News & Blog

Workshopping With Kelly Link

I’ve been a part of the same writers workshop — named Who Wants Cake after a bit from Amy Sedaris’s Strangers With Candy — for twelve years now, but yesterday we did something we’ve never done before. We had a special guest join us for a crit session: Kelly Link. Everyone in the workshop is a huge fan of her work. Two of our members have actually studied with her before at Clarion. We all look up to her so much that it was a real pleasure to have her with us.

We’re a very good workshop, we’ve honed our critiquing skills over the years, but Kelly’s crits were on a whole other level — so smart and astute and just astonishing. She didn’t critique anything I wrote, but even just hearing her thoughts on other people’s work was transformative and inspiring. It gave me lots of great things to think about for the novel I’m currently working on. I wish Kelly could be part of our workshop more frequently. The door is open for her return any time, and I hope we’ll see her again soon.

After a quick nosh in which Kelly spoke reverently of her love of The Vampire Diaries, we all headed downtown to the Pen Parentis reading series — founded and executive directed by M.M. De Voe,  a member of our workshop — to hear Kelly read with Lev Grossman and Marly Youmans.


Here is M.M. De Voe (Milda to her friends) standing up and introducing the evening. On the couch, left to right, are Lev Grossman, Marly Youmans, and Kelly Link. Seated in the chair at the far left is curator and co-host of Pen Parentis, Christina Chiu.


More introductions. The reading was held at the Andaz on Wall Street, and they gave Pen Parentis a really beautiful room on the mezzanine.


Here is Lev Grossman reading from The Magician’s Land while Christina Chiu looks on.


Here is Marly Youmans talking with Alexa during intermission. The novel Youmans read from is called Glimmerglass and takes place in a fake version of Cooperstown, NY, where the Glimmerglass Opera is located. Alexa used to work at the Glimmerglass opera, and we’re friends with the costume director there. We bought a copy of the book for our friend and had Ms. Youmans sign it to her.


Here is Kelly Link answering a question during the Q&A session after her reading. She read a portion of her story “Two Houses” from the collection Get In Trouble, but I was too engrossed during the reading to take a picture, so this will have to do.

It was a really special day, energizing and inspiring and filled with a warm sense of camaraderie. I’ll cherish it for a long time.

One Year of The Scariest Part

It’s hard to believe, but today marks the one-year anniversary of The Scariest Part! In that time, I’ve put the spotlight on 36 authors and their books, a selection ranging from first-timers to well known and bestselling authors, with books from micropresses and major publishing houses and everything in between. You can see all of them here.

It’s been a pleasure for me to host The Scariest Part on my blog, and I hope it’s been helpful to the writers who’ve taken part. It’s hard to gauge how effective these things are at driving sales, but if I helped get the word out to interested readers about books and authors they’d never heard of before then I consider it a success. Many thanks again to John Scalzi, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Chuck Wendig, whose own blog features were a big influence.

I’m happy to announce that The Scariest Part will continue! I look forward to seeing what its second year brings. I hope to bring in more filmmakers, comic book writers, and game creators, not just authors, but we’ll see how things develop. If you’re interested in being featured on The Scariest Part, check out the guidelines here.

Never Do This

I received this email today from an author I have never met before or interacted with. They’re not even a friend of a friend. They’re not even someone I’ve heard of. They simply found my email address and sent it. I’m reprinting the email in full below with only the identifying information removed. I’m not interested in shaming the author. I’m far more interested in showing the rest of you what exactly you should never, ever do. Ever.

from: [redacted]
date: Mon, Apr 13, 2015 at 11:42 AM
subject: Need Help


Hello from [name of city].

Need a writer-to-writer favor if you have thirty seconds. With just one click of your mouse you can kindly help me get a publishing deal for my new dystopian-themed novel titled: [title].

I have submitted the book into amazon’s scout program. This is a program that allows authors to submit new books for consideration by amazon’s in-house publishing company, Kindle Press. Each submission is given a time-sensitive 30 day campaign on the kindle scout website. Readers (you and me) can visit the site and browse all the current “live” campaigns, read chapter samples, author bio’s, see the cover art, etc. Under each submission is a “nominate” icon. If you are excited about any title, you can click that “nominate” icon to help galvanize that author’s campaign. The more nominations, the stronger the campaign, and the more likely that author’s submission will get picked up by Kindle Press. It seems to be a very competitive reader-driven platform,

Anyway, my campaign for [title] has just 7 days left. So far I’ve been regularly placed in the all-important “Hot and Trending” category on the kindle scout site. I hope to finish strong and have my novel picked up by Kindle Press. I need your help to make this happen.

And so I am asking you the favor of following the link to my campaign and clicking on that “nominate” icon under my campaign — if you think it has merit. Please feel free to sample the first two chapters that are displayed there. I will be forever grateful for your nomination, and hope that I can someday return the favor. All you have to do is message me and ask, and it will be done. [Bolding is mine, not the author’s — NK] Here is the link to my campaign. Feel free to explore the site. You can nominate up to three titles at once, and if amazon ultimately selects any of your nominations for publication by Kindle Press, you get a free advance copy of those titles as a thank you from amazon for being a scout. You may need to be signed in to your amazon account to vote. I apologize for that minor inconvenience.


Thanks in advance for considering the nomination of my new novel, [title]. I could really use some help and luck; the stakes are high for me. All the best to you.

Let me reiterate: this came from someone I have never met or interacted with. A complete stranger. Never, ever do this, folks. You may think you’re making friends or even new readers with your writerly camaraderie, but what you’re actually doing is creating a list of people who will remember you as nothing more than an annoying intrusion who doesn’t give a damn about anyone else’s time. These same people will steadfastly avoid you and your work for the rest of their lives.

Also, you don’t need me to tell you that the Amazon Scout Program is bullshit, right? The reward is a $1,500 advance (not even the lowest end of industry standard) and 50% royalties (higher than industry standard, although lower than what you can get if you just publish for the Kindle through normal means; but no one who wins this contest will have sales nearly good enough to earn out that small advance anyway, so the royalty rate is moot), but the hoops you have to jump through are absurd. Rather than submitting your book to an agent who might be able to sell it to a publisher for a much larger advance, authors are forced to undergo the humiliating process of “reader-powered publishing.” Namely, they must hustle for votes. Nobody wins these things because they wrote the best book, they win because they finagled the most votes out whoever they could. Hence the desperate email asking a complete stranger to take part.

Check out the part I bolded up there, too. Yeah, it says exactly what you think it says. Vote for me and I’ll vote for you, no questions asked. (As if I would ever be a part of something as egregious as the Amazon Scout Program.) A “writer-to-writer favor” indeed. Jesus.

Anyway, glaring grammatical errors like “author bio’s” aside, the email seems detailed enough to likely be a form letter offered by the program itself, in which the author simply plugged their own information and then sent out to as many people as possible, probably at the program’s encouragement. (Scammers like to get as many people involved in their scams as possible, thereby creating a next generation of marks who feel like maybe they’ve got a shot at winning.)

Never do this, folks. Never approach complete strangers asking for a favor for your career. Never approach other writers — especially ones who have busted their asses for decades to get to where they are now — asking for their help with your dubious shortcut to success. In fact, it’s good advice to just never email strangers asking for favors, no matter what. It’s insulting, and in the end we won’t be rooting for you. We will never be rooting for you.

This Is Why Proofreaders Are Important, Folks



Seriously. Proofreaders.