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A Call to CP Action

A couple of weeks ago at the DFW Writers Conference, I attended a work session about creating and managing a highly successful & productive critique group.  I was so impressed with what I heard, of course I immediately wanted to form one. I've been part of critique groups before, both on-line and in-person, but for various reasons they've all collapsed or drifted apart, and I've even walked away from a few.  I've also used individual CP's, which have proven VERY beneficial, but I'm ready to take things to the next level.

So this is me asking if any of you might be looking for the same thing.

If you think you want to be involved, here's what you should consider.

A) I would serve as moderator and dole out guidance and discipline if and where needed.
B) The group would have a maximum of 10 members (probably start with six) with a mix of genres.
C) The group would meet at bi-monthly check-ins (every couple weeks).
D) We would use a secret Facebook page (and chat option) or Google + as our rendezvous point.
E) During our meetings we would go around the group and see where everyone stands, what goals they might have, inquire about immediate needs, and discuss any writings that are up for review.

Let me go ahead and answer some questions I think everyone will have.

Why a max of 10 members? Isn't that quite a few?  There will always be members who will out-of-pocket, on hiatus, or not currently writing -- in fact I will build the group with that in mind. Ten members would assure us a decent level of participation regardless of those type of scenarios.

How do we select the other members? Anyone to be considered would be asked to submit a ten page writing sample and answer a short questionnaire I've prepared that asks about their writing history and goals.  Active members will vote and majority rules.

What if a member becomes a problem? Someone may not hold up their share of the load by always submitting pages and never critiquing others.  Someone else might be overly cruel with their critiques.  Whatever the issue anyone has, it would come to me and I'll have a discussion with the member off-line to try and correct the behavior.  If that doesn't help, they will be asked to leave the group.

I'm concerned about over-committing myself and not being able to contribute fairly. What happens then?  This is a lot of writers concern when thinking about a formalize group.  I can just tell you two things, 1) I will do everything I can to keep things balanced and reasonable, and 2) you can always drop out if the pace gets to be too much.

If you have any other questions, or you're interested in joining the group, send an email to

DFW Con & WRiTE CLUB Update

I attended the DFW Writers' Conference last week and it blew me out of the water - again.  I first paid a visit to DFW two years ago and wanted to return last year, but circumstances prevented that from happening.  But I was able to go this year and the experience was equally amazing.  

I had only been to smaller local conferences prior to DFW, but what I found so wonderful was the transition to a much larger scale was so easy and natural.  The setting (Hurst Conference Center) was perfectly laid out with a combination of large and small rooms, with plenty of spots to slip off for some alone-time to recharge those introvert batteries if needed.  But everyone was so friendly and approachable, that was never necessary.

This year I took advantage of a pre-conference workshop (two were offered) with Donald Maas (Writing the Breakout Novel) and I walked out of there with six pages of notes for improving my manuscript.  SIX PAGES!  There were so many helpful classes, it was very hard to choose.  One that stood out from the others -- at least for me -- was Tex Thompson's Punching Up Your Prose.  What an eye-opener!  I ran into several blogging buddies, which always gives me a thrill, but I made lots of new friends as well.

Agent pitch sessions are a staple with DFW and I made sure to partake -- nervous as I might be.  Something that's becoming a habit for me is devoting at least half of the time driving from Arkansas to Dallas fine-tuning my pitch with my wife.  It must have worked because the agent I selected asked for my first 100 pages!  Score!!   

DFW is a six hour drive from where I live, so no air fair needed, and the hotel rate is very reasonable and an easy stroll to the conference center.  There are some excellent restaurants nearby as well.  All in all DFW is in a cozy location, very affordable, and worth every penny.  If you considering a writers conference for next year, I would definitely put this one on your radar!  I'll be there again.

Oh year...did I mention that DFW is considering adding WRiTE CLUB to it's agenda in 2015?

Speaking of which, this years contest is underway and the submissions are rolling in.  Everyone who's submitted a 500 word sample should have received a confirmation email from my wife.  However, I still need your help spreading the word.  I've created the Twitter hastag of #writeclub2014 to help amp up the conversation, but that only happens if ya'll make it happen.  WRiTE CLUB lives and dies on your lips, so please do what you can to help it grow and reach more writers.

Well, I've got a synopsis to write, so I'd better get moving.  If anyone wants to ask me about DFW or WRiTE CLUB, just drop me a line.  :)


WRiTE CLUB 2014 – Submission Period Open

WRiTE CLUB 2014 – Submission Period Open

Yes…WRiTE CLUB is back!

I bet a lot of you were wondering whether I’d be holding our addictive contest again this year, being as I’m officially on blogging hiatus, but a couple of things have happened that made it possible.  First and foremost, the latest revision to my novel is complete and I’m about to dip my toe in the query waters again, so I have the time. But what’s even more exciting is that WRiTE CLUB has proved so popular that the DFW Writers Conference is considering incorporating it into their agenda for 2015.  How about that…we’re going syndicated! J

For the newbies out there, let me explain what WRiTE CLUB is?  It’s a modest writing competition whose inspiration was derived from the movie FIGHT CLUB.  There are numerous versions of this concept around the internet, but nothing like we do it here.  This unique approach, combined with your participation, continues to set it apart from the other writing competitions and is responsible for its phenomenal growth.  Its essence embodies simple, good-natured competition, with lots and lots of fun sprinkled on top. 

Over the course of eight weeks I’ll be holding twice-weekly bouts in which the winners will advance to the play-offs, which will ultimately lead to a single champion.  Bouts between who…or what…you ask.  Anonymous 500 word writing samples, submitted under a pen name by anyone who wishes to take part, that’s who.   The writing can be any genre, any style (even poetry) with the word count being the only restriction.  It’s a way to get your writing in front of a lot of readers, without having to suffer the agony of exposure. 

And the winners are determined by WRiTE CLUB readers!

Are you bouncing up and down with excitement, wondering how to submit your sample?   It’s simple…follow the format below (word attachment) and send your submission to  My wife will be the only one monitoring that email address and she will log in and assign every entry a number.  Submissions are open from now until May 31st.  After that date a panel of a dozen judges will read all of the entries we received and pre-select 32 of the best writing samples to climb into the ring.  Those 32 participants will then be randomly matched to compete over the next eight weeks, each of them hoping to make it into the play-off rounds and moving towards the ultimate goal – WRiTE CLUB Champion. No one (other than my wife)…not even the judges being used to pre-select the 32 contestants, will see the true identity of any sample.  Unless you win, of course.

Again this year, the most exciting part is the winner of the final round will be chosen by a panel of publishing industry professionals!  Agents, Editors, Publishers, Marketers, and published authors!  Check out their bios below (in alphabetical order by last name).

On June 16th I will randomly select the first pair of these 32 anonymous entries and post the first head to head competition.  The winner will be selected by our members via their votes left in the comments.  Ties will be decided by me (if necessary).  The victor will automatically be eligible for the playoffs – slated to begin August 18, 2014 -- and the loser will be eliminated.

Below are the general rules of WRiTE CLUB (with explanation) that guide the competition, loosely based on the Fight Club rules.  For those of you who are tired of reading, I present to you a nifty video created by Joan Reeves.

 Find Joan Online -
* About Reading, Writing, Publishing.  Subscribe to Joan's Video Channel:

1st RULE: You MUST talk about WRiTE CLUB - Spread the word far and wide so we can involve as many writers as possible.  Display the WRiTE CLUB banner prominently on your own blog.  Write a post about it.  Tweet it.  Mention it on Facebook. Heck, send up smoke signals if you can.  

2nd RULE: You DON’T talk about WRiTE CLUB – Once the competition begins you are not allowed to solicit votes.  All of the writing entries are anonymous, and we want it to stay that way. This is not a popularity contest!

3rd RULE: If someone taps out, WRiTING is over - Tapping out means a WRiTER can decide at any time during the 8 week competition to withdraw their name from the pool. If that happens the next writer from the pool with the most votes will move into that spot.

4th RULE: Only two people to a WRiTE - This is a head-to head competition, no ganging up allowed.

5th RULE: Two WRiTE’s per week - No matter how many submissions I receive this year, there will only be two WRiTE’s per week.

6th RULE: No shirts, no shoes - Come on, tell me you didn't giggle at that one.

7th RULE: WRiTES will go on until Aug 18th - On that date the 16 winners will be matched up against one another on daily posts until the ultimate WRiTER is chosen. At some point an advancing WRiTER will be asked to submit TWO new 500 word samples.

8th RULE: Anyone can WRiTE, but you have to have your submission in by May 31st. – No late entries will be accepted this year.

We started accepting your 500 word submissions today…the cut-off date is midnight on May 31st…and then June 16th the first bout will be held.  Your submission can not have been published anywhere else before! 

Want to see who will be judging the final round this year?  Here are their bios.

Jonathan Maberry -  a New York Times best-selling and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning horror and thriller author, comic book writer, magazine feature writer, playwright, content creator and writing teacher/lecturer. His books have been sold to more than a twenty countries.  His young adult fiction includes ROT & RUIN (2011; now in development for film; named in Booklist’s Ten Best Horror Novels for Young Adults, a Bram Stoker and Pennsylvania Keystone to Reading winner; nominee for several state Teen Book Awards; winner of the Cybils Award, the Eva Perry Mock Printz medal, Dead Letter Best Novel Award, and four Melinda Awards); DUST & DECAY (winner of the 2011 Bram Stoker Award; FLESH & BONE (finalist for the Bram Stoker Award; 2012; and FIRE & ASH (August 2013).  His thrillers include The Joe Ledger Thrillers from St. Martin’s Griffin (PATIENT ZERO, 2009, winner of the Black Quill and a Bram Stoker Award finalist for Best Novel; THE DRAGON FACTORY, 2010; THE KING OF PLAGUES, 2011; ASSASSIN’S CODE, 2011; EXTINCTION MACHINE, 2013; CODE ZER0, 2014, PREDATOR ONE, 2015, and JOE LEDGER: THE MISSING FILES, 2011 from Blackstone Audio.

Jonathan has published several dozen short stories in a variety of genres: mystery, horror, thriller, science fiction, military fiction, fantasy, western, urban fantasy, humor and others. In 2012 Blackstone Audio released two collections of Jonathan’s short stories: Tales from the Fire Zone and Hungry Tales.

Jonathan’s Big Scary Blog ( focuses on the publishing industry.  Jonathan’s interviews include Sandra Brown, Gayle Lynds, Alafair Burke, Charlaine Harris, James Rollins, Harlan Coben, Jeff Abbott, John Saul, Jonathan Kellerman, Barry Eisler, CJ Box, Laurell K. Hamilton, Jack Ketchum, Tom Piccarilli, Dale Brown, Kevin J. Anderson, Joe Lansdale, Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell, Carrie Ryan, and many other best-selling authors.

Jonathan lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Sara Jo, to whom he dedicates all of his published works, and their dog, Rosie. His stepson, Sam West-Mensch, serves a general manager of Jonathan’s writing business.

Visit his website/blog and sign up for his free newsletter.

Katie Grimm –  Katie joined Don Congdon Associates in 2007, where in addition to maintaining her own client list she also acts as business manager.  She focuses on vivid literary fiction, transportive historical fiction, up-market women’s fiction, cohesive short story collections, and lurid mysteries & thrillers with exotic or historical settings.  In young adult, she is actively seeking both contemporary and fantastical high-concepts with a touch of romance.  In middle grade, she looks for heart and humor with a strange or creepy twist.  Most importantly, she is hooked by fiction with emotional resonance and longevity, and in her opinion, this requires an authentic voice, relatable characters, and a twisting plot that keeps her intrigued.  For non-fiction, she is looking for narrative non-fiction about history, popular science, off-beat topics, and counter-culture.  She is also a member of SCBWI.

Margaret Bail – is a literary agent, has a BA in English and an MFA in Creative and Professional Writing. With years of experience editing everything from medical documents to manuscripts, as well as teaching university-level English and writing, she looks forward to working closely with new and established authors to help develop their voice and craft.
Her lifelong love of stories and storytelling has her looking for books that transport her into the heart of the story, so much so that she’ll forget where she is and lose track of time while she reads.

Before joining Inklings, Margaret was an agent at Andrea Hurst Agency.

Sarah Negovetich – Sarah is fully aware that no one knows how to pronounce her last name, and she's okay with that.

Her favorite writing is YA, because at seventeen the world is your oyster. Only oysters are slimy and more than a little salty, it's accurate if not exactly motivational.

Sarah's background is in Marketing. FYI, your high school algebra teacher was right when they told you every job uses math. She uses her experience to assist Corvisiero authors with platform building and book promotion

Brittany Booker – Brittany Booker is a Literary Agent and co-founder of The Booker Albert Literary Agency. She has worked with Marisa Corvisiero during her time at the Lori Perkins agency and the Corvisiero Literary Agency. She has a BA in English and a minor in journalism from The University of Arkansas at Monticello.

She is looking for novels that keep her up at night and transports her into the pages. In fiction she is looking for well-written contemporary romances, fantasies, YA and New Adult. She is specifically interested in time travel novels. As for YA, Brittany is drawn to contemporary works; dramatic or funny romances; and urban fantasy.  She's especially interested in YA that is funny and quirky. The goofier the heroine the better. Brittany is very interested in New Adult Contemporary Romances, anything dramatic, funny or with a demanding hero. She is a big sucker for happy endings. She also has a passion for books set in the south. She has working knowledge of Japanese and Spanish. Brittany is not looking for memoirs or paranormal works at the moment.

Brittany is now considering middle grade and erotica

Candace Havens – is the Editorial Director of Covet has written multiple novels for Berkley, Entangled and Harlequin. Her books have received nominations for the RITA’s, Holt Medallion and Write Touch Reader Awards. She is the author of the biography Joss Whedon: The Genius Behind Buffy and a contributor to several anthologies. She is also one of the nation’s leading entertainment journalists and has interviewed countless celebrities including Tom Hanks, Nicolas Cage, Tom Cruise, George Clooney and many more. Her entertainment columns can be read in more than 600 newspapers across the country. And she is the Editorial Director for the Covet, Edge and Select lines at Entangled Publishing. Candace also runs a free online writing workshop for more than 2200 writers, and teaches comprehensive writing class. She does film reviews with the Hawkeye & Dorsey on 96.3, and is a former President of the Television Critics Association

Les Edgerton – Is an ex-con who has almost totally reformed and gone straight. A full-time writer with seventeen books in print, he teaches creative writing on the university level, through private coaching of writers, and on various on-line venues. He writes in a variety of forms: novels, short stories, nonfiction books, screenplays and the subjects he chooses to write about are just as varied, including literary fiction, thrillers, black comedy, noir, sports and the craft of writing. He graduated from Indiana University with a B.A. in General Studies (Honors of Distinction); obtained an MFA in Writing from Vermont College, and also holds a certificate of barbering from Pendleton Reformatory.

Lydia Kang – is an author of young adult fiction, poetry, and narrative non-fiction. She graduated from
Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine, completing her residency and chief residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. She is a practicing physician who has gained a reputation for helping fellow writers achieve medical accuracy in fiction. Her poetry and non-fiction have been published in JAMA, The Annals of Internal Medicine, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Journal of General Internal Medicine, and Great Weather for Media. She believes in science and knocking on wood, and currently lives in Omaha with her husband, three children, and a terrarium full of stick bugs.

Lydia is represented by Eric Myers of the Spieler Agency and her novel CONTROL is available now.  Her follow up, CATALYST is coming Winter 2015 from Kathy Dawson Books/Penguin.

Tiana Smith – Tiana was the first ever WRiTE CLUB champion back in 2011! She grew up in Montana where she learned how to build a fire better than her husband, though she’s never ridden a horse. She graduated with an English degree with a creative writing focus from Westminster College and writes YA/MG books.  Tiana also likes to design blogs, so if you're interested in getting one of her premade designs, please visit her shop @ The Blog Decorator.

Mark Hough – Mark Langdale Hough was born in 1978, unable to read. After nearly six years of struggle he overcame this disability, going so far as winning a reading award in first grade. He’s still got the gold sticker to prove it. He developed a love of writing at age seven and completed a number of books all entitled: Mean Things My Sister Said To Me While My Parents Were Away. These were big hits among adults, particularly his parents.

In 2005, he began writing his first young adult book, The Spellwriter, in an attempt to break into the children's book market. In 2008, the manuscript won first prize in the Tassy Walden Award for New Voices in Children's Literature. They do not give out stickers for that, so you'll just have to take his word for it.

Mark is a graduate of the 2010 Highlights Foundation Workshop in Chautauqua (where he was fortunate to be mentored by the incomparable Patricia Lee Gauch); the 2012 winner of WRiTE CLUB (no stickers for that, either); a violin maker by day and an artist sometime between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. There are also plenty of things he’s pretty bad at, like spelling, ballet, and updating blogs.

He lives on the Connecticut shore with his wife Faith (who is also a writer) and their four young daughters (who daily attempt to teach him to pirouette). You can find his occasional blogging endeavors by clicking on his name above.

Tex Thompson - Last year’s WRiTE CLUB winner is Arianne "Tex" Thompson and she’s a home-grown Texas success story. After earning a bachelor’s degree in history from UT Dallas and a master’s degree in literature from the University of Dallas, she went on to become a community college professor, teaching the fundamentals of English to adults writing below the eighth-grade level. Now a master teacher for academic tutoring and test prep services, as well as the managing editor for the DFW Writers Conference, Tex is a regular feature at high schools, writing conferences, and genre conventions alike.

With her first book, a ‘rural fantasy’ novel called One Night in Sixes, Tex joins the growing ranks of Solaris authors committed to exciting, innovative and inclusive science fiction and fantasy.  Find her online at and on Twitter as @tex_maam

Are you willing to WRiTE for what you want?  Then crack those knuckles and get ready to flex that imagination.  And whatever you do, tell your friends!

WRiTE CLUB – The contest where the audience is knocked for a loop! 


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