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MILLLICENT G. DILLON, represented by Harold Ober Associates, is the world’s expert on authors Jane and Paul Bowles. She has won five O. Henry Awards and been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner. I worked with Dillon on her memoir, The Absolute Elsewhere, in which she describes in luminous prose her private meeting with Albert Einstein to discuss the ethics of the atomic bomb. Read more. . .

SASHA TROYAN is a Professor of English at Montclair University and author of the critically-acclaimed novels Angels in the Morning and The Forgotten Island, both Booksense Selections, beautiful stories based upon her childhood in France. I worked with Troyan to develop her new novels, Marriage A Trois and Semester. Read more. . .

LUCIA ORTH is the author of the debut novel, Baby Jesus Pawn Shop, which received critical acclaim from Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, Booklist, Library Journal and Small Press Reviews. I have edited a number of essays and articles for Orth. Read more. . .

BHAICHAND PATEL, retired after an illustrious career with the United Nations, is now a journalist based out of New Dehli and Bombay, an expert on Bollywood, and author of three non-fiction books published by Penguin. I edited Patel’s best-selling debut novel, Mothers, Lovers, and Other Strangers, published by Pan Macmillan. Read more. . .

SCOTT WILBANKS, represented by Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, is the author of the debut novel, The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster, published by Sourcebooks in August, 2015. I’m working with Wilbanks on his sophomore novel, Easy Pickens, the story of the world’s only medically-diagnosed case of chronic naiveté. Read more. . .

SCOTT WARRENDER is a professional musician and Annie Award-nominated lyricist specializing in musical theater. I work with Warrender regularly on his short stories and debut novel, Putaway. Read more. . .

M. TERRY GREEN enjoys a successful self-publishing career with multiple sci-fi/fantasy series set in the Multiverse, based upon her expertise in anthropology and technology. I worked with Green to develop a new speculative fiction series. Read more. . .

ANIA VESENNY, represented by Beverly Slopen Literary Agency, is a recipient of the Evelyn Sullivan Gilbertson Award for Emerging Artist in Literature and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I edited Vesenny’s debut novel, Swearing in Russian at the Northern Lights, and her second novel, Sandara. Read more. . .

STUART WAKEFIELD is the #1 Kindle Best Selling author of Body of Water, the first novel in his Orcadian Trilogy. Body of Water was 1 of 10 books long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. I edited Wakefield’s second novel, Memory of Water, and look forward to editing the final novel of his Orcadian Trilogy, Spirit of Water. Read more. . .

GERALDINE EVANS is a best-selling British author. Her historical novel, Reluctant Queen, is a Category No 1 Best Seller on Amazon UK. I edited Death Dues, #11 in Evans’ fifteen popular Rafferty and Llewellyn cozy police procedurals, which received a glowing review from the Midwest Book Review. Read more. . .

JUDY LEE DUNN is an award-winning marketing blogger. I am working with Dunn to develop and line edit her memoir of reconciling liberal activism with her emotional difficulty accepting the lesbianism of her beloved daughter, Tonight Show comedienne Kellye Rowland. Read more. . .

JEFF RUSSELL is the author of the debut novel, The Rules of Love and Law, based upon Jeff’s abiding passions for legal history and justice. Read more. . .

LEN JOY is the author of the debut novel, American Past Time. I worked with Len to develop his novel from its core: a short story about the self-destructive ambitions of a Minor League baseball star. Read more. . .

ALEX KENDZIORSKI is an American physician working in South Africa on community health education and wildlife conservation. I edited Kendziorski’s debut novel Wait a Season for Their Names about the endangered African painted wolf, for which he is donating the profits to wildlife conservation. Read more. . .

ALEXANDRA GODFREY blogs for the New England Journal of Medicine. I work with Godfrey on her short fiction and narrative nonfiction, including a profile of the doctor who helped save her son’s life, “Mending Broken Hearts.” Read more. . .

In addition, I work with scores of aspiring writers in their apprenticeship to this wonderful literary art and craft.

  • By Victoria Mixon

    Never doubt that thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.—Margaret Mead

    I find myself writing this letter to so many of my clients when they reach that brick wall in their writing—you know the one I mean: the one that brings on writer’s block, alcoholism, total mental breakdown.

    Man, it’s a long, hard road isn’t it?

    This is the plot structure of becoming a writer:

    1. ACT I

      • Hook:

        A smart, creative, likeable, internally-conflicted protagonist has a brilliant idea for a story.

      • Conflict #1:

        The protag has to get that story down in words—they get about as far as the climax of Act II and stall.

      • Act II

      • Conflict #2:

        The protag must go back through the entire story and rethink what they’re doing, where they’re going, who the hell these characters are. This takes them into dark and not-necessarily-pleasant places inside their own head and heart.

        But they persevere, and eventually they finish their manuscript.

      • Conflict #3:

        The protag lets their manuscript go cold—as advised—and comes back to it later ready to reshape the material into publishable condition.

        It turns out, sadly enough, that this manuscript SUCKS.

    2. ACT III

      • Faux Resolution:

        The protag invests their hard-earned cash and even-harder-earned trust in a really good mentor, who leads them by the hand through the steps of writing a story, warning them along the way that this is a really painful and difficult journey that causes accelerated aging.

        However, the protag and mentor agree that their mutual love of the craft makes it all worthwhile in the end.

        The protag regains their original sense of hope and enthusiasm, tempered now by their long, hard experience and a sense of competence due to all they’ve been through. They recognize their original naivete. They recognize what they’re up against. They gird their loins.

      • Climax:

        The protag tackles their story once again armed with both optimism and realism. They work like they have never worked in their life. They make it happen. They get to the end.

        And there they discover that, much to their shock and dismay. . .they’ve done it all wrong again.

    This, my friends, is the story of every writer ever in the history of the human race. Back almost ten thousand years ago, when the Vinča were carving symbols of communication into their belongings, they probably went through it too.

    “Damn! Got all the way through carving my initials indelibly into the only bowl I own. . .and I did it wrong.”

    I’ve written over a dozen full-length fictional works at this point in my life—and you clients know how demanding I am—plus lots of short stories and poetry, some of it even published, a nonfiction book published by Prentice Hall, two (and a half) nonfiction books on writing published by La Favorita Press, and about a zillion pieces of journalism and other nonfiction. I’ve got three blogs and a newsletter column, hundreds of blog posts, thousands of nearly-endless letters. (Back in the old days before email, my friends and I carried on enormous correspondences).

    And I still reach that point of horrifying epiphany at the Climax of each piece of writing, regular as clockwork, that I’ve managed to do it all wrong.

    In fact, back when I was a typesetter I once typeset the entire list of street names for the city of Bellingham, Washington (about 50,000 souls in those days, and let me tell you those numbered streets were a drag). It took me weeks, and the instant I typed the last street name the power on our entire city block went out. This was before PCs, so I was working on an old CompuGraphic IV typesetting machine. Lost the whole thing. Had to start all over from scratch.

    Do you know why sighing was invented?

    So writers would keep breathing.


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    “The freshest and most relevant
    advice you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Writing Fiction

    The Art & Craft of Writing Stories



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One Response to “An Open Letter to Writers in 3 Acts:
the Anguish & the Glory”

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