writing tips

3 Query Tips Every Editor Hopes you Forget

Anyone who has submitted a manuscript–from published pro to the first timer–knows the feeling that sets in the second you click “send” on the query letter email. Anxiety takes hold almost immediately. Did I miss a typo? Will she like it? Will she think my letter is too short, or too long? Maybe I should have read it one more time…

Who knows? Every editor’s taste is different. One may prefer YA realism to fantasy. Another may appreciate high-concept middle grade over school tales and picture books. Some editors only publish fiction or non-fiction. But we all agree that a thoughtful pitch is the best way to garner attention no matter the genre.

So as your finger trembles over the SEND button, try to keep these things in mind:

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UN-Monday: Ursula Nordstrom’s 5 tips for writing for children

The road to publication is long and filled with missteps and restarts. No one understood that better than Harper’s venerable children’s book editor, Ursula Nordstrom. Her correspondence, so thoughtfully curated in DEAR GENIUS (Marcus, 1998), is filled with revision advice for writers at every level of their careers.

In her September 27, 1961 letter to Fred Gipson, author of the Newbery Honor-winning young novel Old Yeller, she outlines five tips for writing books for children. In her note to Gipson, they are meant to help him expand and adapt an adult short story into a possible work for child readers. However, they are a nearly accidental road map for writers of young fiction, genius in their simplicity. I’ve even created a PDF below! Click UN’s list and download it to hang on the wall of your Writing Batcave.

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