Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Congratulations to Ellen, Barbara, Michelle, and Liz on getting published; plus Amy looking for roomie for June in Algonquin Retreat and Elliott Lake Writers invite new membrers

Hi, Brian.
A short story of mine, "Aces," appears in The Stand, and a poem of mine, "Waffle," appears in Let's Fly Away, both published by Polar Expressions.  
My best,
Ellen Michelson
As noted in previous Quick Brown Fox postings, Rebecca House, Sally Wylie and Glen Benison also had short stories published in The Stand.  Check it out and buy a copy here.

Hi, Brian.
Seeing your name and story published in a Canadian Magazine = no thrill like it!
Barbara Baker
For information on submitting to Our Canada magazine, see here.

Hi Brian!
How are you?
My short story “The Gingerbread House” is featured on Commuter Lit... and a short 50-word version was on 50-Word Stories.
 Thank you again for these valuable resources!
Read Michelle’s 50-word story here and read all six of Michelle’s 50-word stories here. Read the longer version of “The Gingerbread House” on CommuterLit here, and find links to all three of Michelle’s stories on CommuterLit here.
For information about submitting to 50-Word Stories, see here, and for information on submitting to CommuterLit, see here.

Hi, Brian.
I'm so pleased to say that my third novel has just been accepted by Crimson Cloak Publishing. The first, A Path to the Lake, should be released shortly. When it is I'll announce it on my facebook page and my website.  All three books are women's fiction with a strong romantic element.
Thanks so much for all you have done over the years, including how to write a great query letter!
Elizabeth Crocket
For information about submitting to Crimson Cloak Publishing, see here.

Writer to Writer
Female looking to room with another female for the June in Algonquin Writers Retreat (Details of retreat here)

Hello, Brian.
 I would like to share some exciting news with you.
 I have recently taken on the role of Coordinator in order to revitalize Elliot Lake Writers which is now a vibrant group meeting monthly in the meeting room at the Elliot Lake Public Library.  Our Meeting Facilitator is Kayt Lackie who was a Three Day Novel Competition winner and who has her Phd. in Creative Writing.  Our Treasurer, Luc Rivet, is author of two short story anthologies, both available on Amazon sites.  Our group now has fifteen members and we are a vibrant, forward looking bunch of creative writers.
 I have great memories of our Writers’ Fall Festival several years ago and what a pleasure it was to have you here in Elliot Lake to offer your workshop.   Now that we are once again celebrating Elliot Lake Writers, I hope the day will come when you will once again facilitate a workshop for us.
 I’m now author of several short story anthologies; novellas; and novels and I’m happy to say I now have twenty publications available on Amazon sites.
 All the best,
 Audrey Austin
Anyone looking for a writers group near Elliot Lake, should email Audrey at:

 See Brian Henry’s schedule here,  including writing workshops, weekly writing classes, and weekend retreats in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Interview with literary agent Dorian Karchmar of William Morris Endeavor

Note: Don't ever miss a post on Quick Brown Fox. Fill in your email in the box to the right under my bio, and get each post delivered to your Inbox, and if you’re not yet on my newsletter list, send me an email, including your locale to: ~Brian

Dorian Karchmar is a literary agent with William Morris Endeavor, the world’s longest running (and one of the world’s most important) talent and literary agencies. WME has represented everyone from Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe to Ben Affleck and Hugh Jackman. Its literary side is also hugely impressive, including Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri, Meg Wolitzer, Mohsin Hamid, and many leading voices in fiction and nonfiction.
Dorian has been a literary agent for two decades, with the last 13 years spent at WME, where she represents bestselling and award winning literary and quality mainstream fiction and narrative nonfiction. Prior to becoming an agent, she received her MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Iowa.
Among others, Dorian represents
- Amor Towles, author of A Gentleman in Moscow, which has spent more than a year on the NYT Hardcover bestseller list, and the breakout debut, Rules of Civility
- Cathy Marie Buchanan author of The Painted Girls
Daniel James Brownauthor of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Boys in the Boat
Helene Cooper, Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times White House correspondent and author of the memoir The House at Sugar Beachand Madame President, a biography of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
The late Paul Kalanithi, neurosurgeon and author of the worldwide bestseller When Breath Becomes Air

Dorian agreed to be interviewed by Quick Brown Fox…

Quick Brown Fox: Do you have suggestions about getting a manuscript in shape prior to submitting?
Dorian: This is actually the number one thing I tell aspiring authors: DO NOT RUSH.  The single biggest mistake one can make is to go out with work before it’s ready. Ignore the pressure that can come from watching what your fellow MFA students, workshop members, and/or friends are and aren’t doing, and reach out to agents only after you have taken your novel or book proposal absolutely as far as you can.  

This means drafting and redrafting; work-shopping with trusted readers (not your friends and relatives – they will not tell you the truth – but ideally another writer or two with whom you have developed a relationship based upon your ability to read and critique one another’s work honestly and constructively; and revising some more).  
One of the hardest parts of the entire process of becoming a published author is having the necessary patience and humbleness required to get the manuscript to where it needs to be before jumping into the agent-hunt.  In the end, almost nothing matters other than the quality of the manuscript.

QBF: What sort of books are you especially looking for?
Dorian: For fiction, I’d like to find a story I haven’t read before: a premise that’s deeply compelling and fresh; an unlikely setting or unexpected collision of characters; a mature, assured voice, and commitment to storytelling.  I’d love to find a literary suspense writer who is as interested in character and psychology as s/he is in plot – a a la Kate Atkinson or Tana French.  And/or someone who pushes genre boundaries with upmarket flair, like Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven.
I also love historical fiction that fully immerses me and teaches me about another time and place: Paulette Jiles’ utterly beguiling News of the World has stayed with me for its emotionality – which is as deeply retrained as it is moving; Mary Swan’s masterful, haunting, kaleidoscopic Boys in the Trees; Cathy Marie Buchanan’s dark, unsentimental, immersive The Painted Girls.
In nonfiction, I’m always on the lookout for narratives – memoir, narrative history, narrative journalism – that spins a great yarn while teaching me something I didn’t even know I wanted to know: I loved David Grann’s recent Killer of the Flower Moon, which reads like a murder mystery while unfolding fascinating history of the Osage tribe, the early days of the FBI, and the waning days of the Wild West; neurologist Jill Bolte Taylor’s decade-old (at least) “brain memoir” My Stroke of Insight; and my own late client, Dr. Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, a chronicle of his own untimely death that understands that all deaths feel untimely, and in which he excavates this universal experience using all of his own prodigious gifts—as a philosopher, neurosurgeon, historian, reader, husband, son, brother, father, and alchemist of language.  

QBF: Is there anything you see too much of or is overdone these days?
 Dorian: Specifically speaking, some agents and editors say domestic suspense is being over-published – the trend that started with Gone Girl, and currently continues with The Woman in the Window – but yet we can’t ignore that readers still have a massive appetite for it. 
More abstractly speaking, I see way too many books written by people who have not figured out their book’s narrative arc, how to use story to reveal deep-character, and/or how to keep narrative tension alive.  Doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or nonfiction, if a book doesn’t have tension in its pages, it will not find its readers. 

QBF: What’s your process when considering a project?
Dorian: It’s often a bit visceral, my process.  Usually, I just jump in and start reading the pages; if I snap at my assistant for interrupting me, that’s a great sign (though a bummer for my assistant). 
After I’m “in,” so to speak—that is, the material has me in its thrall—I will step back a bit mentally as I read in order to think about how I’d position the project (what’s my pitch? with which other books/authors does this one share an audience?  Who are the ideal imprints/editors for it?).
If I fail to be able to step back mentally, because every time I start reading all I can do is fall headfirst back into the material, then I’m a goner.  In a good way.  And I know I will figure out all of the “agent-y” stuff later and will do whatever it takes to work with the author.  
I like to speak with the author – face-to-face if possible – and discuss editorial thoughts, what they see for themselves and in their professional and creative future, and generally make sure we are on the same page as far as our commitment to the work goes.  I want to know that the writer has as much gas left in his/her tank as I have in mine, since we almost always do a good deal of editorial and development work prior to putting the project out into the marketplace. 
 I also want to feel confident about our ability to communicate effectively to one another.  In the longer run, so much will depend on mutual trust and effective communication skills, so it’s important to make sure the chemistry is there.

QBF: What grabs attention in a query letter?
Dorian: I want to see that the author has specific reasons for reaching out to me, and that s/he understands where their project might fit on a shelf – with which authors and other trade books will their book be in conversation?  I’m looking to see that a given writer takes both themselves and me seriously as professionals.  I live at the intersection of art and commerce, and I want to see that a writer understands that and can navigate that space effectively.
It’s a plus if the writer has won awards and/or fellowships, graduated from a good MFA program, placed material in strong literary or mainstream magazines.  That said, I have pursued and/or worked with debut novelists who have come out of the blue with very little other than a great query letter and a manuscript whose description sounds irresistible. 

QBF: How do you decide if a manuscript is worth considering?
Dorian: A great query letter will get me to request the manuscript.  Sometimes my trusted assistant looks at the material first and lets me know if it’s something I should consider.  I start reading and hope that I won’t want to stop. 

QBF: What grabs you about a manuscript?
Dorian: Fantastic writing. 

QBF: What do you look for in a client besides a great book?
Dorian: Depends in part what kind of writer/project we’re talking about.  For any writer, it’s a plus to be articulate and charismatic – this doesn’t have to mean super-extroverted, just that the writer has a way of speaking that makes others want to listen. 
 It’s great if a fiction writer is social-media savvy, but especially helpful if they are already ensconced in a literary circle – they keep in touch with fellow MFA graduates and profs, contribute to lit mags, and cultivate relationships with other writers, booksellers, etc.  
I think it’s become more important than ever for writers – fiction and nonfiction – to seize the mantle of the public figure, and contribute her/his voice to community of writers with whom they want to be aligned, and to a larger cultural conversation.  This is true for journalists, memoirists, historians, literary fiction writers and commercial fiction writers.  I love to work with writers who are already engaging.

QBF: How do you work with authors?
Dorian: I am very hands-on.  The author and I ping-pong on revision for however long it takes to get the project bulletproof; some of this is via email and scans of the work in progress, and some of it is via phone calls where we talk about the book in both micro and macro ways. 
I want my clients to be as fully informed and knowledgeable about the business-side of the process as they wish to be, so I generally spend a good amount of time answering questions and explaining, educating writers so that they can be real partners in the decision-making. 
I remain hands-on after we sell the book.  Making the sale marks the end of one phase of the process and the beginning of the next: the process of publication.  
Then there is the bigger picture of envisioning how a particular career might ideally unfold and helping steer the career in a fruitful long-term direction.  Because things rarely go exactly as planned (or desired) it’s not uncommon over the course of a career to also advise/strategize on reinvention.

QBF: What writing advice do you give your clients?
Dorian: I believe in having a sense, however loose, of where a book is going to go (narratively and thematically) before diving in too deeply.  That said, most of my clients have their own methods and processes and I try only to offer my advice if it’s asked for. 
QBF: What would you like writers to know about the publishing industry and about agents?
Dorian: The industry is a business – a frequently creative and meaningful one, but a business nonetheless – and it is important for writers to understand that the process of becoming an author is a process of becoming a professional.  That means:
-         do your homework and don’t just scattershot queries to agents;
-       -        be humble before the work of writing an excellent novel/proposal and don’t try to get an agent until the material is absolutely as strong and fully itself as you can make it; agents get tons of flip or wacky query letters, and we toss them all;
-      -        be prepared to revise and revise and revise before your agent sends out your project (the fact that your agent is willing to put in their time editorially is a great sign: the agent should never care more than you about the quality of your material);
-       -        be prepared to revise and revise and revise after your book sells and before it gets published; be obsessively interested in your own book – you’ll be working on it for a long time;
-         enjoy every drop of the process that you can, and appreciate every single reader (who isn’t related to you) who comes to your book: this is an incredibly hard business, and most books don’t sell a lot of copies or get the number of reviews that we wish; it is so important to savor all the good and, of course, to love the process of writing itself (even if you kind of hate it at the same time). 
-         Don’t define success solely according to the size of your advance or the number of copies your book sells.  It takes a weirdly big village to publish a book: take the time to get to know your team – publicists, marketers, booksellers, etc. – and write them personal notes of thanks.  Everyone wants to be seen, and most of us will go to the ends of the earth for writers we admire who have gone out of their way to acknowledge our contribution to the process.
-         Cultivate gratitude.  

QBF: Any final advice?
Dorian: Keep writing.  Keep reading, and learn from writers whose work you love.  Work hard. Figure out where your works fits on a shelf filled with other contemporary writers.  Don’t try to get an agent just because your friend (frienemy?) got one.  Getting an agent is the last step in a long process, not the first.   Keep writing. 

Query Dorian at:
Query only (no manuscript pages or attachments unless requested). 

Author Hannah Mary McKinnon
If you’re interested in and finding an agent or publisher (someday soon or down the road), don’t miss the How to Get Published workshops on Saturday, Feb 24, in Oakville with literary agent Martha Webb (see here) and on Saturday, March 3, in St. Catharines with HarperCollins editor Michelle Meade and author Hannah Mary McKinnon (see here).

If you’re interested in Kid Lit, be sure to register for the Writing for Children and for Young Adults mini-conference on Saturday, April 21, in Waterloo with literary agent Barbara Berson, Simon & Schuster editor Patricia Ocampo, and Young Adult author Tanaz Bhathena (see here) and Writing Kid Lit weekly class, Thursday evenings, April 18 – June 13, in Burlington which will feature guest authors Jennifer Mook-Sang and Kira Vermond (see here).

And don’t miss Writing and Revising on Saturday, Feb 10, in Guelph (see here), How to Write Great Dialogue, Sunday, Feb 11, in Windsor (see here), and Writing Your Life with guest Ross Pennie, on Saturday, March 10, in Toronto (see here).

The hottest ticket of the spring season, though, may be How to Write a Bestseller with New York Times #1 bestselling author Kelley Armstrong on Saturday, March 24, in Caledon at the Bolton Library (see here). ~ Contrary to rumour, there are still plenty of spaces for this workshop – but don’t hold off registering too long!

Brian also offers a full range of weekly writing classes, from introductory to intensive:
Exploring Creative Writing, Friday afternoons,  1:30 – 3:30 p.m. Feb 2 – March 23, in Toronto.
Welcome to Creative Writing, Wednesday, afternoons, April 18 – June 13, in Burlington. See here
Writing Personal Stories, Friday afternoons, April 13 – June 8, in Toronto. See here.
Writing Kid Lit, Picture Books to Young Adult, Thursday evenings, April 12 – June 14, in Burlington. See here.
Next Step in Creative Writing, Thursdays afternoons, April 12- June 14, at the Woodside Library in Oakville. Details to come.
Intensive Creative Writing, Tuesday afternoons, April 10 – June 11, in Burlington. Details to come.
Intensive Creative Writing, Wednesday evenings, April 11 – June 13, in Georgetown. Details to come.
Intensive Creative Writing, Friday mornings, April 6 – June 15, in Toronto. Details to come.

For more details or to reserve a spot in any workshop, retreat, or weekly course, email

Read reviews of Brian’s courses and workshops here.

See Brian’s complete current schedule here,  including writing workshops, weekly writing classes, and weekend retreats in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Navigation tips: Always check out the labels underneath a post; they’ll lead you to various distinct collections of postings. Also, if you're searching for a literary agent who represents a particular type of book, check out this post.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

“The Battle” by Mary Ellen Main

There are a number of things in this world that drive me mad. Tangled Christmas lights, hooked up hangers or several balls of wool that have managed to intertwine themselves. If I encounter one of these situations I simply must conquer or destroy. It’s a thing, I know it. But there is one thing that trumps all others, the true bane of my existence, the clothing label.

“Tag,” as I call him, and I have had it out many times over the years and usually I managed to neutralize him before the fight even begins, but there was one day where I underestimated him and the battle that ensued was of epic proportions.

I was running a bit late for a visit with my brother Frank. It was a hot, sticky, August day so I threw on my shorts and a new summer top. It was so hot, that by the time I reached the car I was already sweating and not just a little cranky. The temperature outside had nothing on the inside of my car. I had to stand back when I opened the door for fear of igniting. My air conditioning wasn’t the greatest so with all windows open I began the short drive to my brother’s.

As I was nearing Joseph Brant Hospital the traffic slowed down considerably. There was some kind of construction going on so we were stop and go all the way. It was at this time that I felt a sting at the back of my neck. “OW! I cried, what was that?” 

I felt around back there but didn’t find anything, so as the car crept along I forgot about it. OW!, there it was again, something was definitely biting me, so this time I grabbed at the hem of my neck and discovered my old arch nemesis, Tag, armed and ready for battle.

I was in no mood to fight him, so I adjusted the shirt to a different position, thinking I would deal with him once I got to Frank’s. 

Old Tag though would have none of it; he was spoiling for a fight and proved it by biting me again. This time I used both hands to yank him away from my neck, I wanted to get my finger underneath him to pull him off me completely. Just as I was making progress the cars started moving so I was forced to retreat and Tag settled back into hiding. 

I could just hear him, “Come on, you may as well give it up, you don’t want to fight me while you’re driving.” 

Not to be outdone, I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and sneered, “Oh, it’s on!

I have to give it to him; he was proving to be a formidable foe. I pulled and tore at him every time the car stopped. When I heard a rip I thought I might be gaining ground, but he was still there, hanging by a thread mind you, but there none the less. I faintly heard him cry, “Is that all you got? I almost felt sorry for him until he bit me again.

Think Mary Ellen, you cannot let this little shit get the better of you. A weapon, yes! That is what I needed and I knew just where to get it.

My purse was on the passenger seat next to me, so keeping my eyes on the road, I started feeling around blindly inside for a little pair of nose hair scissors I kept in there. Of course they were not where they usually lived and this latest setback was proving to be my undoing. I was starting to lose it. In a rage I upended my entire purse onto the seat and started rifling through the contents, throwing anything that wasn’t the scissors onto the floor. Ah Ha! Finally, gleaming in the sun coming through the window was my salvation.  Now I was armed and ready for my last stand.

We were moving along slowly now so using one hand I pulled him up and over my shoulder. I could see the terror in his eyes as he spotted the scissors. I had to wait until we stopped again before I could start my attack. He laughed as he realized my weapon was as dull as dish water. The fabric to which he clung to so desperately was just being folded into the scissors. This only renewed my will to destroy. I grabbed now with both hands and ripped with all my might. The sound of fabric tearing was music to my ears as he was finally torn free and vanquished to the floor of my car. 

On the way down I heard him mutter, “You may have one this battle, but the war is not over yet!”

I finally pulled into my brother’s driveway. A nice soft breeze was blowing on my neck, well my whole back actually, but why split hairs. I exited the car with the sweet taste of victory on my lips when my brother stopped in his tracks. He had just seen my shirt, “Oh my God, what happened to you?”

“What, this is nothing. You should see the other guy.”

Mary Ellen Main grew up in Burlington and is now back there after living in Vancouver for 33 years, where she worked in the film industry and started writing after taking two online University English courses. She needed to be inspired to begin writing again after she moved back to Burlington and Brian’s course has done just that. She hopes to write a novel one day.

See Brian’s complete current schedule here,  including writing workshops, weekly writing classes and writing retreats in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.