries by commenting on this post, vising my Facebook page, checking me out on Google+, following me on Twitter … AND you can an additional TWO entries – daily! – by Tweeting about this giveaway!

Simply follow the link below to enter! (I’m trying a new way to tally entries, hence the link. Thanks for playing along!)

GIVEAWAY! Child 44 Book & DVD

To win, you must:

  • Be over the age of 18.
  • Have a US mailing address.
  • Enter from 2/1/2016 until 11:59pm Eastern 2/12/2016

That’s it! Easy as pie! And remember – the more you share, the more entries you receive. I’ll announce the winner on Saturday 2/13! Good luck!


November Giveaway Winner!

I want to thank everyone who entered my November Giveaway!  I am amazed by the number of entries and can’t wait to see what happens in December when my next giveaway begins!

What If Giveaway Nov WinnerCONGRATULATIONS to Patrise Henkel!  The Random Number Gods have favored you today, and you have been selected the November Giveaway winner! You will receive a copy of my favorite book of writing exercises, What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter.  Message or email me with your contact info, and I’ll get your copy on its way to you pronto!

I would love to send a copy to everyone who entered, but sadly I am only one writer with limited resources. If you are looking for a book of exercises and didn’t win, pick up a copy of What If? here or here.  And let me know what you think!

Be sure to look for my DECEMBER GIVEAWAY!

The Writing Life: Real-Life Antagonist

**Don’t forget to enter my Giveaway for your chance to win a copy of What If? Writing Exercises. Ends 11/24!**

villainOver the past few weeks, I’ve been dealing with an unhappy person.  This person is angry at someone else, and I got caught in the crossfire. I’m collateral damage.

I’m not just saying this. Everyone involved agrees it is her, not me.  They have reassured me repeatedly that I’m just an unlucky casualty in this person’s emotional (and truth be told, childish) war.  I’ve told myself this time and again and attempted to shake it off. Somewhat unsuccessfully. It still hurts when someone attacks you, even if you know they aren’t in their right mind (remember Dolores Claiborne?).

I’ve had to spend hours and hours discussing what should be done, how do we handle her in her “fragile state” without making her fly even further off the handle (a friend suggested having her committed – he got voted down). I’ve had to endure – with stoicism – several unpleasant emails and verbal exchanges from her that were downright mean and hurtful. And nothing I say changes anything. She has lumped me in with her bad guys and I’m fair game.

She has become my real-life antagonist.

I forced myself to stay on the high road, turn the other cheek and play the part of the strong and unflinching heroine (I’m not at all dramatic).  But a part of me wanted to fight back, to reach into my bag of nasty and give her a taste of her own medicine, to stand up for myself and ask her what gives her the right to be so cruel?  I didn’t. I remained the sane, calm person at the crazy lady tea party.

Do you know what I did instead?

I wrote her into a story. I cast her as the antagonist. I exaggerated her features and made her grotesque – the kind of ugly that makes babies (and grown men) cry. And I made sure she received her just deserts (a terrible, gut-wrenching poison that made her bleed from every orifice while simultaneously experiencing diarrhea and severe vomiting – it was awful). I made her hair fall out and her skin boil. I made her pancreas explode.

In short, I made sure my paper antagonist suffered far more than I would ever wish on my real-life antagonist.

I know, I know – I’m terribly petty.  But at least I did this in the safety and privacy of my own home. I didn’t say anything I’d regret to the actual person, and those around me are still wowed by how noble I can be (they don’t know me like you do, dear reader). I did feel a small (very small) twinge of guilt at my nasty streak, but I got over it quickly enough when I realized how ridiculous my short story is and how it will never make it off the hard drive.

I got over it because after writing the story, I felt better. I was able to truly forgive and move on. And I now have lots of raw material (albeit a little over the top) that I might use in the future. So really, I should thank my real-life antagonist.

But I won’t. 😉

Tell me, have you ever written about a real-life antagonist? How did it go? I’d love to hear stories from the trenches!

November Giveaway!

What If GiveawayGreetings from #NaNoWriMo Land!

I’m in the thick of things with my first ever NaNo, and it is going better than expected! Of course, it’s only Day 4 but so far, I’m ahead of my word count goals and I’m not getting caught up in my typical perfectionist trap.  Go me!  I’m also doing the #NovPAD (November Poem-a-Day) Chapbook Challenge from Robert Lee Brewer at Writer’s Digest.  I’m using NovPAD as a way to get the creative juices going each morning before diving into my NaNo writing after work in the afternoon.  So far, so good.  My Day 3 poem is kind of “eh,” but I’m looking at everything produced during the month of November as raw material and fodder for revision in the months to come.

In honor of all of this seat-of-the-pants writing, I thought I’d offer a #Giveaway focused on boosting creativity and getting you to step outside the comfy, familiar box that most of us find ourselves writing in whenever we’re pushed for time.  As such, I’m giving away a copy of my favorite book of writing exercises, What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter.  Don’t worry, I’m not giving away my personal (well-loved, dogeared) copy – this is brand-new and shiny, straight from

This book is the best.

I’m not saying this is definitively the best book of writing exercises and prompts ever.  Just that it’s a-mazing.  Phenomenal. Okay, yes.  I’m saying it’s the best.

My opinion may be due in large part to the fact that it is one of the first books I used when I embraced myself as a Writer with a capital “W” instead of a mere daydreamer.  But it’s also due to the fact that this book really is wonderful.  There are more than 75 exercises in the book, and unlike most prompt/exercise books out there, What If? provides explanations, objectives, and student examples.  It really is a gold mine for writers of all levels.

Even if you are thinking, “Great, a fiction book.  I don’t write fiction.” Don’t despair! Doing the exercises in this book will work that creativity muscle and the cross-training will result in improved writing no matter your genre of choice.  From poetry to memoir, this book will work wonders for you (if you do the work – you can’t just pet the cover and smile pretty … you have to write). And since it’s free, you have nothing to lose and much to gain!

“What do I have to do to win this amazing book?” you are probably asking.  It’s simple.  Here are the details:

  • You must be a resident of the US (or have a US shipping address).
  • Get one entry by commenting on this blog and telling us your favorite writing prompt or exercise (from any source, even one you dreamed up today).
  • Get another entry by posting about this Giveaway on Twitter.  BE SURE TO INCLUDE ME, @TheKatMcCormick, IN YOUR TWEET SO I CAN GIVE YOU CREDIT!
  • You can Tweet once per day until the Giveaway ends and earn one entry per day on Twitter. (If you start today (11/04) you could earn over 20 entries!!)
  • Do all of this before the Giveaway officially ends on Tuesday 11/24/2015 at 10pm Eastern.
  • I will select a random winner and announce the winner on Wednesday 11/25/2015 on Twitter and on my blog.

That’s it!  Easy as pie.  Good luck and happy writing!  I’m looking forward to reading your comments and Twitter posts!