A better hook for query letter opening (edited)

Mark was looking for his first girlfriend, nowhere near ready for a potential sex-partner, but after his first detention, two completely different females want to do more than hold hands.


Old version:  In a rural high school, Mark’s choices for a girlfriend are limited, but when one girl takes an extreme interest, another follows, leading to more than his inexperienced heart can handle.


That’s my revised opening hook.  A little more interesting I think.  Flashy or racy, but not gaudy or gratuitous.  I’ll play around with it some more and see if Alex thinks it’s better by lunch.

In other news, I get to give scantron tests the rest of the day.  Not gonna lie, I like these days.


Author Visit

The Alex London author visit was insightful.  He delivered a similar lesson on structuring your novel as I give, but with a little more student-friendly language.  Afterwards, I cornered him asked him his opinion on my query letter and synopsis–and thank goodness I did!  My opening hook is not nearly exciting enough.  He said it may not be making it’s way past the original gatekeepers, so in other words, the important people aren’t even reading the letter. Including yesterday’s rejection, I’ve sent that version out to 6 different agencies, but I still have a lot more I can try.  I just have to revise.  I also paid $25 to have a pro look at it (though that doesn’t happen until January).  So, the plan now is to rewrite that query letter while I wait for these other rejections.  I’ll hopefully have it perfected by January and then as those “no’s” come in, I can send others, new and improved, out.

I’m confident in the book, I just lack the sales pitch to go with it.  (This was true with my entire comedy career as well.)

Got my first rejection already

Thank you so much for allowing The Knight Agency to consider your material. Unfortunately, after carefully reviewing your query, we’ve determined that this particular project isn’t the right fit for us at this time.  As I’m sure you know, the publishing industry changes swiftly now, as do readers’ tastes and trends. As a result, our own agents’ needs shift and change, as well; therefore, we would like to encourage you to consider querying us with future projects as you may deem appropriate.

Again, thank you very much for allowing us this chance to consider your material, and we wish you all the best in your publishing endeavors.


The Knight Agency


The Difference

I was talking with a former student about writing today, and I was reflecting on the biggest thing that separates writers from non-writers.  I think it could be said of readers and non-readers as well, people who exercise and those who don’t.  People who (do whatever) vs. people who don’t…The time.

“I don’t have time to write, let alone be a writer.”

Well, none of us do.  We’re all busy.  Whether it’s reading, writing, exercising, learning guitar, or whatever.  You have to be proactive in your schedule and make the time to do it.  And as an adult with no kid, it may sound easy to find time, but it’s not.  I’m not going to bore you with my schedule (in this post at least), but there are things to adjust.

It means cutting other things out. Netflix, work, time with important people, other hobbies, sleeping in, going to bed early, etc.  Shift your habits so you finish as much as you can at school (Some kids waste the last 5-10 minutes of class while others squeeze in that last math problem during passing period).  Get up a half hour earlier and take care of whatever you have to do–or use that time to (write, workout, whatever it is you don’t have time for).  Basically, audit your day and pinch those minutes away.

The point is, if you can’t reach a goal, it’s not due to lack of time, it’s due to lack of you making time.  It’s there, you just haven’t sacrificed enough to prove that you care.

Former Student in Need

Cassie Nodiff, from my first ever creative writing class (fall of 2014), is in need of some help.  She was beaten up by her photographer a few weeks ago.  He’s been sentenced, but she has a lot of recovery left, including medical costs.  Anyway, the guy’s ex-roommate is my friend Max, a comedian, and I’ve asked to be in his charity show for Cassie at the Funnybone on December 11.  All proceeds go towards hospital bills.  That link has more info.

On a separate note, I posted my top ten favorite book list on Facebook.  I don’t count Game of Thrones books since the series isn’t finished.  I also took out any young adult books because it’s mainly literary fiction (as opposed to commercial fiction), and yes that’s pretentious as it sounds.  : )

10. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
9. Lamb by Christopher Moore
8. The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
7. The Camerons by Robert Crichton
6. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
5. The Arrangement by Elia Kazan
4. The Magus by John Fowles
3. Raintree County by Ross Lockridge Jr.
2. The Secret of Santa Vittoria by Robert Crichton
1. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Read one, I dare ya!

First 4 Query Letters Sent

They take a little longer than I thought.  It’s like applying for a job, each place has it’s own special way of what they want in formatting, etc.  I think I’ll stop at two tonight.  I’m not supposed to have more than 5 out at a time, but I’ll probably push it to 7 or 8 by the end of the week.  I have an organized spreadsheet as well.  This will keep track of who and when, and when I should fire out more.  I fully expect rejection for months, but you never know.

McKenzie asked me if I’d ever quite teaching to do comedy full-time.  I don’t think I could.  It pays well in the holiday season, but the rest of the year, especially summer, it’s pretty slow.  It wasn’t this way back in the early 2000’s, but the combination of the economy crash in ’07, YouTube, and Netflix has altered the industry and not in favor of little guys like me.  The whole catch is, I need to keep teaching because that’s where I get most of my material now.  When I was in my 20’s and didn’t have much going on other than comedy, I didn’t have much to write about that connected with people.  Weird how that worked out.

I don’t think I could take the travel either.  This fall has been rough enough on me.  Maybe if I was single and still “out there searching for the one” I’d have the energy to do it, but comedy clubs aren’t where you find the one (trust me).

It’s lonely.  You do a couple shows on a Saturday night, people love you afterwards (sometimes), and buy a book, get an autograph (I know, ridiculous), and then everyone goes home.  A lot of the time the other comic isn’t someone I mesh well with (they’re drunk, on drugs, not allowed to drink anymore, too young, too old, not into sports, etc.), so I got back to my hotel room and put my Wendy’s drive-thru food on my bed.  I like to set up the various nugget sauces and pretend I have choices.  You don’t fall asleep until 2 or 3 in the morning, and then you wake up with 9 hours to kill before the next night’s show.

I used to find gyms, libraries, or tourist places.  A bulk of my road days were before smartphones even, so you can imagine how tough it was to get around and find stuff to do.  I had a bulky Dell laptop and hardly anyone had free wifi anywhere.

(Cut to Sunday)

I just sent two more queries.  I found a freaking typo in the synopsis I paid for, so I’m not happy about that because I sent it to one of the queries yesterday.  Big tip for Google Docs, download it to Word and see the squiggly lines that Docs misses.

It’s quite a process getting everything into the right font and format.  The last one made me pick my favorite sentence from the book and asked which writer had the biggest influence with me.  I chose Sol Stein because he’s more of a teacher/editor than a writer, and I’ve read more of his “how to write novel” books than novels.  Though he did write an amazing YA novel titled The Magician.

Speaking of, I finished The Magus this morning.  Trippy, but amazing book.  The reward for finishing a book that large is how close you become to the protagonist.  You really get to feel what he feels like by the end.  Next, I should just finish The Things They Carried.

It’s funny–Every Wednesday morning when I work in the writing center I send out the daily schedule to all 18 English and SSD teachers who use it.  I started a tradition where I include 4 Fun Facts, which are stupid facts that I make up for comedic purposes.  Every week I get a few emails replaying “haha” or in passing in the hallway a teacher will tell me they enjoyed the fun facts this week.  Well, on Wednesday, I included my usual fun facts, plus a link to my manuscript.  No one mentioned a thing.  Point taken.

Remember this morning’s moral dilemma?

Well the guy who had me booked for the lower-paying shows in December FINALLY texted back at 6:30 tonight.  I’ve known him for 10+ years.  We’ve done a ton of shows together.  Well according to him, he said he meant to text me back but must not have hit “send” saying those shows were canceled.  So now I have neither effing show.  Maybe morals get you nowhere in showbiz.  I should’ve been greedy.  I showed him the text of the $750 show I turned down for him and he felt awful.  He book me for one that pays the same as I would’ve made in Wisconsin for Valentine’s Day only an hour away (on a Wednesday night), but still.  It’s the fact that he lied about the text that really bothers me.  I would’ve rather just heard, “I forgot.  No excuses.”  In fact, as a teacher I like that better than a lie.  Because a lie is taking the thing you already messed up, and throwing more BS on top of it.  It’s a further insult.  Maybe that’s the lesson here.  Apply it to teachers when you fall short on something.  Don’t lie, just tell us that you didn’t do it.

Overall, I gain a few tanks of gas and 900 miles on my car, and there’s still a chance I get the $750 gig (a small chance).  And people ask, “Why did you go from comedy to teaching?”

It’s a crappy business no matter who you are.

Deleted Entry

It’s rare that I scrap an entry, but last night I did.  Nothing going on then.  I have my show tonight and I have 0% excitement about it.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  It’s like I’m falling out of love with someone (comedy).  I go through the motions and sometimes I feel like I enjoy it, but for some reason I’d rather just stay home on a school night.  I don’t like feeling this way about one of my supposed passions, but I do.  I do it for the money now.  I’m betraying art (art is a strong word for my act).  I have a lot of upcoming shows, so I hope the love comes back.  If I could ever record a decent album, I’d finally scrap these decade-plus old jokes and only do my new stuff.  Maybe I’m just tired of speaking in front of people.  Maybe I’m just tired today.  This year is wearing me out, but not emotionally at least.  Breaks ahead are very welcome, and hey–if this lack of water pressure in the toilets continues, they have to cancel school to fix it (head secretary told me that).

My manuscript has been returned by the copyeditor, so feel free to read as much or as little if you’d like. I’m actually not going to release the link on here for safety reasons, but you can request it in the comments if you want.

I went to bed at 8 and read for 2 hours before falling asleep.  I’m still hooked on The Magus by John Fowles.  He has a skill for making you feel exactly as the protagonist does: frustrated, happy, emotional, etc.  It’s such a long book though.  I enjoy long ones.  I want to be fully enveloped by the plot for weeks at a time.  Average-length books (nearly 300 pages) are like a show with only 5 or 6 episodes.  I need a full long season.  I don’t need a series of multiple seasons per say, but enough to really get emotionally invested before it ends.  The structure is a little more hidden as well.

Roy Halladay died in his own plane crash.  40 and still one of the top pitchers.  That’s a shame.  These guys in these little planes though–stop it.  They’re dangerous. It’s weird to think that someone my age only got this many years.  I know 40 sounds like a lot, but it’s not.  He never got to enjoy retirement and the kudos from an amazing career.  Sure, he had a good life (I hope) making millions and dominating, but 40 years isn’t much.

Do you ever wonder what your peers say about you once you leave the room/party?  I wonder what my coworkers say.  I’m sure they tease a little as we all do with each other, but I guess I shouldn’t worry about it.  I don’t worry what students think/say for the most part, so I guess it should be the same with adults.  Be secure.

Welp, writing club is getting more popular and I’ve finally met the 3rd Berry brother.  It’s almost over so I’ll wrap this up.




Ohio State got killed.  I mean destroyed.  Yes, a few bad calls, but this team isn’t near what we thought we were.  I’ll get teased (see twitter), but whatever.  Onto…hockey?  (I hate it when none of my sports teams are contenders anymore.  Kinda makes the season a wash, and yes I know there are bigger problems in the world, but sports is my escape.)

You know it’s an “exciting” Saturday night when you already have your clocks set back an hour.

To calm the &%$# down, I’ll listen to this gem.  It’s played at the end of Ocean’s Eleven, which if you haven’t seen, yes, even you young’ns will like.  It’s an awesome movie that doesn’t get too you too stressed out:


Seriously, give it a listen (it picks up).

I’m really tired of online cliches.

I went to a St. Louis Writer’s Guild meeting today to learn how to write a novel synopsis, and ironically enough (because of that thing I wrote), I paid someone $45 to write mine for me.  She was a good speaker today, but I don’t know how to write a synopsis so why not have a pro do it in the meantime?  I had a few other questions answered, and my manuscript is due back Monday.  Don’t be surprised if you’re forced to read it in this class somehow.

Are you still listening to this piano?  It’s amazing.  Fits so well with that end of that movie too.

(Go to bed, Durham!)

Roger that.

Last Night’s Show

My show was “lightly attended” but they were a good crowd either way.  It was weird, because early I spotted a guy explaining a joke to his girlfriend.  Turns out she was German and missed a few things.  It was really fun to watch what she was able to understand between my punchlines, etc.  Then I talked to her directly about Germany because I spent my 21st birthday over there (I think I mentioned this before…turns out the girl just wanted to be friends.)  With smaller crowds I’m not afraid to riff more and go off the script of my act.  Afterwards that couple and one other person each bought a book, so my grocery money is paid for the weekend.  I have one more show Sunday night, so I’m looking forward to it.

I’m supposed to get my manuscript back on Monday, but we’ll see if he’s on time.  I wish I could give him an academic detention otherwise.  : )

Are any of you doing the pun contest this year?  Ebert is taking sign-ups if you’re interested.

I ran on the Katy Trail last night after school. I’d like to say it felt good, but I was struggling through most of it and it wasn’t even 3 miles.  It’s like a guitarist trying to play after so many months and his callouses are gone…and he sucks.  I’m sore today.  Without my shoes on, my ankle wasn’t bending right, and my legs hurt.