Friday, February 28, 2014

Fail, Fail Again

By Matt Sinclair

I’m happy to say I’m getting used to failure. Mind you, I don’t like it all that much, but it beats the alternative. No, not success, that’s not what I mean. The alternative is not trying at all.

Frankly, I believe failure and success are close kin. I don’t think you can one without the other as they each help develop one’s perspective. And failure done right can and should lead to success.

Why “should”? Because sometimes failure leads to not trying again. Heck, success probably can lead that way, too.

In the years when I frequently attended trade conferences as a reporter, I learned that the lessons from failure tend to be closely guarded secrets. One simple reason stands out: let your competitors make their own mistakes and learn their own lessons.

To some extent that makes sense. As a father, I’ve seen firsthand that a child learns better when they overcome an obstacle that previously seemed insurmountable. But we also like to share here at FTWA.

What example to share of my own failings? Well, Over the past several months I’ve failed to trust my instincts on a couple matters related to my writing and publishing. I knew something was not right, but I decided a work was “good enough.” The response I got eventually showed me that I was wrong in that assessment. Seeing months of rejection of a work that I once thought “good enough” can keep even the strongest character from moving forward.

The goal, however, is to learn from the failure. Then adapt.

How about you, any lessons from failure you’re willing to share here? Or do you prefer to keep them close to the vest?  

Matt Sinclair, a New York City-based journalist and fiction writer, is also president and chief elephant officer of Elephant's Bookshelf Press, which is hours away from publishing Winter’s Regret: What Might Have Been, the final edition of its Seasons Series of anthologies. The other titles in the series, all available through Amazon and Smashwords, are: Spring Fevers, Summer's Edge and Summer's Double Edge, and The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse. Matt blogs at the Elephant's Bookshelf and is on Twitter @elephantguy68.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Don't Blow Your Voice

by Cat Woods
This winter is flat ugly. Despite the snow and cold and stormy weather, the wind has destroyed all that might otherwise be beautiful. Instead of pristine white ditches filled with glittering blankets of snow, the roadside drifts are black with topsoil. The very winds that create our decreased visibility and late school starts continually blow the fields bare, depositing the rich, fertile soil in heaps of muddy slush on the side of the road.
Sadly, I've seen this very thing happen in writing.
Critique, commentary and even our own Internal Editors can send the winds blowing and our words scattering across the page. Sometimes, those winds take our voices with it like so much topsoil only to deposit them in the metaphorical ditch. The result can be downright ugly.
It's easy to take in feedback and try to implement every comment, every question and every concern from any number of people. When this happens, we can blow any voice our writing had.
So, how do we keep from doing this?
  1. Read with an open mind. Simply hearing feedback doesn't obligate you to do anything but consider what was said. Note where you feel the most offended, defensive or uncomfortable. Likely, those are the comments that need the most attention. Often simple comments can take us on different tangents we never dreamed possible, but only if we are willing to hear the idea in the first place.
  2. Give yourself time to process any feedback--even your own. Set your writing aside and let life happen. Think about what was said and how you feel about it. Viewing our manuscripts from different perspectives--whether we use the suggestions or not--only strengthens our knowledge and execution of our writing. This is a more deliberate process than the sheer creativity that initially drives our writing. And when we give it time, we're reacting with a cool head which can help us make stronger editing choices.
  3. Never, ever try to make everyone happy. Not all feedback is equal or applicable. Writing is not a one-size-fits all endeavor. What works for most stories may not work for yours, so don't feel compelled to conform for conformity's sake. Rather, conform because it is the best thing for this particular story. You are the head chef in the kitchen full of cooks. You ultimately decide which ingredients go into your masterpiece.
  4. Make changes based on the big picture comments and concerns and leave the nit picking for a copy edit. In other words, digest the feedback in terms of ideas, not concrete sentences. By only focusing on the details, we can lose the opportunity to really pack a punch. If your Crit Partner says, "I think a bar is an inappropriate place for you MG novel setting," don't simple replace the word "bar" with "baseball field" and call it good. Chances are your entire manuscript is riddled with mature references and ideas that will need to be considered. It's never as easy as find and replace when it comes to editing for content, but when we try, our writing becomes a hodgepodge and we can really blow our voices.
Once upon a time, I wrote a novel. I listened to every wind, every gust and every breeze. I killed my voice. This novel sits like a muddy lump in the back of my mind, waiting for the spring thaw when it can melt away, leaving behind the fertile top soil of my manuscript, so my voice can bloom once again.

What tips do you have for not blowing  your voice during the editing process? How do you infuse voice back into a flat story?

Curious minds want to know!
Cat Woods is currently editing a middle grade anthology on bullying where she is the wind of critique. She's been thrilled to note that the authors haven't let her comments blow their voices. Her words can be found scattered across the web, most often drifting together in places like her blog and on twitter: @catewoods.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Respecting Agents' Time … and Our Own

by R.C. Lewis

When it comes to agent-hunting, there are a lot of Do-and-Don't lists out there. Do your research. Don't use rhetorical questions in your query.

Well, here's another one. Most of us are busy people, but let's focus on agents for a minute. If you keep an eye on a few over social media, you get a sense of how hyper-busy they are. One particular agent seems to single-handedly keep the turkey-jerky industry rolling by rarely stopping for a real lunch. My own agent insists she does sleep, but I'm not sure I'm convinced.

So let's talk about how we can respect their time and ours.

DON'T: Give Them a Call

Like, ever. There's just no reason to call an agent on the phone. You don't need to ask permission to query. You don't need to call to get submission guidelines. (It's really easy to find that information. If you can't find submission guidelines for an agent, they probably don't want to be found.) I'm signed with an agent and I would only call her if I absolutely had to talk to her right this second. Email is awesome.

Disrespecting Their Time: The thing about phone calls is they have to be real-time by their nature. A caller is interrupting their work needlessly.

Disrespecting Our Time: It's truly wasting time. It's not endearing us to the agent. It's not giving us a leg up. Plus, every workday minute of an agent that we waste is a minute they could've been working for their clients—our fellow writers.

DON'T: Respond to Form Rejections

So many reasons not to do this. Have we all heard the horror stories about irate writers lambasting agents for their form responses? Don't Be That Person. But some writers have politely responded asking for more specific feedback—and gotten it! I still say don't do it. Here's why.

Disrespecting Their Time: Can you imagine if all writers asked for feedback on form rejections? Heck, even ten percent? Even if the agent just ignores such requests (the most efficient choice), clearing them out of their inbox could take a significant chunk of time. Time they're not being paid for, because they work for their clients.

Disrespecting Our Time (and Energy): Maybe it's a waste because we get nothing. Maybe it's a waste because the only response we get is no more specific or helpful than the form rejection was. Maybe it's a waste because it sends us in a very wrong direction. Maybe we luck out and things happen … but assuming we're the exception just isn't a good idea.

DO: Take Revision Seriously (pre-query or R&R)

Sending in a manuscript that needs an inordinate amount of work? Not good. Sending one in on a R&R (Revise & Resubmit) after a week? Also not good.

Disrespecting Their Time: In the former case, straight up waste of time to clutter the agent's inbox with something that isn't remotely ready. In the latter, the agent has already taken the time to read our manuscript and respond thoughtfully with ideas for revision, sometimes including extensive notes. To breeze through rather than digging in is a disrespect of that time and of the time they'll waste reading again only to discover it's not there.

Disrespecting Our Time: This may seem counterintuitive because we might be hurrying in an effort to be efficient with our time. But if we don't take the time to do it well and do it right, it's wasted.

DO: Know When to Pull the Trigger

On the other end of the spectrum, we might work and fix and fuss forever. And ever. And never send it out there at all.

Disrespecting Their Time: Wait, we're not wasting the agent's time because they don't know we exist, right? Pretty much, except if our project is awesome, we're wasting time the agent could've spent submitting and selling that manuscript.

Disrespecting Our Time: Seems to me that fussing endlessly does one of two things. (1) It keeps an awesome manuscript from ever getting out there. (2) It keeps us from letting go of a not-quite-awesome manuscript and moving on to develop our awesomeness level on something new.

Any other thoughts on (dis)respecting agents' time as well as our own? Any traps you've either avoided or fallen into?

R.C. Lewis teaches math to teenagers—sometimes in sign language, sometimes not—so whether she's a science geek or a bookworm depends on when you look. Her debut novel Stitching Snow is coming from Hyperion October 14, 2014. You can find R.C. on Twitter (@RC_Lewis) and at her website.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Joy of Slow

by Jemi Fraser

Our world today is Fast. Everything seems to move at lightning speed - including us. I've found this extends to a lot of people going through the journey to publication as well.

But there's a very valid argument for Slow. Especially in the publishing world.

Most writers write because they love it, but few are adverse to making some money along the way. Most writers also want others to meet their characters and love their plots. I get it.

But rushing leads to too many mistakes. Too many regrets.

You don't get a 2nd chance to put out a debut. Make sure it's a book you'll always be proud of. A book that starts the brand you want. A book as clean and polished as you can make it.

Enjoy learning how to revise. How to edit. How to take that story down to the bare bones and build it back up again. Have fun with the slash & burn. Enjoy taking that risk with crit buddies and really listening to their opinions and learning how to share your own. Take your time and study the available paths you might take. Find the joys and the advantages of each but keep an eye out for the downsides too. Learn to deal with rejection until you realize it's not personal and it's often helpful (really!). Find the joy - not just the fleeting fun - in the process. If you hope to make this a career you need to learn to love it all.

There truly is joy in the journey, and the journey never ends. Don't rush. Savor. Be a kid again and play with your words, find the ways they flow. Learn from your mistakes and make new ones. Learn again.

The publication journey is kind of like the pursuit of education. Dropping out of school at 15 so you can work at a job will certainly give you more money in the short term. But, by staying in school your chances are much better that you'll find a job that pays you more. A lot more. Enough to make up for those early years and then some.

Is slow a guarantee for success? No.

Are there exceptions out there? Of course.

Are you willing to take the chance?

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of contemporary romance. She blogs (today about her personal slow journey) and tweets while searching for those HEAs.

Friday, February 14, 2014

5 Reasons to Be a Romance Author: AKA a Love Letter to Readers

by +Jean Oram  

I've been writing women's fiction/chick lit/romance for a few years and released my first book, Champagne and Lemon Drops, last March (2013). Since then, I have released its follow up novel, Whiskey and Gumdrops, and I'm about to release the third in the series, Rum and Raindrops (Feb 22). Over the past year, I have learned some cool things about being a romance author. First of all, not to be shy about it. Second, it is a fabulous market to be in. And lastly, that romance readers are simply the most amazing, kind, and loving readers any writer could ever possibly ask for.

Here are my five reasons on why it rocks to be a romance author.

1. It is a ton of fun. You get to spend whole novels pushing characters apart, pulling them together, upping the heat and intensity, and weaving a plot around it all to really amp up their emotions.

2. The research is damn sexy. Need inspiration for the heroine and heroes' first kiss? Call your hubby on over. Hello!

3. There are many sub genres there is a place for every crazy idea as long as there is a romantic thread at the heart of it. Vampires or witches? Paranormal romance. History? Historical romance. Murder and espionage? Romantic suspense. Military heroes? Military romance. There is room for everyone and indie romance writers will find, to their delight, that they can find themselves beside some pretty big names on the New York Times or USA Today bestseller list. There is room for everyone in romance. (And yes, that does sound slightly kinky to me, as well.)

4. Inspiration is everywhere. People fall in love every day.

Listen to the radio--what do you hear? Love stories. Watch an action flick? Love story plot line. Know why romance is everywhere? Because love gives us hope. It makes us feel good. There is nothing as awesome as the guy getting the girl. Romance novels are about feeling and connecting--and in today's world who couldn't use a bit more of that?

5. Romance readers are veracious. They are loyal, intelligent women. They understand that a happily ever after doesn't just happen and that there are obstacles and hurdles along the way. They understand heartbreak. Loss. Feelings of doubt. Worries. Obligations. Hardships. And of course, the feelings of longing, love, life, and being swept away by a hunk who truly listens and understands.

Romance readers light up when you mention you write romance. They lean a little closer, eager to hear what you've written. They always welcome a new author and have room for your books on their Kindle. There's always the opportunity to be their new favourite.

Romance readers are risk-taking, vivacious women with heart and soul and will spend their last dollar on a good read that will sweep them away and make them, dream, laugh, cry, and love.

Romance readers are dreamers. They are the best of the best in the world. Their hearts are big. So huge. Sometimes they are quiet about their need for love. Sometimes they're not.

But, I think, it's time to quit apologizing for being a romance reader or writer. We are strong. We are the hearts of the world. We go through the emotional wringer with every good book and come out the other side, stronger and more empathetic.

Romance readers are right there with you. Ready to feel what you are feeling.

So today, turn to the person beside you and ask them if they read romance. You might just find that the most loving people in your life read romance and that it this 'fluff' is actually intelligent, well-plotted, well-written prose that can draw in even the most reluctant reader.

Happy Valentine's Day from one romance reader and writer to another.

And if you haven't read a romance yet, my book Whiskey and Gumdrops is on sale today as a thank you to my readers and is only $0.99 as an ebook. It's cheaper than a box of chocolates, lasts longer, and will make you feel better about yourself by the time you finish it. Not like a box of chocolates. So, go ahead. Indulge. Be fearless. Read, dream, laugh, and love. I'm right there with you.

Jean Oram writes romance and is a sucker for a good romantic plot line. You can find her on Facebook, her website, and on Twitter (@jeanoram). She is the author of the Blueberry Springs series and has been publishing her stories independently. She is completely in love with her readers and will be attending RWA this summer.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Words Versus Resolutions: writing with your character in mind

by Cat Woods

Instead of resolutions to usher in the new year, I learned a neat trick from a fellow writer years ago: a word of the year.

The appeal of this word is that it has the power to change behaviors. Instead of "Lose Ten Pounds" which can be fraught with frustration and failure, the word "health" invokes positive connotations that impact more than the scale. I will eat better, work out more regularly, get more sleep and pay attention to my mental well-being. After a year of practicing health, I will have acquired the behavior patterns I want for a life time goal. After losing ten pounds, I might eat an entire bag of Doritos while mindlessly watching Sponge Bob reruns and crying into my diet soda. After all, I did lose ten pounds. I did accomplish my resolution.

When we write, it might behoove us to give words to our characters rather than just resolutions. While the immediacy of the resolutions and the very definitive outcome of them is what inherently drives the story and offers up our novel's conclusion, I like to think beyond the last page and into a possibility of life where my characters have changed, yet remain the same. I like to think of them as someone with integrity--in the sense that they are consistent in their behaviors and beliefs and actions. They are true to their core--whatever that core may be.

And so, I offer up the word.

  • Harry Potter is tenacious. He refuses to back down until he has solved the riddle of his life. Sometimes this is a detriment. Other times it is admirable and courageous. Yet he never loses this core trait.
  • Katniss Everdeen is virtuous. Her strong moral compass about the way humans should be treated drives every action she takes. Weary and terrified though she is, she holds onto her ideals to the point of stubbornness. Good, bad or indifferent, this trait is what makes Katniss one of the strongest female protagonists of this generation.
  • Verity is ingenious, while her best friend is loyal in Code Name Verity.
  • Curious George is...well, curious.
  • And our own Mindy McGinnis's Lynn is independent.
Readers look to our characters for guidance. They want something deeper than a resolution. They want virtue and tenacity. They want independence, love, hope, faith and curiosity. They want to see themselves in the pages of our books so they can believe that they, too, can overcome the obstacles in their lives and survive beyond the moment.

And so I ask, give your readers a word...and maybe nab one for yourself.

Which character traits do you admire and why? How have you infused these traits into your writing? If you could only use one word to describe yourself at this moment in time, what would it be?

Curious minds want to know.

Cat Woods writes from home, often in her jammies with a mug of chai tea--not potato chips--and surely without the help of Sponge Bob. She wants you to know that no scales were harmed in the writing of this blog post--only egos--and that her word of the year is organization. As in plan and proceed, not declutter closets and junk drawers. Currently, she's the acquisitions editor for a middle grade anthology on bullying. You can find more of her whimsy (and guidelines for submitting) at Words from the Woods.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Decisions, Decisions: Choosing the Conference That’s Right for You

Writing conference season is nearly upon us!  So many conferences of all shapes and sizes! But how does one choose?

There are many things to consider, but first and foremost, ask yourself: what are your goals in going to a conference? What do you hope to get out of it? This will help determine which conference will help meet those goals.

For example, some conferences are networking-oriented, like the Winter SCBWI conference in NY. Others are more craft-based, such as the New England SCBWI conference in Springfield, MA. Looking at what sessions they offer can clue you in to which type – networking conferences tend to offer bigger picture topics and have more of a lecture format with lots of opportunities to mingle. Craft-based conferences also have plenty of mingling opportunities of course, but their sessions are often more specific and hands-on.

Then there’s the question of broad or specialized conference. Are you looking for something that will let you take sessions on a broad variety of topics and genres or are you looking for something that focuses on a category such as children’s’ books, romance, Sci-Fi/fantasy, etc? An example of a broad spectrum conference would be The Muse and the Marketplace in Boston, and in addition to the afore-mentioned SCBWI conferences, there’s more specialized options such as RWA, Romantic Times, Reader Con, and many others.

Once you’ve decided what type of conference you want (crafted-based or networking) and what focus is best for you (general or specific), the next question is location! Local SCBWI and RWA chapters may offer regional conferences, as well as larger national ones from the main parent organization. Often (but certainly not always), national conferences have more of a networking focus, while the regional tend toward craft-based. And of course, cost is a factor for most people--unless you happen to live in or near the city where the conference is being held, national will likely take a bigger bite out of your budget with the high cost of hotels, travel, etc. since they're usually held in major cities. But on the flip side, they may also hold greater networking opportunities.

In short, there's a lot to consider, but every conference has its benefits and can be a wonderful, worthwhile experience!

What conferences have you been to? What made you decide to go? Did you get what you expected out of it? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

MarcyKate Connolly writes middle grade and young adult fiction and becomes a superhero when sufficiently caffeinated. When earthbound, she blogs at her website and spends far too much time babbling on Twitter. Her debut upper MG fantasy novel, MONSTROUS, will be out from HarperCollins Children's Books in Winter 2015.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Joy of "Also By"

by Mindy McGinnis

I am snowed in again. I promise not to get too stir crazy or set anything on fire, because this week I actually have work to do. The UPS man serendipitously arrived at my house last night before the storm rolled in, bringing with him the First Pass Pages for IN A HANDFUL OF DUST, the companion novel to NOT A DROP TO DRINK, which will be releasing 9/23/14. Which, if you're at all interested, there will be a cover reveal tomorrow on YABC. Just saying.

It's interesting to me that the publishing process never seems to get stale. Most things in real life lose their luster after awhile. Christmas gets boring. Interesting people stop surprising you. Your cat looks less cute when you realize it sheds. But creativity never feels old.

Yes, it can feel like real work. Exhausting work, even. But each book is its own journey, and each step forward on that particular path is a little different than the one you already traveled. DRINK was my debut, and everything was a revelation, a surprise, and a validation. DUST is my second go-round, and I sort of expected to be less jubilant as I pushed onward, since the thrill of a first-timer was gone.

And yeah, there are definitely differences. I don't jump up and squeal every time I get an envelope or package that has HarperCollins as the return address. I do freely admit that my heart still leaps in my chest, though. Hell, I also admit that I still get ridiculously happy every time I see my agent's name in my inbox because it took me so damn long to get one.

Yesterday brought it's own surprise, something I hadn't even considered. As I sat down with my pen, Cadbury Egg, Muppet DVD and my First Pass Pages, I turned over the first one to see something that did set me back a little. On the back of the half-title page is this little thing that I've always turned to when discovering a new writer that I like. It's the Also By page.

And now there's one with my name on it.

Why does this matter to me?

Because this is what a career looks like. This says to me that not only did I make the leap from aspiring to published, but that I'm continuing to move forward from that point. I'm hoping one day to see the WIP on the Also By page, possibly a trunked child-of-my-heart, and many other ideas that haven't even formulated out of the morbid soup in my brain.

I want to fill up the Also By page, and not be a flash in the pan. The writing journey is a continuous one, and publication isn't the pinnacle, but the beginning of a new ladder.
Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. Her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, is a post-apocalyptic survival tale set in a world where freshwater is almost non-existent. The companion novel IN A HANDFUL OF DUST releases September 23, 2014. She blogs at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire and has serious social media problem. You can find her on TwitterTumblrFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest

Monday, February 3, 2014

Writing is Exactly Like Selling Tractors

by Cat Woods
Tractors are my bread and butter. Not mine, specifically, as I have no experience selling them. In fact, I can barely tell the difference between a tractor and a combine. Yet, after twenty-plus years of marriage to an Ag Manager, I know a thing or two about Dear Hubby's expectations for his sales force. 
Basing my marketing plan off his successful sales model makes perfect sense to me. And once I’m done, you should walk around thinking tractors and books aren’t really all that different.
  • Writing is a product. Books, like tractors, must provide the buyer with their heart’s desire.  Each novel, picture book or how-to has a purpose. It may be sheer entertainment, or it may have educational value. Regardless of why it is written, the end product is useful. Just like a tractor is to a farmer. The more useful you can make your product, the better opportunity you will have to sell it. Writing for kids? Why not include educational aspects that teachers can build on in the classroom--a topic RC Lewis wrote about here. Got horses? Find a way to appeal to 4H students.
  • Writers must know their genres. Field marketers must know their tractors. Not that I want to buy a tractor, but if I did, I would find myself a reputable dealer knowledgeable about their products. I would never buy a tractor from a business that only sold lawnmowers and garden weasels. Likewise, I would never write a Sci-Fi on time travel using quantum physics as a basis for reality. Though I graduated in the top 10% of my class, I can honestly admit that I am physic-ally illiterate. The moral here: write what you know--or learn what you want to write. Either way, it's a win-win. Because if you don't, you will put out a sub-par product that will not withstand the test of time.
  • Writers must have a brand or a platform to successfully sell their books. Tractors have Case IH and John Deere (among others). Some farmers buy on color regardless of the product–simply because of branding. Many book-buyers purchase books based on name recognition. In a side by side throw down, the familiar name almost always beats out the competition. So get out there and get known--without forgetting the power of real-world connections. I was recently asked to speak at a local women's group about my YA. Seventeen members were there. All seventeen bought a book.  
  • Authors must be approachable. I would never buy my hypothetical tractor from a curmudgeon. If I walked into a dealership (and I have walked into many) and the field marketer glowered at me, ignored me or was otherwise unapproachable, I would find myself another dealership. A writer must like (or appear to like) her readership. Bashing kids as a nasty breed is not likely to endear me to my potential buyers. And if you think for a second that people aren't looking, you're wrong. How we conduct ourselves in the cyber-sphere, as well as in real life, has a big impact on the way others perceive us. As hard is it might be, we have to learn to talk about ourselves and our writing without bragging--sometimes in the least expected places. Our ability to do this smoothly and graciously can make the difference between selling or sitting on the hypothetical book shelf.
  • Writers must deliver. A cool cover blurb might entice me to shell out my hard earned cash on the first book, but if the writing doesn’t equal the promise, I guarantee I will never buy from Author Anita Sell again. Ever! I’ve been married to DH long enough to know that farmers are equally demanding. Bad performance = negative repeat business. Good service = customers for life.
  • Authors are field marketers. We must sell our stories, our names and our personalities. We must engage potential readers and be unafraid to put ourselves out there. On a trip up north, I walked into a bookstore and hand delivered--free of charge--one of my YA novels. The three workers--including the owner--were thrilled when I told them it was theirs to enjoy. A potential sale? Maybe. If not, I'm only out a handful of dollars. So I say to you, set aside your fears and take a chance. After all, the worst thing a farmer can do is say no. Readers are no different. 

To become successful authors, we must care about our readership and deliver the goods. Failing this, don’t bother heading to the nearest Ag Dealership and asking for a job. Their field marketers are held to the same high standards.

If we are lucky, our books will grow wheels and drive themselves right off the shelves!

What's in your marketing plan? What scares you about being a field marketer for your own product?

While Cat Woods does not sell farm equipment, she does sell her intellectual property, such as her middle grade novel, Abigail Bindle and the Slam Book Scam, which is slated for release this September. She also sells herself--as an author--and will be speaking at regional Young Writer's Conferences this upcoming year. Her words of wisdom: don't be afraid of seeking out venues for your words, because if you never ask, the answer will always be no. For more writing tips, visit her blog, Words from the Woods. And while you're there, check out the call for submissions for a middle grade anthology on bullying. Because if you never ask, the answer will always be no.