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S4 Episode 10: Reading Challenges

We love to read over here at borrowed solace! In this episode, Addey is joined by fellow editors Amber and Nicole to discuss all things reading, including reading challenges, reading tips, where to buy books, and what books are on everyone’s reading lists for 2022.

Into the Querying Trenches

Something we don’t always talk about here at borrowed solace is querying. While we are all (including you, reading this) writers and often quite familiar with the painstaking process of submitting to journals (we try to make it as painless and simple as possible here, I promise) not everyone has jumped into what many writers refer to as the querying trenches.

If the phrase, “querying trenches” automatically brings images of fighting in the trenches of a big battle to mind, that’s because it’s an apt comparison. While obviously nowhere near what it is like to truly fight in a battle (and much less gruesome), querying is to writers what the trenches are to soldiers. It’s a long, frustrating, and difficult slog to the finish line, with a lot of waiting, anxiety, and unfruitful returns.

What is querying?

For those who are unfamiliar, querying is when writers who have written a complete book (at least for fiction) or a book proposal (for nonfiction) start the long process of reaching out to literary agents in hopes of getting representation. With a literary agent, a writer’s work can be submitted to traditional publishing houses and (hopefully) accepted and published.

Why go through querying?

If it’s so bad, why do authors even go through querying? The answer is simple: to be traditionally published. While not every writer wants to be traditionally published (some choose the self-publishing route or simply stick to short stories and poems in literary journals), you really can’t be traditionally published without querying literary agents.

Most, if not all, of the traditional big five publishers (which could soon become big four and includes Penguin Random House, Simon and Schuster, Hachette, Harper Collins, and Macmillan) require a literary agent in order to submit. So in order to even have a chance at traditional publishing through one of the big five or their imprints, you need a literary agent.

What, exactly, does it mean to go into the query trenches?

So now that you know what querying is and why writers do it, let’s go into a bit more about the actual process of querying.

To query, you need a query letter. This letter is a one-page summary of your book that you are querying written in the form of a letter to an agent and includes biographical information about the author and stats about the book. Writing a query letter itself can be challenging, and it can truly make or break your querying experience (which is terrifying and what makes querying so hard.)

Armed with your query letter, and the first few chapters of your book, writers who are ready to query head into the trenches. This means finding literary agents who are interested in the type of book you’ve written online, following their submissions guidelines (much like the submissions guidelines we have here at borrowed solace), and sending along both your query letter and any other requested materials.

And then waiting.

Waiting is the hard part, and it’s made more difficult by the fact that the publishing industry as a whole right now is experiencing an immense amount of backlog and overwhelm due to staffing shortages, supply chain issues, and burnout. Just like with the rest of the world, COVID has taken its toll on the publishing industry, including all those involved in the querying process.

What’s so bad about querying?

Nothing. And everything. Querying is necessary to get your book published. It is the primary way to start the process of one day seeing your book on the shelves of your local Barnes & Noble. But it’s also a very tedious process, full of rejection.

May writers query close to a hundred agents with no success. Or find success early on that ultimately results in even more waiting (or even ghosting from agents, which is truly painful to experience as a writer–trust me, I’ve been there.)

Querying is a painstaking process that takes a lot of patience, resilience, and re-writing to survive. For many, though, all of this works out in the long run and results in a published book at the end of the years-long querying and publishing journey.

Are you querying?

I’m curious, are you in the query trenches? I dove into the querying process in mid-2021, and I’m still living in the trenches. While not exactly the same as submitting to literary journals, which I’ve also done my fair share of over the years, querying is similarly difficult.

If you’re querying, how’s it going? If you’re preparing to query, how’s it going? I want to know! Share your thoughts in the comments below. Or if you are unfamiliar with querying, or simply a ways away from venturing into the trenches yourself, comment what questions or concerns you have about the process.

Let’s support each other through this convoluted, messy process known as querying!

How to Handle Bad Critiques

What happens if a teacher or a professor, or worse, yet, an editor, crosses out your lines or sentences, rewords them, reorders them, tells you “You shouldn’t have written this poem”? Metrophobia means the fear of poetry. It is horrifying to hear that it even exists. What has caused poetry to have a distinctive word for the terror that syllabic lines cause?

Teaching methods have started changing as a new movement that bans the red pen is taking hold, but there are a lot of teachers and editors that still require and force extensive revisions. I have had both an editor and a teacher in the last few months humiliate me and tear apart my work. 

The journal that I submitted a poem to, asked me to change it based on a terrible response of one of their journal’s readers. I completely rewrote the piece until it no longer felt like mine and they took out even more lines after I sent it back in. After a second terrible review, they rejected the piece. I wanted to pull the piece as soon as I read the feedback. Instead, I went against my gut and agonized for several months. It was a prestigious journal that I had been published in previously. I wanted back in, badly, but I should have taken my piece back or stood my ground. I did neither. My lesson for next time, and perhaps for you, is to ask if their selected readers are biased. Be respectful but ask questions before extensive revisions. Decide upfront what you are willing to do to get the poem published. I felt desperate at the time and acted according to that desperation. Take time to think about if you will consider it “your” poem or prose piece when it is published. I never would have shown anyone the published poem. I would have listed it on my CV and hoped the world forgot about it. No one, poet, prose writer, no one, deserves to feel like they have to shelve their accomplishment because they feel their piece is no longer theirs.

Classes are a bit different. There may or may not be grades involved and they may or may not be in person, but the same advice applies. Be respectful and ask questions. My teacher told me in front of my entire class in a virtual session, “you shouldn’t have written this. I believe you should write only what you have experienced.” After a hot verbal exchange the week before, I was ready and had used a well-liked poem I revised with another institution. I knew that the poem was valid, even if it could be revised further. I still found myself questioning—what should I have done? The poem was based on World War II. All I could do to stand up for myself was to say, “who will tell the story?” And maybe that was enough. My fear remains that most students, and even the me of last year, would not have written again. I would have not only self-deprecated myself, but I would have truly believed I should not be writing the narratives that I felt called to. I want to note that this was not cultural appropriation. I do, however, believe we can all write the stories we need to. They just may not and perhaps, should not be published.

If you find lines on your work, either by editors or professors, teachers or tutors, do not immediately think that you are a “bad” writer. Ask questions. Why do you think this line should be crossed out? Why should I end here? The burden should not reside on the writer, but sometimes it does. We all make different decisions in our lives. I may not revise a piece so extensively for THAT journal, but what about the next? I think asking questions and believing in the validity of our writing is the only safe way to navigate. 

There is no need for metrophobia, or any word for the fear of writing or speaking out. If your teacher/professor is cruel, go to them first or to their superior. Do not be abused. If an editor is cruel, pull your work or refuse to deal with them again without going over terms. And above all else, know yourself. You are a writer if you place a word down. Revision will make you a great writer, but that revision should be your choice to make and no one else’s.

S4 Episode 9: Resources

In season four, episode nine of the podcast, Addey read “Different” by Susan Cornford–a short flash-fiction piece that was published in the fall 2021 edition of the journal, Tamed.

If you’re interested in reading more of Susan’s work, here is where she has been published and a bit about the author:

Susan Cornford is a retired public servant, living in Perth, Western Australia. She has had pieces published or forthcoming in Across the Margin, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Antipodean Science Fiction, borrowed solace, Cafe Lit, Crow’s Feet Journal, Ethel Zine, Flora Fiction Website, Frost Zone Zine, Granfalloon Magazine, Meet Cute Press, Mono, Mystery Tribune, The Mythic Circle, Quail Bell Magazine, Thriller Magazine, Worthing Flash and others.

Now imagine we are bundled up to ward off the snow (at least the snow coming down here in Colorado) and the conversation turns to this week’s episode of the podcast. What are your questions, thoughts, or comments? Leave them down below!

S4 Episode 9: Different

On this episode of the podcast, Addey reads “Different” by Susan Cornford. “Different” is a short flash fiction piece that was published in the fall 2021 issue of borrowed solace, Tamed, and we are so pleased to present this amazing piece of writing to you in audio form on the podcast.

S4 Episode 8: Resources

In season four, episode eight of the podcast, Addey and Nicole were joined by Aimar Galarza to discuss all things voice acting and recording audiobooks!

Aimar B. Galarza is a second-year Puerto Rican graduate student in the George Washington University MPS Publishing program, and has been voice acting ever since 2016. She has participated in various projects ranging from video games, audiobooks, animations, and commercials such as Nori and Zin by Taliyah Denton, PlayShifu games, and voice-over work for the National Guard. She also joined Pubvendo, a digital agency for book publishers and authors, in July 2021 serving as a Book Publicist while balancing her job as a freelance voice actress.

If you’re interested in learning more about Aimar and her work, you can connect with her on Twitter, LinkedIn, or on her website.

Now, pretend we’re chatting all about our writing plans for the new year when the discussion turns to this week’s podcast episode. What thoughts, questions, or comments do you have about recording audiobooks? Let us know in the comments below

S4 Episode 8: Recording Audiobooks

We are back with another new episode after a couple of weeks off as we started the new year. This week, Addey and Nicole talked with Aimar Galarza, a graduate student in Nicole’s publishing program and a voice actor. Aimar has recorded a children’s audiobook and her voice has been featured in commercials, video games, and more.

S4 Episode 7: Resources

In season four, episode six of the podcast, Addey and Amber talked all about book-to-screen adaptations. Here are some of the books, shows, and movies mentioned:

Hunger Games

Harry Potter

Lord of The Rings

Hobbit

Pride and Prejudice

Dracula

Frankenstein

Little Women

Nancy Drew

Good Omens

Outlander

Lemony Snicket’s A Series Unfortunate Events

Now, let’s assume you are floating around in this week between Christmas and New Year’s (aren’t we all) and decide to listen to this episode of the podcast as you sleep, eat, repeat. What are your thoughts on the books and movies/shows mentioned? Do you have any favorite books that made great movies (or vice versa?) Let us know in the comments below!

S4 Episode 7: Books on Screen

This week in the final episode of 2021 (!) Addey is joined by fiction editor Amber to discuss all things books and movies (and television.) We all know and love different books and their screen adaptations (or, in some cases, love to hate them.) Listen in to see if your favorite is mentioned!