Issue 11: Bamboozle The latest issue of firstwriter.magazine has also
just been released, featuring quality fiction and poetry
submitted from around the world, plus your first chance to see
not just the winning poems from our Fifth International
Poetry Competition, but also all ten Special Commendations.
To view the magazine click
here. To enter your work in our Sixth International
All those whose
work has been included in issue 11 have now been notified, so if
you submitted work for issue 11 and have not received
notification of inclusion then, regrettably, on this occasion
your submission was not successful. Please do feel free to try
again, however, through www.firstwriter.com/Magazine.
We have now begun accepting submissions for Issue 13.
Rob Riley recently acquired an agent using firstwriter.com's
of literary agencies. We asked him about his writing, and
how he found success.
fw: Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us, Rob.
Tell us a little bit the book you recently placed with a literary agency.
RR: My book is titled Dead Last and is a PI mystery novel, told
in first person. The main character, Jack Blanchard, investigates the
hit-and-run murder of a wealthy Wall Street investor. The trail leads him from
rural Wisconsin to the inner city streets of Milwaukee, and ends in Manhattan.
fw:Where did you get your inspiration from?
RR: I’d been a cop for over thirty years in Milwaukee…22 as a
detective…and have a built-in repository for all manner of detective stories.
Dead Last is one of many on the block.
fw: That must provide a lot of source material! How did you go about
starting to get it all down on paper?
RR: I developed a routine over the years of
writing at least three days a week. I always tried for five or six days. If I
get 1–2 pages of final copy at each sitting, I’m happy. I almost always get that
much. My only tip: force yourself to the typewriter/word processor if you must,
and start typing away. Review and correct your previous material to get a
jump-start. If you don’t, you’ll never finish a project.
RR: Dead Last is actually my fifth novel, none of which have been
published. Being insecure about my writing at that time, I didn’t send my
earlier manuscripts around much. My first three novels were in the
horror/supernatural genre. I’ve been a lifelong fan of scary movies and books,
and have studied the “dark arts” (for entertainment only), as well as
higher-minded spiritual pursuits. It was fun blending the two when I wrote those
books. My fourth book is also a Jack Blanchard PI mystery, actually the first in
a series, but I couldn’t get an agent for it.
fw: Do you think that the fact that you hadn't had anything published
previously was one of the reasons you struggled to find an agent?
RR: I learned that being previously published when trying to get an agent
definitely gives you a leg up. But new authors have to be persistent, there’s a
first time for everything.
fw: Was trying to find a literary agent the first step you took
towards trying to get your book published?
RR: I first tried sending my manuscript directly to publishing houses,
and was quickly informed that publishers no longer accept material directly from
fw: Yes, that's certainly the case if you're targeting the bigger
publishing houses. So once you'd decided that you needed a literary agent, how
did you go about finding one?
RR: I read perhaps a dozen books about getting published, and how to get
an agent. Nowadays, the quickest, most convenient way of researching the subject
is online. I got lists of agents from the internet, which can be found through
any of the available search engines. Over time, I sent queries to hundreds of
agents listed on the internet. There are very explicit, universal instructions
on how to determine which agents are appropriate for representing your work, and
how to write query letters. I did a single query letter and sent out hundreds of
copies, with sample chapters if requested, and waited for the responses. At
least half of the rejections were from agents who said they weren’t taking on
new clients at that time.
fw: So you received a lot of rejections before finding your agent?
RR: I’ve received close to 750 rejections from agents and publishing
houses, going back to 1995 when I sent out queries on my first novel. At first I
was discouraged when rejected, but eventually communicated with enough
professionals in the business who explained how difficult it can be to connect
with the right agent. I learned to accept it. Almost all of the rejections were
extremely kind, saying that I wrote well but my genre was not for them. A small
number were curt and dismissive, but I never received even one rude response. If
you approach true professionals, you will be treated properly.
fw: So if the free lists on the internet didn't get you anywhere, how
did firstwriter.com help you to make the breakthrough?
RR: What’s nice about firstwriter.com is that all the research about
what type of writing each agency represents is already done. When I got lists of
agents from the internet I had to check each agent’s website to see if they
published my genre, and whether they were accepting new clients.
firstwriter.com does that for you, and cuts your time by more than half.
fw: Once you'd started using firstwriter.com, how long did it
take you to secure your agent?
RR: It took about three months to get a contract for Dead Last
with Lois Bennett. That time period included her receiving and responding to my
query and sample chapters, and then requesting a copy of the entire MS. That
exchange period was about six weeks. I received Ms Bennett’s offer of a contract
about six weeks after sending her the MS.
fw: What do you think makes you and your agent a good match?
RR: First, my work was publishable. I’d had enough classes and workshops
with qualified people to know that I had something to offer. From there, it was
luck and timing. Ms Lois Bennett found my MS well enough written, and thought it
had market potential. It’s important to know that simply signing with an agent
is no guarantee that your book will be published. From my exchanges with Ms
Bennett through email, we seem to be a “good match”.
fw: What's it like having an agent? Is it all high-powered meetings in New York?!
RR: Having an agent means hurry up and wait. Agents have other clients
for whom they are sending out material. It takes months for your work to be
packaged, sent off to publishers, reviewed by publishers who then take time to
decide whether to give you a contract… if they don’t reject your work outright.
Meantime, you wait, casually and very patiently check your mail, and maybe say
some prayers, if you’re into that kind of thing. There are no high-powered
meetings in New York, or anywhere else on the planet. If your agent bags a
contract, he or she will contact you, and you go from there. (All the while
remaining comfortably in your home.)
fw: Do you have any tips for other writers?
RR: Get into writing classes and / or writing workshops and then work,
work, work. Be patient, be able to accept criticism, and adjust from there. Read
books on writing and getting published. But most important – put your butt in
front of a typewriter or word processor, and turn out material.
fw: What are your plans for the future?
RR: My agent emailed me recently to inform me that she’d sent my MS to
three publishing houses and she’s waiting for their responses. Even if one of
them offers to publish my work, it can take well more than a year to complete
the process of signing with a publisher and having them actually print copies of
your book. Then again, finding a publisher could be a long process. I’m
currently writing the third book in my Jack Blanchard PI series.
fwn:Thanks very much for your time, Rob, and best of luck with
getting the book published!
search firstwriter.com's database of over 700 literary agencies
I started writing for publication over twenty
years ago, and I raised eight children while in training. You wouldn't believe
the piles of laundry and garbage our family accumulated on a daily basis.
Between the dirty dishes, dirty laundry and smelly diapers, our house smelled
like the city dump occasionally. And the endless disposable diapers, baby wipes
and band aids were the main part of our shopping list, not to mention all the
other necessities on a weekly basis. The garbage man expected a tip every time
he picked up our trash – we had at least four or five large bags every Tuesday
Running a house of ten people, two family dogs,
two cats, a parakeet and eight fish in an aquarium that Mom had to clean every
week - wherever did I find the time to sit down and write? How could I afford
it? You'd think I'd spend all my extra money on diapers, cough syrup and band
aids instead of paper and stamps! Most of the time, I did.
During those years, my children afforded me many
ideas to write about – there were a couple of small press parenting magazines
and newsletters that published my articles on a regular basis. Believe me, with
eight kids ranging from birth to twelve years of age, there was all kinds of
issues to write about. And I did. I wrote articles about bedwetting, teething,
allergies, potty training – you get the picture! My idea source was always full.
As the years passed, my articles took a different
turn – I started writing about teen dating, wild music, sassy kids,
teacher/parent relationships – all kinds of things like that.
That was over twenty years ago. All the kids have
moved out and started a life of their own, and families of their own, and you
know what? It is not much quieter than it was then. Again, my writing is taking
on a different twist. I enjoy writing about the grandchildren, and our times
together (there are seven and one on the way!). With three daughter-in-laws and
a son-in-law added to our family, the idea pantry is plentiful.
My twenty-one-year-old single daughter has
started dating black guys. It has caused a heated disturbance amongst my
children, and I have had to deal with this situation with padded gloves. She is,
after all, 21 – I can’t tell her what she can and can’t do – neither can anyone
else. Living in a small town like where we live – people talk. And gossip. Now
my unmarried daughter has a mixed baby – and we love him dearly – again, this
topic itself has afforded me many writing ideas. The daddy refuses to accept
responsibility – she is raising Nicolas alone in a white folk world. How will he
cope when he is older? On his birth record, it is recorded white – how will he
deal with being part white and part black? The writing ideas go on and on.
Prejudices are very real in our family, and there
is little I can do to change that at this stage in our lives. I don’t even try.
But I can sound off by writing about it. There are topics such as: mixing races,
family matters, collecting child support – again, the writing ideas goes on and
I run an advertising business, work part time out
of the office with another company, teach the youth class at church, babysit a
husband who retired from painting last year but has a full time ministry
position at the church. Every other day we're off to visit the sick or preach a
funeral service or look after some of the elders of the church.
We have seven lovely grandchildren who call me
every other day wanting something, and yet, I still find the time to pursue my
writing endeavors. I consider this my little piece of heaven, for whatever it's
Sometimes, being all these things that I am has
collided with my writing projects in more ways than one. Just because my
children are grown and have moved out of the nest, it never fails. Every week
someone needs me for something. "Momma, can you run the dog to the vet this
afternoon? I have to work?" or "Momma, can you follow me to the mechanic shop in
the morning so I can drop off my car. It needs a good tune up, and I have to be at
work at seven. I'll need a ride to work from the shop. Then I'll also need a
ride home. Can you pick up Nicolas from the sitter?"
It never ends. It's always something. That
unfinished writing project I had in mind just went by the wayside and will sit
untouched until God knows when I'll have another free moment to get back to it.
Over the years, my family has afforded me many
writing ideas that has earned publication on many occasions, and I appreciate
that. Being a mother is wonderful – being a grandmother is better than wonderful
– and being a writer along with that is an interesting mix, to say the least.
I love my family and wouldn’t change it for
anything – I have a large one and glad for that. It’s never a dull moment at our
house. When it gets too quiet and you can hear yourself think, the first thing
that comes to mind is: something is wrong! So you get on the phone and start
trying to find out why everyone is quiet.
Finally, I have a few hours to myself. I get to
my desk – pull out some projects I need to finish. The phone rings. So much for
everyone being too quiet! I look at the caller ID. It's Tina, my oldest
I decide not to answer and I listen as the
answering machine picks up. "Momma!" she yells in a hysterical voice. "Call me
back on my cell. I've got to rush Jessica to the emergency room – she fell off
the swing a few minutes ago – Momma, she broke something! Call me back. I'm on
my way to the ER!"
In a panic, I get on the phone, find out what has
happened, turn off the computer, and head for the nearest hospital. We spend the
next five hours at the ER. Jessica broke a collar bone. Sitting there, I start
feeling guilty – I should have brought that new edition of Writer’s Digest to
read while we waited. I should have brought that manuscript I completed last
week and do some editing. Time is wasting and I could be doing something while I
wait! I rummage through my purse for something to write a few notes on. Nothing
there – I cleaned it out last night – not one scrap of paper anywhere.
By the time I finally get home, it is supper
time, and I'm beat. Hubby's at home now, and he needs several letters typed up
before morning – could I please do them, he pleads. How could I say no – after
all, I was appointed as secretary of the church?
A writer must sacrifice a little time each day,
even if it’s only thirty minutes in the morning, thirty in the afternoon and
maybe thirty at night. If we can take time to eat, and find the time for a few
minutes in the shower, we must find a way to find time for our writing projects.
Otherwise, we never succeed at what we enjoy doing most.
I was never much on crafts and hobbies – never
learned to sew or crochet – wish I had – my enjoyment came from reading
endlessly. I use to write poetry for fun when UI as young but never considered
it as a career until I got older. Now, I have a collection of poems published
and this makes me proud. Each one of the poems that are in this unique
collection comes from the heart – there is a poem for each of my children
whether their name is mentioned or not – there is something about each
grandchild, or an experience we went through together.
Being the mother of such a large family has been
a blessing, and writing about the experience has been wonderful. The best part
is, you can write about your family or your experience, write about it some
more, and before you know it, you’ve found something else to write about it. A
writer can find ideas anywhere, but those that come straight from the family
pantry makes for a real good read, I promise! Most people are interested in what
you have to say. Say it, write it, and hang onto those fresh, new ideas.
Here’s to all the writing mommas out there who
need a boost! Keep on trying – eventually you'll get there! My family time added
to my writing time is my little piece of heaven!
About the author
Marcella Simmons has been writing professionally since 1988 – she has over 650
published credits in over 350 small press publications nationwide. In
2005, Simmons had her first book of poetry published, and is working on
several book projects at this time. She continues to write a regular
weekly column for a local newspaper in her hometown, as well as many other
writing projects. "Writing is a way of life for me," she says. Simmons is
the mother of eight children (all are grown now) and she has seven grandchildren
with another on the way. "My family is also a way of life for me, and my
uses English spelling conventions.
Spellings such as "realise"
differ from other spelling conventions
but are nonetheless correct.
Agent-author seminars in New York Backspace are holding agent-author
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