We are stories

A good story, no matter what form it takes,

will touch our hearts, our minds, and our emotions.

A good story reminds us of our humanity

and yet invites to rise above it.

We are a humanity linked by stories.

Stories of all kinds and all types feed into our psyche from all cultures,
binding us into one humanity.

Storytelling seems to have existed in some form or another since the dawn of time,

helped in part, until most recent times, by the immortal words, “Tell me a story.”

Does any child, or anyone for that matter, utter those words anymore?

Are we the poorer for it?

We are a varied collection of experiences

held together by memory and stories.

When we stop being part of the memories and the stories,

is that when we stop existing?

Take a Step from your fear

Take a Step from your fear

Come out from your fear,

Make that one small step that starts.

It’s all right if it’s a stumbling one

As when you started as a child

The walking gets easier

And just as then, there can be tumbles.

But you didn’t stop there either

Regardless of what others were doing

Or saying.

Even if then they were encouraging

And now they aren’t

You still kept on

Perhaps we are always still keeping on

Walking step by step

If not away from our fears

Then away from the hold on us

That keep us locked away

From all that we really want

Do we see ourselves in others,

In their fears for themselves?

The beauty that only sees herself as not,

not like whatever the current flavor.

Or the talent that crumbles from low self-worth.

And walks over dreams that were once shiny and bright.

Are these reflections?

Mirrors reflecting back what we see in ourselves?

Can we change what we see in those reflections?

Maybe if we have the right people.

Come give it a try.

Take that step.

That step toward a dream.

There are others here too.

Are you ready fly?

To take the first jump

And give your wings a try.

They get stronger with use.

If you are a writer.    You want to be a writer.     No matter what kind.    I bet we have something for you.

This weekend.

Or even if you’re a graphic artist.     We have someone for you!

Are you just a reader?      We have Lots of someones for you!

Whether you want to meet a much liked author.   Or discover some new ones.

Come check out the James River Writers Conference this weekend.

You can even get a one day ticket if that fits you better.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if the two days fit just fine.

And you’ll meet a lot of fine people who can reflect back whatever you want.

Here’s a link for conference registration

You Gotta HURRY tho' - the Great Workshops are tomorrow!  Some you still might be able to go to.
And the Conference is THIS Saturday, and Sunday.

The Conference is Coming! The Conference is Coming!!!

The Conference is Coming!!   The Conference is Coming!!!

Okay, so I’m not Paul Revere.

Paulette Revere?  

No, not that either.

But wanted to warn you, not that the British are coming, we don’t have any of those this year.  That I know of.

But we do have someone that grew up in New Zealand.

Not exactly British, but there is a British connection there.  ;)

No, I am not going to tell you.        You should come to the Conference and figure it out.

The Conference is coming!

We Kick off with some GREAT Workshops on Friday.    THIS Friday!


In case you missed that.

Let’s see, since today is Wednesday, depending on when you read this - and if you read later then you better move Quickly, Cause the Conference is Coming! 

Which means the DAY After Tomorrow The Workshops are Coming!

Really Great Workshops!

And there still are some Openings!    Only in a couple, but NO they are NOT the dreg leftovers!

The Workshops were SO popular they added space to include YOU!    

No, I didn’t ask how they did that.    Maybe had something to do with the British?   Maybe not.

But you can still get in to Some Workshops!    Great ones!        I should know, I signed up for one of the ones still open.  I jumped in quickly!   I wanted to go to more.   No one wants to clone me though.   Sigh.    But hopefully someone from each will share notes!

Here is a link for conference registration

And be sure to check out the Workshops that are still open!

And be sure to share your notes with me.

Cause The Conference is Coming!

Fabulous Interview with Literary Agent Coming to JRW Conference next Month!!!

First of all, a Tremendous Thanks and Shout Out to Paige Wheeler for this Fabulous interview!

And to add to the excitement here in Richmond at James River Writers -

We've just found out that the amazing graphic designer Chip Kidd will be available for both a TED-style talk during the conference AND for an interview-style panel on Saturday afternoon, October 19.  If you know any graphic design folks, they will certainly recognize his name, and they might be interested in the one day ticket for $170.00.

Additionally, thanks to our partnership with the Library of Virginia, Lee Smith will also be doing an interview-style panel on Saturday, October 19.

So, there will definitely be a lot happening on Saturday of the Conference, but don’t forget all the things happening on Sunday at the Conference [Including I am moderating a great session on Sunday!]

Just cause to come to the Full Conference.

Not to mention, you should Definitely check out the Friday Workshops, the ones still open, Especially after you finish reading the great interview below with Paige Wheeler who promises some Tip Sheets, References, and Tricks up her sleeve!     [Need to go see if that’s full yet!]

Here is a link for conference registration

And if you can’t wait till October, check this out, while you are waiting -

This Thursday, September 26, we have Dean King, his New York editor, and his History Channel producer from California on stage for The Writing Show.  It is the last one of the year, and we're trying to end with a bang and a big crowd.  Tickets are still $10 in advance and $12 at the door: the best deal in town!

For the first time ever, we have JRW t-shirts for sale through Bonfire Funds.  It's a great logo that promotes writing in RVA, so there might be people beyond James River Writers who will be excited about it!  We need to sell 50 shirts by October 6 in order for them to be printed.  You can't tell from the picture, but long sleeve shirts and hoodies are available as well.

And Now On to the Great Interview ! .........

Interview with Literary Agent Paige Wheeler:

I see from your bio’ on the James River Writers website that you represent fiction and non-fiction.

“Currently she represents international and award-winning authors in commercial fiction, and upscale fiction, which includes women’s fiction, mysteries, thrillers, psychological suspense; as well as narrative nonfiction and prescriptive nonfiction including self-help, how-to, business, pop-culture, popular reference projects and women’s issues.”


Is there something you are really wanting to see from new authors that might be pitching and querying you?

[Other than studying all the great links and resources you have on the FolioLit website!]

Answer:  For fiction, I’m looking for an intriguing plot that makes me wonder, “how is the author going to successfully pull this off?”  I’m also drawn to incredibly fresh and vibrant voices, stories in which the character just sucks me in and I can’t possibly put the manuscript down.  If an author could combine the unique plot with the vibrant voice—then I’m all over the manuscript.

For nonfiction, I’m looking for thoughtful proposals on fascinating subjects that make we want to talk nonstop about the project. This can be anything from a intriguing memoir or historical nonfiction or pop culture. Ultimately, I want to learn something or be transformed in some way after reading the manuscript. Some examples of this would include Jim Minick’s THE BLUEBERRY YEARS (a VA college professor attempts to homestead his land, living off an organic blueberry farm); Mary Cantando’s LEADING WITH CARE – How women around the world are inspiring Businesses, Empowering communities and Creating opportunity; an upcoming title, Deborrah Himsel’s BEAUTY QUEEN, a book about the reign of Avon CEO Andrea Jung’s rise and fall;  IN THE BELLY OF THE ELEPHANT by Susan Corbett is the story of one woman’s journey to Africa to work for the peace corp and how she was transformed by the experience.


Could you give us your definition, and some examples, of what you are looking for in fiction?  There is mention of commercial fiction, and upscale fiction.   Can you give us some helpful examples to go by?

A:  Commercial fiction is generally plot-driven or character-driven material that is entertaining and well written. Some examples are David Baldacci, Nora Roberts, Sue Grafton, Nicholas Sparks, etc. Upscale fiction can also incorporate a unique plot or engaging character but the writing is as much the focus as the plot or character arc. Some examples would include Adriana Trigiani, Elizabeth Strout, Khaled Hosseini, Jhumpa Lahiri.


You give a good description of what you call prescriptive nonfiction. [And Thank you for that.]  For those that aren’t exactly sure what narrative nonfiction is, would you give us a couple of examples.

A: A couple of examples of popular narrative nonfiction would include DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY by Eric Larson; IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS by Rebecca Skloot; and SEABISCUIT by Laura Hillenbrand. I love narrative nonfiction—it tells an intriguing story in an entertaining way.  IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote is probably one of the best examples of narrative nonfiction, but I also bring up INTO THIN AIR by Jon Krakauer as another great example of narrative nonfiction.


What would you like people coming to the James River Writers Conference in October to know about meeting, pitching, and / or querying you?

A:  First, I’m really not threatening at all, so don’t be nervous!  Second, you should feel comfortable enough about (and with) your project that we can converse easily about it. You should be THAT familiar with it that any questions I may have can be easily answered. Finally, if I happen to pass on your project, realize that I’m passing on that PROJECT and not you as a writer. I welcome queries for new projects from authors who have previously pitched to me.

I really want to fall in love with a project! What that means is that I’m looking for material that I am willing to spend a lot of time on—even if it takes longer to make a sale than anticipated.

I have 40 titles coming out in 2013 and most of my authors have been working with me for years. I’m selective about who I represent, but it usually means that we will work together for many, many years and develop a lasting relationship.


You have a workshop scheduled for the Friday before the JRW Conference, on October 18, 2013, can you give us some teasers of why everyone’s going to want to sign up for it?  [Or already has. Workshops are going Fast.]

A:  I’m focusing on Career Novelists because that’s the dream of so many fiction writers. Who doesn’t want to quit their day job and write mega hit after mega hit? In my workshop, I’ll outline the Essential Elements of Career Novelists and the skill set that writers need to acquire in order to have a long and successful career as a published author. I have tip sheets, references and tricks up my sleeve to share with the audience.


The publishing world has been in such turmoil and flux for a few years now with agents and writers trying to figure out their roles with each other.

And the choices and decisions facing authors, such as, to self-publish or look for agent representation.  Or to keep looking for it.

Would you give us some of your thoughts on this changing world, and words of wisdom?

A:  It’s an exciting era to be in publishing!  I think I will look back on this and be proud that I’ve navigated these tumultuous times and have been a part of such change!

I think that an author needs to decide what is best for him or her. We all have different goals and skill sets, so the course that may be right for one author may be entirely wrong for another. I have many authors who are established and enjoy the role that traditional publishing plays in launching and maintaining their career. I have other authors who have hit a list and have decided that they want more control over publishing decisions, so have opted for a hybrid career. Some authors really want and need the editorial and stylistic support that traditional publishing entails and others do not. Of course I think the role of an agent is vital---and I’ll give some tips during my workshop on why I think it’s critical to have an agent on your side. Ultimately, the industry is definitely experiencing dramatic change and I think authors, editors and agents are eager to embrace the changes if it means better access to wonderfully written books and an increase in readership.


Any predictions or thoughts on possible trends coming that we as writers might be able to take advantage of now?

A:  I think the only trend that I can really predict with any accuracy is the importance of an author being able to create a platform. This is true both in fiction as well as nonfiction. The concept of platform has changed, though, over the past few years. A few years ago, platform meant name recognition that was already established within households. Now, it’s the ability to quickly create that recognition—usually through a network of well-placed friends and social media. So, what can you do now? Lay the groundwork and create a network that’s ready to promote your book.

Here is a link for conference registration

I Know you are ready for it now!

Thanks again to Paige Wheeler for the wonderful interview.   See you at the Conference, and hopefully your Workshop, in a few short weeks!

When to put away childish things

Okay, so I’m taking a little license with that title.  I mean, after all, we are writers, we don’t exactly have to.  Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t, but that’s for a whole different discussion.  One that you should probably have with a professional.  Know what I mean?

Yes, you do.

But sometimes it does make you wonder about dreams, you know?    If your dream is to be a writer, is that something you should put away for the ‘real world?’

Only you can really answer that.    Being a writer is not easy.   Or perhaps I should say being a Good writer is not necessarily easy.

It’s a lot of hard work.    Least it is for a lot of writers I know.

Which some people who just decide they are going to be writers and crank out that book to sell, find out. 

Or maybe they don’t until they try to sell it.    And make enough money to take themselves to dinner maybe.

I’ve seen that a lot.

Especially once you’ve gone beyond selling it to all your family and friends.   And sometimes maybe their friends.  If you’re lucky.

And do you want to do more than one book?   Are you going to force them to buy it too?

With the world the way it is today with self publishing so easy, and cheap, it’s so easy to be a writer.   Or think of yourself as one.   Or tell everyone.

But are you a Good one?

And working all the time to be better?

These days there’s still a lot of discussion about self-publishing.

Or no discussion, just publishing that way.

Which gets mixed feelings.

There can be good out there that is self-published.

And as a lot of us have seen, there’s a lot that ….isn’t.

There’s a lot of feelings, on both sides of the issue.  For self-publishing, or for going the traditional hunting down an agent [yes, that rather does sound like a sport, huh.  Hmmmm…] and going with the traditional publishers. 

And to contort the issue even more — there’s the ‘traditional’ agents who will help you self-publish.  Uh….  ???

Or even the small publisher route, which I know a few authors who are extremely happy with that option.

Recently Hugh Howey did a really great post.     If you don’t know who he is, do a quick google.  He’s one of the Great success stories of Self publishing.

 “This past week, my latest self-published book debuted at #7 on The New York Times bestseller list. Crunching some     numbers, it appears that I’ve sold a million books in the last two years.”

But I met Hugh this year, and I can tell you, he’s not the ‘normal’ writer, that I’ve met anyway.  Including me.

Yes, writer friends kid around with each other about not being normal, but I think the most normal thing about most of us, is the tendency to not be super social outgoing people.    In the computer jargon of the past, people like that were referred to as ‘back roomers.’   

Most of the writers I know and have met are not the tops of the social outgoing personality scale.

There are exceptions to that of course, the Great Adriana Trigiani is one of the big exceptions.  But she is one of the traditionally published authors.

Hugh Howey is one of the other Big exceptions.    And Successfully self-published.    He’s a success for part of the reason, is his wonderful outgoing personality.   He’s nice.   And very personable.

So if you are going to self-publish, it wouldn’t hurt to read his blog. 

And interviews he has done.

Like this.

If you are a writer.   Or thinking about it.   Or even dreaming of it.  You should read it.

He gives you some great perspective and thoughts.

Told you.

And after you finish reading Hugh’s great post, take a look at this one I found about looking at your writing and knowing when to put it away.


Yeah, Hard one, Huh?

It came to mind because of all the self-published books out there - and no, I’m not saying some aren’t good.  Maybe they could have been better.

Maybe they should have read this first.

All I’m saying.

Writing Inside the Drawer

I’ve put away a few of my own stories.

*Ahem*   quite a few.

I don’t consider my ‘drawer’ a never-never land of ‘lost things.’ 

I am always growing and learning as a writer.  

The things that made me spend time with those stories are still there, but maybe I wasn’t the writer I needed to be to do it justice.  Right then.   Doesn’t mean I can’t get there.  Someday.   I’m working on it.

And if this is all getting you down — or making you think too much.

If you need encouragement — I mean, Really, are you a Real writer?   Then you need encouragement.

At least some time you are going to need it.

Join up with James River Writers.

We are great people.

And if you really want encouragement and an atmosphere of it, come the JRW Conference in October.

There’s still openings, and openings in some of the Terrific Workshops being offered the Friday before!!!!

We have Literary Agents coming.    So you don’t have to go safari game hunting.  They’ll be right there for you to talk to.   And if you move quick, even get one-on-one pitch time.

We make it easy.    Or easier.

Hey, I'm a writer, I take all the help I can get.

Why We Should Support Our Independents

In Whatever form they take?

But Especially our Independent Bookstores.

Such as Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia.   They do shipping too!   Like they ship Art doodled, Signed Maggie Stiefvater Books!   Like Maggie’s new book in the Raven Boys series coming out Soon!!!

Just saying - the Maggie doodled, signed books are Pretty Nifty looking!!

In the current issue of Shelf Awareness, a great interview with Cynthia Voigt about writing this book.

Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things

by Cynthia Voigt , illust. by Iacopo Bruno

Which the Interview has some great insight -

Max's knowledge of theater overall and of Shakespeare in particular often leads to the solutions he seeks for the dilemmas he's hired to fix. As Max says, "You can't know a lot of plays well, some of them written by William Shakespeare, without getting a good understanding of how and why people do what they do."

Sounds like a great book.

But also she has some Great information on how she wrote it, in which she has some great interesting tips on things that might help all writers with their writing.

Such as this:

The "Lost Things" apply to things large and small--Max's parents being the large thing--to something as small as the Baroness's spoon, and yet the spoon's significance is large. Did you have fun coming up with what would be lost and how Max would "find" it?

I went about it not directly, because, as I say, I'm not a good plotter. Originally, the first paragraph of the first chapter read, "When Max was 12, he lost his parents." Then I thought about, "What does it mean to be lost?" You lose your mind, you lose your way, your sense of direction, your watch; you lose track, you lose an idea. I thought about the kinds of things you can lose and the variety of ways in which you lose them. Things like the dog that wasn't lost but ran away.

Check out the great full interview here:

Sometimes you think you have the answers, but the answers change as you change.

You need to accept that, too, that the answers change as we go through life. There are so many things that any sentient adult wants to plant with kids, there's no room for them to think for themselves.

We also learn things about pirates.  Or being a pirate.   Or pirating… or, …..okay, your choice in how you write.  *Grin*

Thanks, Kelly, Fountain Bookstore!     @FountainBkstore    


For those that haven’t yet read.

Or heard about the new book that’s out.

That has some recognizable names to it.     *Grin*

Here’s your chance to read some excerpts.    

Or as one of the authors has cleverly called it -   #buzznuggets

Here’s one -     *grin more*

"Andrew moved restlessly in his chair as he bit his lip to remind his mouth to speak carefully. He knew things were changing, even here in this backwoods. Things were changing, but apparently being able to choose your own path wasn't one of them. -- from Hearing the Past (River Town anthology book) by Shawna Christos"

For more to read, including from James River Writers Exec. Dir. Katharine Herndon, go here.

River Town #buzznuggets

You also get a look at the nifty cover of said book.

And if you happen to want to order it and read the rest of it -

Here it is at Barnes and Noble -

E-book - Kindle edition - Amazon -

Paperback Book on Amazon -

Okay, so that’s all for today.  Go buy and read.

And helpful reviews are appreciated.  ;)

And for all those friends who have already purchased, Thank You!!

Short Story is Out There! Out Here

Well, not here, here.  

But the short stories that ‘new’ James River Writers Executive Director Katharine Herndon @kaherndon

and I worked on and talked about are here -

Well, out.    There.     Not "Out There' as 'out there, man' ...

Oh, just keep reading.

To find and order the book —  ;)

Here it is at Barnes and Noble -

E-book - Kindle edition - Amazon -

Paperback Book on Amazon -

It is getting pretty good reviews.

The book and all.

Up on Amazon and various places.

Like here.

And here.

Yes, so now you can hear us go on about it being out now.

Well, as we distractedly ponder our new writing projects in our heads.

So now go and read ‘em and weep.

Well, not weep.  Not those kind of stories.  I think.

Oh, just buy and read.

And  :::foot shuffle:::  if you feel so moved you can come back here and tell me about it.

Or put a good review out There [or Here] for us.

Now I’m off to listen to the new characters and book that’s yammering in my head.   Yes, my head is a very crowded place.   Why do you ask?

The James River Writers Conference is Coming!

The James River Writers Conference is Coming!

Registration for it is open now!

I keep thinking things, life, is going to slow down, you know.      You too?

It isn’t.    

At least for me.

For some reason it just keeps barreling along.     Either taking me with it.  Or mowing me under.    Yeah, that happens.   Hey, I have bruises!    No, you can’t see.

So go over and check out all the happenings for the JRW Conference.

And I’ll try to stay on top of the barrel.     Hopefully I’ll be posting here a bit more.

Go here and check out all the happenings for the Conference.

Check out the Workshops on the Friday before.

And The Agents that are coming.

Speaking of which, stay tuned here for more on that…..

…….And also about a certain new anthology coming out soon that has some stories in it by people you have met and know.  

Uh, yes, that’s a Hint. 

Okay, okay, I’ll give you another hint.     It will be out Soon.   *Grin*

Y’all stay tuned, ya hear.

How do you deal with rejection?

Everyone has to deal with it at some point in their lives.  Either professionally or personally, or perhaps both, and some of us seem to have to deal with it more than others.  Why is that?

Given the artistic fields, whether art, music, writing, etc… is all about people’s likes and dislikes, seems like people in those fields have to deal with a big share of it.  More than most?   Or does it just seem like that?

So how do you gird yourself to not let the rejection not destroy your creative ability?

Or at least damage it to the point you really falter at it.    Or at least your belief in it, and yourself.

And yes, I can understand how to do it when it is an impersonal thing.  But I have seen more than one writer severely damaged by another giving ‘helpful critiques’ that were, if not meant to be personal, certainly came across as such.  And not in a good way.   Which was certainly damaging.  Very damaging.   I also know how that can be cloaked as blame of someone taking it too personally.  Well, yeah, since that is the way it was meant, isn’t it.   No?  Maybe everyone needs to take an honest look at themselves before they say anything.

I’ve seen way too many passive aggressive people to believe that everyone means you well.

So how do you determine?

How do you sift the good stuff from the personal jealous or attacking type?

I saw an interesting take on it I hadn’t seen before.

From Chuck Sambuchino.

He talks about rejections, how they can be demoralizing and hard to decipher.


A lot of us know all about those.

Interestingly though, where most of what I’ve read talk about mining the rejections to see what you can take away - looking at it objectively….. Uh, yeah, perhaps some of us can do that, and most can eventually.  Maybe.

But Chuck Sambuchino’s take on it is to not try to analyze them, but to just push through them.

Huh.   I can see the wisdom of looking at rejections from the point of view of if everyone is telling you the same thing then perhaps you need to take another look at something.  Even if it’s just not the right timing or market right now.

Which is sort of like what he says.

So for all of you who are losing faith in your skills, read this.   And keep on writing.

If nothing else, in the comment section below.   Hey, it’s writing.  *Grin*

From the Editor

Rejection is a part of writing -- even if you're an agented writer or have some credits under your belt. No matter what you write, it will likely get rejected, possibly many times. What makes rejections frustrating is that oftentimes they are vague or even contradictory. They can be demoralizing and hard to decipher.

The most important thing you can do concerning rejections is not try to analyze them, but rather simply push through them . Plenty of times, when editors say no, they are simply saying "This particular piece of material is not for me personally at this moment in time." In other words, it's up to you the writer to keep composing new works and submitting them.

Case in point: Back in 2008, I wrote my first two children's books. Both got rejected by every agent I queried. I didn't fret, because I got busy writing humor books and reference titles. I believed perhaps the kidlit writing world was just not for me. But something strange happened recently. I submitted another picture book on a whim that was co-written with a friend. Within a few days, we got multiple offers of representation and had signed with a children's book agent (Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary). Quite the whirlwind weekend.

I tell you this because I had basically given up on that realm of writing. I had lost faith in my skills and let the rejections get to me, and I'd stopped moving forward. When I finally started again and focused on a goal, an amazing thing happened. Move past rejection. Keep writing! Good things will happen.

Until next time, good luck writing, agent hunting, and building your writer platform!

Chuck Sambuchino

Editor, 2013 Guide to Literary Agents

Editor, 2013 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market

Author, Red Dog / Blue Dog: When Pooches Get Political

Author, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack

Author, Create Your Writer Platform



Twitter: @chucksambuchino

Chuck on Facebook