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Guest Post: 15 Things I Learned After Reading 100 Query Letters by Katie McCoach


reading on computer; reading queries

A big thank you to A Writer’s Path and to Katie McCoach for this excellent article about what makes a good query letter.

A few weeks ago was the submission review period for the annual RevPit contest. During this review period, each editor has one week to review submissions from authors in order to make their final pick to work on one manuscript for the next five weeks. The contest allowed one submission per author/manuscript, and each editor received up to 100 submissions. Guess how many I received? The full 100. So, it was a busy week to say the least. Each submission included one query letter from the author, answers to a few questions to get to know the author better, and the first five pages (up to 1500 words) of the author’s manuscript.

If you’re into math, that’s about an average of 50k words I read in query letters, and 150,000 words in first pages. This doesn’t count the synopses I read, additional pages of books I requested in my top picks, or the re-reading of submissions I did throughout the week.

There’s a lot a person can learn by reading 100 query letters and 100 opening pages.

In this article, I’m going to share with you 15 things I learned after reading 100 query letters, and next month I’ll focus on what I learned after reading 150,000 words in opening pages. Here are your do’s, don’t’s, mistakes, successes, patterns, what makes a query POP, and what makes a reader cringe.

To read more of this article, click here.

When Gallbladders Attack


It was intermission at a senior citizen variety show I attended with a bunch of my folk dancing friends (another of our friends was performing with her line dance group), and I stood to relieve some pressure I was feeling in my abdomen, radiating around to my back. Maybe I’d been sitting too long. Unfortunately, stretching didn’t help.

By the time I returned home, my stomach hurt worse and I had a slight fever. My husband, Greg, made dinner, but I couldn’t eat.

As the hours wore on, the pain intensified. Greg went to bed.

I wondered whether it was a good idea to wait until morning to call the doctor. Fortunately, my health insurance has a 24 hour nurse line, so I called it. By this time I was vomiting yellow liquid. I described my symptoms to the nurse, and she recommended I go to the emergency room.

I woke Greg and asked him to take me to the ER. We got there a little before 10 PM.

I assumed I had a kidney infection. I expected the ER staff to culture a urine specimen, confirm my fears, prescribe an antibiotic, and we’d go home—easy peasy.

But after the urine sample, they sent me for an MRI and an ultrasound. At 1 AM the doctor told me his diagnosis: three “marbles” (gallstones) were causing my pain. The recommended treatment was removal of the gallbladder. Or I could wait and see what happened.


The gallbladder, a pear-shaped organ in the right side of your abdomen just below your liver, is a storage tank for bile, which is produced by the liver and helps digest fats and certain vitamins. The gallbladder squirts bile into the small intestine when you eat.

If the gallbladder is removed, the liver will still make bile when it senses you are eating something fatty, but it will dump it directly into the small intestine. That may cause diarrhea, especially soon after surgery, while the liver is learning to compensate for the loss of the gallbladder. However, if you cut out or greatly decrease your fat intake for a few weeks, you can help your liver make the transition without too much inconvenience.

I had no desire to wait and see what happened. If I had another day of severe pain, I would be very unhappy, to say the least. So I opted to go ahead with surgery. That was a little more than three weeks ago.

I missed out on playing hand bells on Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday. I cut out all my activities for a week and a half. By then I was feeling SO much better. I realized I’d been having low-grade chronic pain since before Christmas. So that Monday I went to the gym (doing a lighter workout than usual), went grocery shopping, and attended my hand bell choir rehearsal. Playing hand bells isn’t too physical, is it? But I forgot I stand for an hour and a half during rehearsal, and after being fairly active that morning, it was too much. I was exhausted. Though I’d thought I was ready to resume my activities, I couldn’t do much for the next week.

People kept saying they didn’t expect to see me so soon after surgery, and I didn’t understand why. I felt great—pain free. But at my two week follow-up, the surgeon told me the recovery time was four to six weeks. Why didn’t they tell me that in the hospital?

This past Thursday I went hiking for the first time in a month. I took the easiest trail I know, the Pima Canyon trail in South Mountain Park. I walked in one mile, turned around and came back the same way. The change in elevation was only 70 feet, spread out over the mile, so there were no steep sections. It took me an hour, but that’s because I walk slowly.

So far so good. I might go folk dancing next Tuesday night.

What did I learn from this experience? Two things. First of all, unless you have medical training, don’t self-diagnose yourself. Secondly, don’t rush healing; if you push yourself, you could set yourself back.

For more information about gallstones, read this.

Illustration from Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions Website., Jun 19, 2013. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.


Creative Juice #335

Creative Juice #335

Amazing stuff this week:

Monday Morning Wisdom #200: A is for April Fools

Monday Morning Wisdom #200: A is for April Fools

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. ~Douglas Adams

From the Creator’s Heart #195


Image 10-12-18 at 11.14 AM

Creative Juice #129

Creative Juice #129

Dream, gather inspiration, and create!

  1. Zoology anatomy lesson.
  2. A knitting designer shares some of her sketches.
  3. How artists deal with the pain of lost love.
  4. Life in the 1800s beautifully captured by Mary Ellen Best.
  5. When photographer Omar Robles went home to Puerto Rico, he was so shocked by the devastation and abandoned buildings (aftermath of Hurricane Maria) that he photographed dancers against the background of ruins.
  6. You don’t need lots of room for a book nook.
  7. Tips from a street photographer.
  8. The gorgeous illustrations of Kayla Herren.
  9. If you want to move a big rock over 100 miles, be prepared to apply for a lot of permits.
  10. Many variations on the iconic face of the New Yorker.
  11. Sketches from Disneyland.
  12. Beautiful Bulgarian folk dances. (I’d rather be dancing!)

Guest Post: The Summer of Altoids by Donna


Thank you to Donna from My OBT for this lovely article.

minty 4

These are the adorable miniature paintings inside used mint tins by Heidi Annalise. You know how I love tiny things, and I’ll bet these affordable, wee masterpieces smell great, too! Annalise quit her Washington, D.C. government job (can you blame her?) and returned to her native Colorado to find her bliss. And boy, has she ever found it!

” Floating between realism and impressionism, my artwork adds an element of fantasy to the natural world with heightened colors and simplified shapes. By bringing glimpses of nature into our indoor environments, we can soak up these extraordinary vistas on all of our more ordinary days, and remind ourselves to go exploring whenever we can.”

Annalise was inspired to start painting mint tins by one of her favorite artists, Glenn Dean, who uses Altoids tins to test his works before painting them on a larger canvas.

With 50K+ followers and many happy customers, this artist is living her dream and making the world a cuter, better-smelling place. I have only one question. What does she do with all those mints?

To read the rest of this article, click here.