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World Series at Sportsman’s Park in 1946, the St. Louis Cardinals Won. Go Cards!
Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Cover design by Brad R. Cook
T. W. Fendley
Brad R. Cook
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[In this issue
by David Alan Lucas
by Ryan P. Freeman
by Glenn Sartori
“In sixth grade, I played the greatest game of my young life.”
[+ Workshop for Writers -- “Get Conference-Ready: How to Pick & Query Literary Agents” with Brad R. Cook +] by Ryan P. Freeman
From the President’s Desk
By David Alan Lucas
Have you ever watched the TV show “Castle?” The show centers around a successful writer as he teams up with a NYPD homicide detective to solve crimes. How many authors and writers dream of living the life of Richard Castle? Ok, maybe not the “solve homicide” part. I am talking about the being successful, making a living from the work and, as in “Castle,” becoming rich with our words?
Sadly, “Castle” provides the fantasy that only one percent of all writers can achieve. Yet, it can be done—at least something like it. How? There isn’t a magical potion or recipe to do it. There isn’t a cookbook process for success in this industry—otherwise I, too, would be living my version of the “Castle” lifestyle. Despite this, some things you can do are:
1. Write like crazy and continue to learn. This is an art, not a science. Everyone has tips—from big-name to no-named authors. Some work for you and some only for them. You are on your own journey.
2. Go to writer conferences where there are chances to pitch to agents. (Our own Gateway Con will be in June. The Missouri Writers Conference will be in May.)
3. Practice pitching. You can practice with anyone. You can practice with your pet. You can practice with your friends. You can practice with fellow writers, especially at conferences. If you are bold, you can practice with strangers. Remember, not only are you hoping that an agent may pick up your book, but the pitch will also help you hand sell the book to possible readers.
4. Never surrender. This business is not for the faint at heart. It is rough. It will rip into you, and your tears and blood may appear as ink on the page in your next story. Perseverance matters even more than talent, as odd as that may sound.
5. Go write some more!
Read On (Seriously!)
By Ryan P. Freeman
“How do you come up with it all?” asks Mrs. Pat Thomas, recent fan of my novel, Rienspel.
I envy fans – I really do. She had just devoured both my current books, , and over the course of New Year’s Weekend. While I’m ecstatic she burned through both – I also wilted a bit inside!
Writing IS HAARRRRD.
Sure, anybody with some fingers, a brain, and some time can write… but finishing something coherent and even the least bit entertaining takes dedication and a healthy imagination. I mean, did you know it takes me writing at least one hour a day, six days a week, for at least three whole months to turn out a single rough draft?
– Oh sure, if you think that tidy little by-the-numbers summary sounded easy you are seriously deluded, my friend. Because when I’m not writing – or working my day-job – or attending meetings two hours away – or feeding my pets – or spending time with my wife – or cleaning the house – or getting groceries – or playing – or doing yard work – or watching – or keeping up on all my (and I have quite a bit to keep up on!) – I’m also…
That’s right, reading. And not just any reading, either. I’m currently reading three books! At once. I always make it a habit to read at least one fiction and one non-fiction, plus I have a book I read at work over my lunch break. So, I’m currently reading (Patrick Rothfuss), and (Jared Diamond) at home, I’m also reading (Elizabeth Kostova) over lunch at work.
Reading is fun – reading expands the mind and feeds the imagination. But you gotta have the required brain-space to get anything out of it. Just like any decent computer (or otherwise), you have to have enough RAM to run the everyday stuff… and when you start to run out… things just, well… they don’t work.
So, when I read say, The Name of the Wind, at home… to enjoy it – to really allow Patrick’s story to soak into me, I have to spend quality time with the tale. If I’m speed reading through it – all the while worrying about the ten other things I have to do… I’m just not going to thoroughly enjoy a good read.
For example, I’m into drinking craft beer. With the good stuff, you don’t just pound them… that’s not the point of them. They’re brewed to be enjoyed. They’re distilled to be sipped over conversation with friends.
Reading the good stuff works similarly.
And not all reads are the same! When I read Diamond’s Collapse I can’t just go zipping through it. He’s like a juicy steak. You don’t wolf it down like a dog. You start with the side-salad, then on to perhaps a nibble of the mashed potatoes, and then… with a knife and fork in each hand, you sniff the mouth-watering aroma in, and then cut off a small piece and chew.
Swallow, smile, repeat.
Well-thought-out nonfiction is like that. You have to engage your mind as you follow each thought into another. You have to think about what you’re reading – not just swallow it whole. By doing so, your mind is stretched and your world is slowly expanded. And to do so, you must not be too embroiled in life’s stressful irrationality (unless you’re reading philosophy – but that’s a whole ‘nother story).
With all this said… This is how I ‘Come up with it all’.
That’s how nurturing your imagination works!
In parting, it’s also important to note – in order to feed and grow your imagination, you need to be spending quality time with other people, as well as experiencing new things and places. The old adage, ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ could never be true-er.
So go forth and live your life well! Travel broadly, love deeply, and (of course) read well.
By Glenn Sartori
In sixth grade, I played the greatest game of my young life.
Before electronic games and computers, collecting and trading baseball cards was a boyhood passion everywhere, and my grade school was no exception. The chance of getting a Mays, Mantle or Musial was thrilling, and to get the final card that completed your set of any baseball team, especially the St. Louis Cardinals, was a victory.
Cards with pictures and stats of baseball players were the only type available, no hockey, basketball, or football players. I bought mine at my neighborhood grocery store—a nickel for five cards packaged with a sheet of pink bubblegum. I can still smell the bubblegum aroma as it wafted from the open package. Chomping down on the malleable pink sheet of gum filled my mouth with sugary juices. As vivid as the memory of chewing the gum is, I have no recall of blowing bubbles. Maybe I never acquired that skill set.
On many days after school, my friends and I would trade baseball cards, usually on someone’s front porch. It was always fun and a good way to complete a team. Shouts like “I’ll trade you a Duke Snider for an Alvin Dark. Or I’ll trade you a Yogi Berra for a Gil Hodges” flew around the group. Sometimes we would trade two for one, and occasionally three for one if someone really needed a particular player or even coordinate trades between three or four kids. I loved those times. (I had a fine collection but not now. After I had been gone from home for few years, I discovered that my dad had donated, among other things, my baseball cards to the St. Joseph’s Orphan Home for boys. Maybe they enjoyed them, traded them as I had.)
A risky and exciting way to get baseball cards was in a game called flips, played at school during recess. It was a boy’s game; girls didn’t play. No one probably thought to ask them. The tensest game of flips was no-touch. The game took place within a chalk-drawn square on the schoolyard asphalt, and one side of the square was a school building wall. The boy who brought the most baseball cards to the game had the honor to draw the square. In turn, each boy, with his feet not touching the chalk line, leaned forward, held the long side of the card between his thumb and forefinger, and flicked his wrist in a downward motion, releasing the card toward the ground. All players’ eyes were on the card as it rotated in the air and found a resting spot within the square. If a boy’s flipped-card touched another card, he was out of the game. The last kid left won all the cards. Shortest kids usually won because they were low to the ground with less chance of a breeze redirecting their flip.
One no-touch game in particular comes to mind. It was on a September day, crisp, with the noonday sun in the cloudless sky… but the kids around the no-touch square didn’t notice. Two players remained—Wendy Mueller and me. Wendy, whose given name was Wendelin Henry Mueller III—known only to a few—was the shortest boy in our class. He lived in a two-family flat directly across from the school. My single-family cottage was on the same street but one block north. He was always neatly dressed, and always had plenty of baseball cards.
Wendy had just taken his turn, so I was up. It was an anxious moment. Sweat from my pits dribbled down my side. There were two open spots—one close to the chalk line where the players stood and another near the school building. Thoughts rumbled through my mind—which one… which one should I go for. I could back away from the chalk line, bend over and go for the spot near the front. It was appealing, but if more than half of my flipped-card landed outside the square, Wendy would win. The open spot by the building tempted me. It appeared to be larger, but if my card hit the building, it could careen off and fall in the square, surely landing on another card. Neither was a good choice. Sounds of my heartbeat thrashed in my head.
Because the amount of cards at stake was huge, the game attracted a big crowd; even a few girls joined the group. “Go for the front! Go for the back!” Everyone had an opinion.
I chose the far spot. I planned to flip my card so that if it hit the junction of the building and the asphalt, the junction might deaden the impact, and the card would stay in place. Drawing in a deep breath then slowly exhaling, I steadied my hand and flipped the card. All eyes were on my card. It rotated in the air for what seemed like forever. The card hit the junction perfectly and died on the spot. It touched no other card. Cheers went up from the spectators. I beamed; Wendy’s shoulders slouched, but I knew the game was not over. Without hesitating, Wendy moved back from the chalk line, maybe one or two steps, crouched low to ground, his eyes narrowed. He focused on the open spot.
Silence gripped the group. More kids joined the crowd.
Wendy chose a card that was slightly tattered, maybe because it might provide more friction when it hit the ground, or maybe because it had more wind resistance. Whatever the reason, it worked. His card landed without touching any other card. The crowd cheered. Wendy had done it again. He beamed; my shoulders slouched. I thought it was over until I heard a voice from the crowd shout. “It’s more than halfway out.”
“Yes, it is,” some yelled.
“No, it’s not,” others shouted.
The first bell rang. Noon recess was over. The crowd began to disperse and assemble in their classroom lines, ready for the second bell to call them into the building. Then we did what we had done before—measure. Wendy pulled a shoestring out of his back pocket just as the second bell rang. He laid it taut on the chalk line. His flip was slightly more than half way out.
“Get in line, boys.” Sister Isabella, the principal, glared down at us from the top of the concrete steps that led into the school building. “I’m only telling you once.”
“But─” It was all I got out. I felt her glare burrow into my face. I hurried to my classroom line and then up the steps, glancing at the arrangement of the baseball cards in the no-touch square—my baseball cards. A slight breeze ruffled some of the cards and repositioned them a bit.
The afternoon dragged on. I had trouble concentrating. All I could think of was that pile of baseball cards. Finally, the end-of-school bell rang. Outside the cards were nowhere in sight. I had played the greatest game of flips of my young life and had nothing to show for it. A few of the players hung around the playground and traded theories on what happened to the cards. The consensus was that some eighth grader had left school early and picked them up. I shuffled home, not really interested in doing anything with my friends.
“How was school?” My mom was in the kitchen preparing supper.
“It was fine.” It was my usual response, but my words lacked energy. I went to my room and grabbed a comic book. No television at my house, only a few homes in the city had them in the early 1950s. Suppertime was uneventful, not much conversation from me at the table. That night I had a quite a bit of homework; it took my mind off the no-touch game until I went to bed. I stared at the ceiling—thoughts of the game flowed through my mind. Where are those cards? Who has them? Oh well, there will be many more no-touch games… but not like that one. How many cards did I actually lose? As I tried to reconstruct the game, I drifted off to sleep.
On the next day after morning recess and before my classmates got to our room, the principal pulled Wendy and me out of the line. “Come with me, boys.” Her voice was firm and serious.
In her office, we stood in front of her desk. No one spoke. The principal let the silence fill the room. Moments later, she pulled a large stack of baseball cards from her desk drawer and flipped through them in a slow, deliberate speed.
My heart raced. My eyes focused on the stack of cards.
“So…who won?” A thin smile formed on her face.
My shoulders dropped, tension left, and relief consumed me like when I saw an A on my history test after I had studied for days.
“Glenn did,” Wendy blurted immediately.
“Congratulations.” She handed the baseball cards to me.
“Thank you, Sister.” I felt a huge smile blossom on my face.
About the Author
Glenn Sartori is a lifelong resident of St. Louis, Missouri and earned a Certificate in Creative Writing from Thomson Direct, has been a member of the St. Louis Writer’s Guild since 2009 and a member of the American Society for Engineering Education since 2004. In late 2002, Glenn started his second career with his college friend and has co-authored four engineering textbooks for Pearson Education Publishing Company. Glenn successfully transitioned to writing three mystery novels and two books of his memoir trilogy, all published by Prince & Pauper press.
Workshop for Writers: “Get Conference-Ready: How to Pitch & Query Literary Agents” with Brad R. Cook
By Ryan P. Freeman
Photos by Steven Langhorst
When author and St Louis Writers Guild historian, Brad R Cook, speaks, you know you are in for a good time. Not only informative (detailed, casual insider knowledge abounds!), he’s entertaining, too. The March Writers Workshop may have been standing room only, but it sure wasn’t dull.
“So you wrote a book… now what?” Brad asks a full house at the Lodge Des Peres.
Eventually, the crowd warms to his enthusiasm (it can’t be helped). So, what is next for writers once the story wraps up? Has the adventure ended?
Nope. Not by a long shot.
Brad launches into his signature blow-by-blow account of just what to do next. Finish and edit your book, he advises. Publishers and agents don’t want to see something that’s only half done. There’s thousands of other diamond-in-the-rough stories out there – and writers must do everything in their power to make theirs stand alone above the rest. Countless questions about your manuscript must be concisely addressed now; including everything from simple stuff like ‘what genre is it?’ to penning your query letter.
The next part of the querying/pitching process is all about an aspiring author’s ability to communicate through short, simple, and concise descriptions.
“I have sat on both sides of the table. I have pitched to many agents, editors, and publishers, and I was also the guy sitting on the other side of the table taking pitches for my publishing house. I’m not sure which is more nerve-wracking,” admits Brad.
Know your audience. Identify whom you plan on querying and/or pitching. Having your writing elucidated down to fine art is admirable – but here comes the science of the publishing business: agents and publishers need to publish something that will sell tomorrow, plain and simple. This is how the industry takes writers from manuscript to New York Times Best Seller.
“This book is your baby, but babies come out messy. An editor doesn’t want to get your book and have to edit it. If a book is beautiful and ready to go, they can sell it tomorrow.”
In a world of Harry Potters and Game of Thrones-hopefuls, only finished novels written by market-savvy authors will do, Brad explains. You can pitch and they might love your idea, but if you don’t turn it around in a few months, they may not still be interested.
Know your genre. If an aspiring author walked into a major brick-and-mortar bookstore today, where would their book fit in among the shelves? Likewise, agents and publishers are broken up by category. It’s the only way an agency can keep up with the millions of books published each year.
While pacing up and down the aisles, Brad explains, if you’re a tad intimidated by all this, that’s okay. You have tools, too! So what exactly do writers have going for them in their corner? Attend writing and publishing conferences, such as SLWG’s own Gateway to Publishing this June. Ask questions! Other writers and authors are often more than happy to advise. Explore the magic of the internet (if you haven’t already). Google others’ writing pitches – examine successful loglines – tweet in on pitching contests like #PitMad, and keep up to date with hashtags like #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List).
Essentially, Brad R Cook encourages practical, common-sense approaches to querying and pitching. Know your market, know your genre, know your agent, and know when is (and isn’t) a good time to share your next blockbuster story. Know your querying guidelines; read up on to whom you’re actually querying/pitching; and understand how no, the bathroom is not a good place to stalk literary agents.
“Stay positive – Authors are notoriously self-critical, but you have to sell your book. They don’t know it sucks yet! Don’t defeat the novel before it starts. As far as the agent knows, it’s the best thing that’s ever been written – let them keep thinking that and draw their own conclusion.”
“Join online pitches and contests,” Brad encourages, “If you’re afraid of pitching, there are ways to do it without ever talking to anybody. We writers tend to be introverts, so it can be a beautiful thing.”
In closing, Brad offers this:
“Rejection isn’t about you. It’s about the writing industry.”
When it comes to pitching and querying, tenacity, common sense, brevity, and market-savvy typically win the day.
“Every agent is different. If an agent rejects you, there’s always another agent or publishing house.”
Additional Resources Include:
- The Writer’s Lens –
- Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest –
- QueryTracker –
- Query Shark –
- New Leaf Literary –
- WritePackRadio –
For the latest information on poetry events in the St. Louis, MO area, visit the .
Second Friday Notes, second Friday of each month, 7 p.m., at Whole Foods Town & Country, Clayton Road just west of Highway 141
RIVER STYX. Third Mondays, 7:30 p.m., Tavern of Fire Arts, 313 Belt Ave. riverstyx.org/events.
POETRY AT THE POINT, 4th Tuesday of the month, at Focal Point, 2720 Sutton Ave. Read their ezine at
Sheila Nolan Whalen Reading Series at SLU, 221 N. Grand Ave., Dubourg 409.
Tuesdays at 4 p.m.
CHANCE OPERATIONS on the last Monday of each month at Tavern of the Arts, 313 Belt Ave., just off Pershing, between Union and DeBaliviere. 7:30 p.m. Open mic follows featured poets.
EVERY WEDNESDAY open mic for poetry and music at Stone Spiral Coffee & Curios, 2500 Sutton in Maplewood (2 blocks N. of Manchester). Great food and beverages. Open mic, 8 until around 11 p.m.
GOODY HOUSE, 7 p.m., fourth Thursdays at Art Marketplace, 2028 S. 12th Street. Featured poets.
R_SPACE. Last Saturday of the month, Lenny Smith and friends at 2 p.m.
ST. LOUIS WRITERS GUILD open mic for prose and poetry, second Tuesday of each month, 7 p.m., Kirkwood Train Station, Argonne Drive, just west of Kirkwood Road. Allow time to find parking.
ADDITIONAL OPEN MICS at The Wolf, (every Tuesday), Legacy Books & Café (every Friday), The Historical Crossings (every other Tuesday), Shameless Grounds (Wednesdays at 7), Venice Café (Mondays at 9)
A Quick Guide to St. Louis Writers Guild Events
It’s as easy as
Workshops for Writers
First Saturday of every month (except holiday weekends)
10 a.m. to Noon at the Kirkwood Community Center
Station Open Mic
Second Tuesday of every month
7-9 p.m. at the Kirkwood Amtrak Station
SLWG Authors Series
Third Thursday of every month
Query for “SLWG Authors Series” on YouTube or check the Members’ Room on our website, .
Brad R. Cook, author of the young adult steampunk series, The Iron Chronicles (Treehouse Publishing Group). A former co-publisher and acquisitions editor for Blank Slate Press, he is a member of SCBWI, and currently serves as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild after three and half years as President. A founding contributor to , a resource blog for writers, he can be heard weekly as a panelist on Write Pack Radio. A cover designer since 2013, he also creates posters, bookmarks, and other marketing materials. Find more @bradrcook on Twitter, Instagram, and tumblr.
T.W. Fendley is an award-winning author of historical fantasy and science fiction for adults and young adults, including Zero Time (2011) and The Labyrinth of Time (2014). She’s a founding contributor to , a resource blog for writers. Her short stories are available on Kindle and Audible. When she’s not writing, T.W. explores the boundaries of consciousness through and shamanism. twfendley.com
Ryan P. Freeman is a fellow adventurer and fantasy author. After miraculously surviving childhood cancer and several near-death experiences, he launched into the world of AM talk radio, hosting his own live program out of Albuquerque. Ryan is a former International Red Cross guest speaker, Pastor, and medieval-enthusiast who loves sampling craft-beers and is an unapologetically proud kilt-wearer. In his down time, his interests range from exploring real-world pan-mythology, survivalist camping, and copious video gaming. For more on Ryan, check out
Steven W. Langhorst is a life-long resident of St. Louis with an insatiable hunger for the facts and trivia of St. Louis history. He is a retired elementary school principal who still serves education as a mentor and consultant focusing on leadership. Steven has dabbled in poetry and photography since his youth and still plans to publish a book of poems and photographs as well as a memoir of his years at principal. Besides holding membership in the St. Louis Writers Guild he also proudly holds a membership in the Professional Tour Guides Association of St. Louis. Steven also contributed to the design of the new St. Louis Writers Guild logo.
David Lucas is the President of St. Louis Writers Guild, a published fiction short story author and poet. He has a Master’s Degree in Management from Webster University. For two years, David has been the host and producer of Write Pack Radio (WPR), a podcast with a panel of authors exploring the changing writing industry. In 2016, David decided to take his experience in podcasting and his love for radio dramas and start Winding Trails Media, which will produce podcast audio dramas beginning in the fall of 2016 as well as continuing WPR podcast.
Lauren Miller is the Director of Communications for the St. Louis Writers Guild, and she reviews books quarterly for the Historical Novels Review. She has a fifteen-year background in library science and has over fifty nonfiction reviews and articles in print. Lauren likes to spend her free time discovering new reads, games, period films, and be surrounded by dogs. To read more about Lauren, visit her blog at
Jennifer Stolzer is an author and illustrator living and working in St. Louis, MO. She graduated from Webster University with a degree in digital media and animation and uses this skill set to create bright and engaging characters. In addition to illustrating books for clients, Jennifer writes and illustrates original work, serves as secretary for the St. Louis Writers Guild, and commentates on the weekly writing podcast Write Pack Radio. See more of Jennifer’s work at , as well as Twitter, tumblr, and Facebook.
For more than a decade, The Scribe has been the mainstay for communicating with members of the St. Louis Writers Guild. It began as a way to showcase the organization and share insights into the publishing world. Back issues give a wonderful record of the Guild. The Scribe is now available to everyone, not just members. It features stories, poems, and essays from our members, as well as information about our events, most of which are open to the public. The April 2017 edition features a message from our Guild President, an essay by Ryan P. Freeman, an original short story by Glenn Sartori, and coverage of our February workshop, also written by Ryan P. Freeman.