Friday, May 26, 2006

For Jenna and my friends at Absolute Write

If this looks familiar, it's because I originally posted it last October. A few days ago, I found out from MacAllister Stone via email that was offline, and looking for a new host. I've been very busy this week - more on that at the bottom of this post - so I wasn't aware that AW was offline because one of the scammers Jenna works so hard to expose had told her (Jenna's) hosting company that AW had libeled her (more on that at the bottom, as well).

This post is for Jenna, and my friends at Absolute Write. I love you all, and owe you much.

Writers are a funny group. We all want other writers to succeed, and we're happy to reach down and pull someone up behind us.

Unfortunately, when we reach down, the writer below us usually tries to pull us off the ladder. We're all guilty. We want to be known as the successful writer who hasn't forgotten where he came from, but first we need to be successful, so we fight our way to the top with all the fierce competitiveness of those heroic tadpoles on the Disovery Channel's documentary about conception (When you get depressed, remind yourself that billions of sperm entered THAT race, but YOU won).

One writer I know, when he encounters discouraged fellow scribes, puts a gentle hand on their shoulders and tells them they should just give up; that the business of writing will only contaminate their artistic souls, and if they want to survive with their integrity intact they must never again subject their vision to the callous brand of capitalism that is rampant in the world of agents and editors. I'm not sure if he later asks them for the phone numbers and email addresses of all their contacts, but it wouldn't surprise me. It's what I would do.

What has surprised me, though, is the generosity of one particular group of struggling scribes, how much they help each other, and how much helping them has helped me. is an online magazine for writers, and editor Jenna Glatzer is an expert on the business of writing. Beautiful, bubbly, and brilliant, Jenna draws talent toward her like a tiki torch draws mosquitos. She is the author of such books as Outwitting Writer's Block and Other Problems of the Pen, and the soon to be released The Street-Smart Writer.

She is also a frequent contributor to Writers Digest. You can learn more about her at her personal site, (The porn filter at my office blocks her site. I've looked, and looked, and looked, and cannot find the reason for this block. If you do find any naked pictures of Jenna, please email me their exact location, so I can get this straightened out.)

Among the talented folks Jenna has drawn to Absolute Write, is James D. McDonald, the author of dozens of published books in multiple genres, who runs a kind of online writers workshop called Learn Writing with Uncle Jim. Scores of other published writers, agents, editors, and publishers, visit regularly to answer questions and offer suggestions.

What I've found most surprising, though, is the help from my fellow neophytes. Ask any question you can imagine about writing (writing anything, from gargantuan novels to greeting cards) and you will get a dozen answers from people who, like you, are struggling to find their way. What value is there to an answer from an initiate? You'd be surprised.

When I wrote the first draft of my query letter for Transit Gloria, I thought I had a pretty good piece of writing in my hand. When I posted it for review at Absolute Write, I quickly found out just how much better it could be. These are people who have read every possible bit of advice on how to write a good query letter. They've written, rewritten, and rewritten again, their own query letters, and if they've been at Absolute Write for more than a couple of weeks, they have read dozens of other author's queries and critiqued them. The very first round of critiques improved my letter. While I used several smart guy (and gal) first readers to evaluate my novel, it had never occurred to me to do the same for my letters, even though writing a short summary paragraph about Tranist Gloria was far more difficult for me than writing the 90,000 word novel. I write character driven stories, and it's virtually impossible to have a character driven paragraph (don't send me your examples, please).

My letter didn't really get good, though, until I started critiquing other people's letters. When I saw what worked for them, and what didn't, my mind flashed back to my own letter and I recognized my own weaknesses and strengths. I've watched other writers on the site go through the same process, and watched their letters improve dramatically over very short periods of time. It is truly amazing, and perhaps the most gratifying part of the process is the sense of accomplishment when the folks you've helped, find success.

Now I feel the urge to share my own success with them, not to brag, but to thank them, and to let them know that I know they are largely responsible for the good things that are happening to me. I told you in my last post about Famous Writer referring me to Famous Agent. Here's an update: I posted my query to Famous Agent on Absolute Write, and got some great feedback before I sent it. I cc'd Famous Writer, and she replied, "Mark, this is the best query letter I've ever read. I'll email Famous Agent today, myself. My land, boy, you know how to write a query letter!"

Two days later, I got a reply from the agent. She said I had piqued her interest, and requested my first three chapters. Piqued is one of my favorite words. The only word I'd rather have her use, is zeitgeist. If she ever uses the word zeitgeist, I'm gonna put a down payment on a Ferrari.

None of this would have happened with the first query letter I wrote. So, to all the folks at AbsoluteWrite: Thank you. WE did well.

p.s. Shortly after I originally posted this, came the publication of Stories of Strength, the anthology Jenna put together to benefit the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. My story, Merry Christmas, 1989, was included in the anthology and I went to work using my media contacts to promote the book. One of those contacts responded by offering me the job I have today. Because of this job, I've been nominated for a major editorial award, and now I've been approached by one of the largest papers in the country with a job offer (if you're counting, that's two jobs in a row that I haven't applied for, but which came to me as a result of my relationship with Jenna Glatzer and Absolute Write). I'm also working on a new project - an online literary magazine, The Picolata Review, , and Jenna kindly allowed me to post an announcement on the Absolute Write forums calling for submissions. I owe her, and her site, a great deal.

Jenna recently published The Street Smart Writer, a book about how to avoid being scammed, and she has been a force for good for years in the battle against agents and publishers who make their living by scamming writers. She is currently refusing donations to help get the site back up and running, but she has asked that anyone interested in helping out financially buy the book.

The agent who caused AW to go offline is reported to be: Barbara Bauer
Miss Snark is dealing with her.
Mac is dealing with her, too.

I apologize for not knowing the score sooner, my friends. Go buy The Street Smart Writer, and support Jenna and Absolute Write in their battle against the scum who have infiltrated our profession.

Mark Pettus,
Friday, May 26, 2006

17 comments so far. Thank you, Blogger Dawno, Blogger Bernita, Blogger Crjem1991, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger Jeff, Blogger Frank Baron, Blogger anne frasier, Blogger Moni, Blogger Dorothy, Anonymous Andy, Anonymous Andy, Blogger Shesawriter, Anonymous Payday Loans, Blogger No Hassle Loans, Blogger No Hassle Loans, Anonymous Payday Loans, Blogger Cash Loans,

Let me know what you think

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at 12:04 AM Blogger Dawno said...

Thank you Mark for joining your voice to the rest of ours. A lot of us have Jenna stories - if the day ever comes that I get a work published I plan to put this on the dedication page:

"You are a real writer, Dawno!" - Jenna Glatzer.

Thank you, Jenna.

at 8:24 AM Blogger Bernita said...

An excellent, excellent post, Mark.

at 8:32 AM Blogger Crjem1991 said...

Okay so my brain has had its workout for the write incredibly well, subject, no matter...I am an aspiring writer myself, but get much more joy and happiness helping others, and believe you me I am not sharp enough or capable to cheat anyone out of their work...although I've been cheated out of some of mine. My philosophy, good enough to steal,good enough to day
You have an enjoyable philosophy:)
I'd like to know you better...
Sincerely, Crjem1991 aka Robin
I also have a blog called Writers Edge...please check it out....

at 11:14 PM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

Dawno - It is a small world (as the scammers are discovering). Jenna has a kind heart and bully pulpit. I'm glad I found her.

Bernita - Thanks.

Robin - Glad you came by, and thanks for the nice compliments. Come back often (I think some of the people who read my blog know me TOO well).

at 8:42 AM Blogger Jeff said...

The support and encouragement we receive from fellow writers is invaluable. Nice post, Mark. :)

at 12:24 AM Blogger Frank Baron said...

I ain't gonna argue. Good stuff Mark.

AW is simply a very special place, founded by a very special person and populated by a host of (you guessed it!) very special folks.

at 12:16 AM Blogger anne frasier said...

congratulations on the job offers, mark. and on the new magazine!

at 2:26 PM Blogger Moni said...

Nothing but blue skies and smooth sailing ahead for you mate. Kudos on the literary award nomination, the magazine and the job offer.

As for Absolute Write, it's a shame when people in the same profession can't be an encouragement for one another. I hope the site gets back on track. It is very much needed.

at 9:52 AM Blogger Dorothy said...

Wow, great post, Mark. I was just utterly in shock when I found out what had happened to Jenna. I am so happy that things turned out well for her, but can you imagine what she has been through? Terrible, terrible. Well, they say what goes around, comes around.

at 1:45 AM Anonymous Andy said...

Mark, am trying to respond to the email you sent me this morning about the magazine. Comcast isn't playing nice and is bouncing all emails sent to either your personal email address or the Picolata one... The returned email technical guff says it will only send emails to 'personal' addresses or some such nonsense. Can you find out what's happening and then email me to let me know when I can try sending the message to you again? Thanks! x

at 12:19 PM Anonymous Andy said...

Sorry to use the comments for this, Mark, but I've not much choice as it's the only way to get a message to you right now. I got your email suggesting I try again and, again, I get the following:

550 Comcast does not support the direct connection to its mail servers from residential IPs. Your mail should be sent to users through your ISP. Please contact your ISP or mail administrator for more information.

Reads to me like you need to get a bit shouty down the phone at some tech person... x

at 6:23 PM Blogger Shesawriter said...

Hey Mark,

How ya doin' buddy? Wanted to say hi and also that I'm blogging again. Hope you're doing good.


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